Dr. Tzvi Kedmi A"H: A Modern Chanukah Miracle

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“I was so sorry to hear about your father-in-law, Tamara…”

And that was how I came to hear the story of a modern-day hero, Dr. Tzvi Kedmi, one of the few Jews to enter through the gate that read “Arbeit Macht Frei,” and to exit Auschwitz alive as the only member of his entire extended family to survive the Holocaust.

Immediately following the war, Kedmi married in his native Hungary, and in 1947 the Kedmis traveled on the SS Exodus towards Palestine along with over 4000 Holocaust survivors, only to be turned back by the British authorities and returned to a camp in occupied Germany.

On May 15, 1948, the day of the declaration of the State of Israel, the Kedmis finally achieved a long-held dream when they arrived in Israel, where they were among the very first immigrants to the newborn state. Fresh off the boat, Kedmi risked his life fighting the attacking Arab armies during the War of Independence.

Afterwards, Kedmi spent many years devoting himself to building up the land of Israel as a tractor driver on the religious kibbutz Nir Etsion, and then, inspired by his intense, life-long love for children, he moved to Haifa where he took over as the principal of a school with a difficult population.

After 10 years of marriage, the Kedmis were overjoyed when they finally had their first child, a baby girl. 5 years later, they also had a boy named Shmuel, who is Tamara’s husband.

As Tamara spoke with such fondness and admiration for her father-in-law, I thought of the fact that every grandfather is happy to hear about the birth of a new grandchild. But for Tzvi Kedmi, every grandchild born to him, every great-grandchild born to him, must have felt like a revealed miracle.

Nobody in Kedmi’s whole family had survived, he himself had nearly not survived. Who would have ever believed that this man who had felt the breath of the Angel of Death on the back of his neck at such a young age, would live into his mid-90s? And that he, Tzvi Kedmi, inmate of the most notorious of the Nazi death camps, would live to celebrate the births of 8 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren? In the land of Israel, no less!

Over 2000 years after a handful of Maccabees declared victory over the most powerful army in the world, in Kedmi’s lifetime the impossible happened once again. An entire Jewish family reduced to ashes except for one glowing, determined ember had risen yet again into a mighty flame bringing light to the Jewish people and the world.

As I spoke with Tamara this morning, I was thinking about how transformative it would be to learn to see our own precious children through Tzvi Kedmi’s eyes.

To experience the wonder of the momentous, the historically impossible, the miraculous Jewish child.


  1. yes, absolutely.

  2. Hadassah Aber

    Our best revenge on the Nazis yemach shemom is our kinderlach. where are they and where are we now? Hashem owes us one but He has not deserted us.

  3. rachel ruth lebel

    The light of Chanuka is shinning through your writing! Thanks for connecting this man’s moving story to our lives by imagining our children through his eyes!

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