Meir Weisblum is one of my heroes. He passed away six years ago on July 26th. He was 93 years old. On this anniversary of his passing, I want to share with you the story of a heroic, humble man. When I met him he was in his seventies—a very handsome man with deep smile lines, lilting brows and a twinkle in his eye.
Meir was born in 1920, so he was 19 years old when World War II began with the invasion of Poland. As a young man, he was a member of Zionist youth group that helped organize an underground in the early years of the war. When things got worse and entire Jewish populations were deported from their homes, Meir, too, was forcibly separated from his family and sent to a concentration camp. In that camp, Skarszyko-Kamienna, he worked as slave laborer in a factory.
That’s where Meir met Sarah Folberg, the woman he would marry after Liberation, and there’s where our story intersects with his.
Sarah and Roz Jacobs’ mother, Anja, had grown up together in the town of Wloclawek, Poland. In the concentration camp, Sarah and Anja shared one narrow bunk bed. Meir liked Sarah and shared extra food he was able to smuggle into the camp with the two girls. It helped them survive.
Anja added details to the story of Meir’s generosity. She told us that Meir and a man named Efros had a system for distributing money they received from the outside to the neediest people in the camp. “Everything had to be hush hush. The top people picked 10 people. The 10 people picked their own people who they would help. I helped one. I knew he needed it and he was from my hometown. He was the best student from the class (and I was the second best.)”
When the war ended, Meir and Sarah got married. Soon after, he was responsible for searching for orphaned or abandoned Jewish children. So many parents were murdered or died of starvation or disease. Meir helped settle 500 Jewish orphans. Most of the children immigrated to Israel on various ships, including the “Exodus.” Then for two years, he ran a shelter for 120 teen-agers.
He worked for many years as a book-seller. When he retired, he volunteered to help senior citizens, doing chores and home visits. Some of the people he helped were years younger than he was! This was a man who was always giving, always with a smile.
His daughter Aviva told me that Meir was a descendant of the ninth generation of Rabbi Elimelech Weisblum of Lizhensk, a founder of the Chassidic movement. Rabbi Elimelech emphasized the importance of the leader (the “Tzaddik,” or righteous one). The Tzaddik is mediator between God and the people. Although the zaddik belongs to a higher world, he comes to the level of the community to redeem it.
This seems fitting for Meir. He was righteous in his dealings on a daily level. Aviva wrote that, “Everyone who knew my father even for a short period of time couldn’t help but love him for the goodness of his heart, his honesty and his desire to help. Somehow, it was easy for him to act on behalf of others to make peace in his soul and the souls of the people around him.”
So, thank you for joining me in remembering a beautiful soul.