Woodmere, NY – Woodmere Shul Hosts Prominent Shoah Researcher Priest


    Father Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad-In Unum, talks about his work of identifying and locating undiscovered mass graves of Jews killed during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe at Young Israel of Woodmere.  Photo by Isabel Slepoy /  LI HeraldWoodmere, NY – Close to two million Jews were shot and thrown into mass unmarked graves in Eastern Europe by the Einsatzgruppen, Nazi mobile killing units, in less than three years during the Second World War. Few survived to tell the tale. A French Catholic priest, in a story worthy of a forensic detective thriller, is returning to the killing fields in a successful bid to find, record and memorialize the sites, restoring names and faces to the countless dead. Last Shabbat, Father Patrick Desbois spoke at Young Israel of Woodmere about his work.

    “Humanity begins with burying the dead,” said Desbois. One of his cases, in Aug. 2006, Desbois and his team exhumed graves in the Ukraine; the Jewish community had been in existence in that area for 500 years. The pit held 1,700 skeletons. Ballistics experts found hundreds of German cartridges; the skulls had either one bullet hole in the head or no bullet holes in the head indicating that they were buried alive and suffocated. He noted that the digs stopped at the first layer of skeletons “due to Jewish religious constraints.”

    The mass grave is now marked by a large black Star of David on a white background—the only memorial in the Ukraine. Desbois pointed out that the interviews that he and his staff conducts with the elderly locals are probably the first and last time they are telling what they witnessed. A rabbi is on his staff to recite kaddish and perform other required rites.

    Desbois described the chain of events leading to his discoveries. It was known, he said, that the Germans arrived in the morning and when they left in the evening all the Jews in that area were dead. The reports filed said, in effect, “we were in the city, found a lot of resistance, came to the ghetto and had to kill civilians” with no mention that the Jews, men, women, children, were wiped out.

    Full story at The Jewish Star

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    1. The fact that a priest in his priestly uniform spoke in a shul is absolutley intolerable. A shul is also not a place for secular lectures, and as close as the holocaust is to people’s hearts, the discovery of additional information about victims is not a holy topic for a shul. It is an intersting secular topic and they could have done it in a social hall.

      • This isn’t a “secular” lecture, and the YI of Woodmere is no ordinary little shul. This is the largest frum shul in the world (in terms of membership) and is a source of tremendous marbitsei torah, chessed and tsedakah. From what I’ve heard this was an inspiring talk on an interesting topic that served to both honor the kedoshim killed in the holocaust, as well as show appreciation for those making this effort possible.

      • Dear Lakewooder
        I was in Shul when he spoke. He DID NOT wear “his priestly garb”. He wore a regular suit with a black pullover shirt. He did not wear a priestly collar. He did not wear a cross. He wore a medium sized black kippah

    2. Truth be to;d I have mixed feelings about this. I am glad that an “orthodox” congregation was the one to express our Hakaras hatov to this individual. However a shul is not the place for it. This same ” one of the largest congregations in America” has a catering hall where they could have announced a special speaker on a weekday evening and the same message of gratitude could have been expressed. To have him speak in the main shul on Shabbos is in my opinion a lack of Kavod Beis Haknesses and kavod hatzibur. But at least they didn’t give him Shlishi or Maftir.


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