Sholom Ber Goldshmid: Child Survivor Continued Family Legacy

As a child, he witnessed his father's murder, but grew up to follow in his footsteps as a respected part of the community.

2.8.16, 19:39
The Jewish community of Crown Heights, New York knew Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Goldshmid (1925 - 2011) as a friendly, traditional, neighborhood kosher butcher. The city of Hebron knew him as a little boy who was an eye-witness to the massacre of 1929. A young Sholom watched his father, also a kosher butcher and rabbi, murdered by a mob. But that little boy went on to follow in his father's footsteps as a respected part of the community, raising a committed Jewish family, and returning regularly to visit the city of his childhood.

According to an article by Mordechai Lightstone from Lubavitch.com:
"Sholom Ber, ever unassuming in nature, became a fixture in the Crown Heights community. His son, Yisroel Goldshmid, recalls the quiet deeds of kindness his father would often perform. 'He always wanted to make sure people had meat to eat in honor of Shabbat,' Yisroel recalls. 'If he heard someone was pressed financially, he would make sure to give them extra...'"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson acted as a father figure for him. 

"The Rebbe served as translator between the Yiddish and Hebrew speaking Sholom Ber, and an American-born, English-speaking girl he was seeing. Letters sent to Sholom Ber in English would be translated by the Rebbe, along with Sholom Ber’s own Yiddish response into English." He went on to marry that girl,  Rivka, and raise for children with her.
In another moving tribute, his granddaughter Mina Richler recalled visiting Hebron with her family. In an article printed in chabad.org she stated: 
"When I was walking the streets of Hebron last year holding my five-week-old baby in our land so deeply threatened by our enemies, I was responding to the atrocities committed there with a simple statement: Am Yisroel chai! We are here and alive. You tried to kill us and take away our land, but we prevail. And we always will."

(PHOTO: Mina Richler, husband and baby at the Hebron History Museum in Beit Hadassah. A photo of her great-grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid is in the upper-left-hand corner. Credit: Mina Richler blog)

She also quoted her grandfather's speech at the 70-year anniversary of the Hebron massacre.

"When I was older I would come to Hebron. I would participate every year in the memorial service at the cemetery for my father. After the 1967 War I even went back to visit the house where we had lived. I remember exactly where it is. Today it’s not accessible again because it’s in the area controlled by the Arabs. I would always walk the streets of Hebron, never afraid. We must never let anyone think that we are afraid. This is our city. It is good that Jews again live in Hebron."

(PHOTO: Mina Richler and family at the Tomb of Machpela in Hebron, where her grandfather's family lived. Credit: Mina Richler blog.)

A newly translated video interview with Sholom Dov (Ber) Goldschmid has been posted on the internet.

The following is a transcription:

"I was born in Russia in the year 1925. My father [Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid] made Aliyah after about a year. He was a Chabad chassid. He made Aliyah in order to raise his children in the tradition of Torah and mitzvot which was nearly impossible in those days in Russia.
He was accepted in Hebron to work as a manager of a butcher shop. Throughout the years, he would be in touch with the Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn 1880 - 1950] and send him all types of letters about the things taking place in Hebron and he [my father] was a big inspiration among the chasidim of Hebron. 
(PHOTO: Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid was a respected member of the community. Local Jews and Arabs alike would turn to him to arbitrate their disputes. He was murdered by his neighbors in 1929. Credit: Chabadpedia.)

He told him he should learn the Rebbe's teachings in the yeshiva every Shabbat. There was a big yeshiva in Hebron - the Slobodka yeshiva and every Shabbat - I have copies of letters my father received from the Rebbe - people would hear [lessons on chassidut] and talk and argue a lot - when the Rebbe Rayatz came to Israel in 1929, my father (May God avenge his blood) didn't leave the Rebbe's side. He was always with the Rebbe and would go everywhere the Rebbe went.
When my father was still in Russia, he wanted to leave the country in order to be able to raise his children (according to the Torah) but under no circumstance was he willing to leave if the Rebbe did not promise he would be able to visit him. And the Rebbe promised him he would. In a letter - a copy of a letter - that I found, after six years, my father tells the Rebbe that he promised to meet with him, but he wanted to visit the Rebbe. The Rebbe was in Poland by then, but he [my father] didn't have enough money for the trip, but this wouldn't prevent him from coming. There was also the question if it was the right position...

