Last November, Rabbi Marc Gruber of Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth in Rockville Centre noticed Rachel Izower Fadde’ fiddling with a bunch of papers as she was sitting in an office waiting to pick up her children at the Jacob’s Ladder Early Childhood Center.
When Gruber inquired about the pages that were spread out across the table, Fadde’, who was reeling from President Donald Trump’s election the night before, explained that they were papers that her mother gave her detailing how her grandfather, Walter Sheldon, escaped Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s.
Fadde’’s correspondence highlighted the April 23 service at Central that commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, which remembered the six million Jews that killed in Nazi Germany concentration camps during World War II. In the Jewish calendar, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Jews recognized the day on the sunset of that Sunday.
“I think it’s an important evening more and more today as more hate is generated,” said Gruber. “Each of us can be heroes when we speak out and make the world different in terms of reducing that hatred and celebrating the diversity in human beings.”
The ceremony, which was attended by over 50 people, featured the lighting of six candles, which represents the six million Jews that perished during the Holocaust, prayers that honored the deceased, and emotional hymns.
Fadde’, a 42-year-old Rockville Centre resident, said Sheldon was born and raised by a wealthy family in Berlin, Germany, and became a successful businessman by his early 20s despite not going to college. But, at that time, he realized that his apartment was being searched by Nazi police when he wasn’t home and was being followed and photographed along with his associates while in public. But he noted where the film was being dropped off and told the store clerk that he was a friend of the photographer who asked him to pick it up the minute it was ready. Fadde’’s mother still has the pictures.
Sheldon acquired a five-year passport and eventually fled Germany for his sister’s residence in Paris. But he had to leave penniless because anti-Jewish legislation in pre-war Germany prevented Jews from withdrawing money. After reaching Paris, his sister got him a job in Shanghai, which took him 33 days to reach by boat. Sheldon went on to lead a life of activism and eventually emigrated to the United States, where he settled with his wife in Lido Beach.
The notes collected by Fadde’’s is now about 200 pages long and full of stories and recollections by Sheldon during his experiences and travels. Fadde’ already speaks to students at various schools about Sheldon and the holocaust.
“What is means to speak about him today, and really any day, is to give a little to the people that are listening at the inspiration to stick your neck out, to by a nosy-body, to get involved and, in some small way, to do what’s right,” she said.
Fadde’, a working mother of three, says she may publish a book about her grandfather in the future.
“I would love to,” she said.