(PHOTO: Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn visited Hebron in 1929, just days before the riots. Credit: Jewish Educational Media/ Wiki Commons.)
He asked the Rebbe for permission to come, but didn't receive a response. When the Rebbe came to Israel in 1929, my father finally got to see him, he would always accompany him and go wherever he went. As we know, he visited the Cave of the Patriarchs with the permission of the Mufti of Hebron. ...he entered from one side and exited from another.
The Mufti of Hebron received a telegram from Mufti (Amin) al-Husseini not to let him in, but he had already been there. And the Rebbe gave a lot of charity. Every Arab that extended his hand received money without any questions. And later he entered one of the buildings where the wounded were housed later on, and looked at every corner of the building. No one knew why he was doing this.
When the Rebbe returned to Jerusalem, my father also came with him. He would come back to Hebron just to oversee the animal butchering and return to the Rebbe. The last time the Rebbe wished him "goodbye," was on the 16th of Av, and this was on the last day that the Rebbe spent in Israel. My father later entered the Rebbe's room to get a book. I don't know why he entered the room - why he did it, but he wasn't able to get the Rebbe to wish him another "goodbye."When he left the room, it was too late. He was very worried that he didn't get the blessing.
On Friday, he returned to Hebron, and needed to ensure the security of the family because there were already rumors of attacks by the Arabs. He also had to oversee the butcher shop because otherwise, there would be no meat to eat over Shabbat for the residents of Hebron.
And on Shabbat morning, as we know, the attacks began and all of us were locked in the house. There was a large group of people that also hid at our house. The Arabs started trying to break the windows. My father stood by the door and they weren't able to break into it when they tried until they began trying to cut the panels of the door with knives. The Rebbe [my father] tried to stop them, but then, they cut his hands. It took a very long time.
During this time, the neighbors - the people who were (hiding out) at our house managed to get outside and jumped from one floor below into the yard of the Arab who was the owner of that house.
(Interviewer: How many people were there?)
As far as I remember, there were 14 people, but there's no 100% way of knowing - the records I see today show that there were less... and when they jumped down, they started to knock on the door of the Arab, but he didn't want to let them in - he was afraid. But the Arab woman had compassion for them because there was also a pregnant woman among them. She let them in and while they were there, a baby girl was born and thank God everyone was saved.
(PHOTO: Letter from Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid of Hebron dated 1926 to the previous Rebbe, R' Yoseph Yizchok Schneerson. His letter describes the deteriorating state of the shul and the harsh conditions of the Jews in Hebron.) 
My father was murdered. My mother tried to defend him from the Arabs as much as a woman could and she was wounded with a knife. My oldest sister - she was six - a year and a half older than me was also wounded with an axe to her head. Me and my sister hid under the bed and that's how we were saved. They also destroyed the house as far as I remember.
(Interviewer: You said they hit your mother twice...)

And later - as she wrote - there was quiet in the house. She walked over to where my father was lying wounded - they called that "wounded" to see how he was doing but an Arab saw her walking, and stabbed her again with a knife. And that's all. 

(Interviewer: And how was your sister wounded?) 

My sister tried or to defend my father or to pull the Arabs away from my father and one of them hit her in the head with an axe and she has the scar to this day..."
- Translated from Hebrew by Eitan Divinsky.
He spoke at the 70-year anniversary of the Hebron Massacre:
I know there were children who had to be warned not to cry, so as not to give away their hiding places. But I didn't have to be warned — we were too afraid to cry out.
I lived in a two-story house—we lived upstairs and an Arab family lived downstairs. That morning some of our Jewish neighbors came to be with us, in our house. I remember a gang of Arabs trying to break down our door. When they didn't succeed, they started using knives to cut out panels of the door to get in. My father tried to prevent them from breaking in, and the knives cut his hands. But that didn't deter him. While he was at the door the others in the house jumped downstairs from the back porch. The Arab neighbor didn't want to let them in, but there was a pregnant woman in the group, and his wife had mercy on her and let them in. She gave birth in that house, and they all survived.
When the mob finally broke into our house they grabbed my father. My mother tried to fight them off, but she was not strong enough and they stabbed her. She fell to the floor. They took my father into another room. My older sister, six years old, also tried to fight the men who were killing my father, and they axed her in the head.
My mother yelled out to me and my younger sister, then a year and a half old, to hide, so we hid under a bed in another room. When there was quiet in the house, my mother tried to crawl to the room where they had taken my father. Just then a man came in and stabbed her again.
They killed my father. I remember seeing him stretched out, dead. I also remember seeing my mother and sister wounded. They were hurt badly but lived. My younger sister and I were not injured.
When I was older I would come to Hebron. I would participate every year in the memorial service at the cemetery for my father. After the 1967 War I even went back to visit the house where we had lived. I remember exactly where it is. Today it’s not accessible again because it’s in the area controlled by the Arabs. I would always walk the streets of Hebron, never afraid. We must never let anyone think that we are afraid. This is our city. It is good that Jews again live in Hebron.

Today, the Jewish community of Hebron is thriving and growing. The Chabad of Hebron is a strong presence in the city as it did in the days of the Goldshmids. A hand-written letter from Rabbi Moshe Goldshmid to the Lubavitcher Rebbe now hangs in the refurbished Menucha Rochel Synagogue in Hebron's Avraham Avinu neighborhood, where daily Jewish life continues.
We Cannot Be Afraid (by granddaughter Mina Richler)

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"Walk Between the Raindrops" - History of Chabad in Hebron
The Story of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Hebron
Hebron Mourns Loss of 1929 Massacre Survivor Miriam Sasson

(PHOTO: The bimah of the Ashkenazi shul in Hebron after the 1929 massacre.)
(PHOTO: The refurbished Menucha Rochel shul, 2016.)

The 1929 Hebron massacre pictures by Gershon Gera | 115 Images