I was born in Budapest, Hungary, around the outbreak of World War II.
My family miraculously managed to survive the war, and afterwards, we immigrated to Australia. When we got there, Australia was a parched desert when it came to Torah institutions. But thanks to Chabad, in the late 1940s, a yeshiva was established in Melbourne, and this is where I was educated.
The rabbi in charge of the yeshiva there was Rabbi Yitzchok Groner – he was very clever, and very experienced. And he built up the yeshiva there from scratch. In the mid-1950s, Chabad opened a girl’s school. Both were highly successful.
All the Rebbe’s emissaries who came to Australia made a very good impression. They were warm, friendly, and helpful. They went out of their way to help people. And people admired them because they were willing to sacrifice for the sake of Yiddishkeit. Whatever the Rebbe told them to do, they did it one hundred percent, and perhaps even more.
Today, Melbourne is booming Jewishly. There is a kindergarten, a school for boys, a school for girls, a beginner’s yeshiva, an advanced yeshiva, and a seminary, all thanks to Chabad.
As I mentioned, I attended the Chabad yeshiva when I was a youngster – I came there when I was thirteen and stayed until sixteen, at which age I went into business. And from that time – this would be from 1952 – I started to correspond with the Rebbe. I wrote to him every year on the occasion of my birthday, asking for blessings. The Rebbe answered every letter that I wrote to him – usually, his reply would come within ten days.
I remember that once I asked his advice about my Torah studies. The Rebbe advised that besides my standard learning I should also learn Tanya. Regular study of the Tanya was very important to him and, many years later, he gave me a pocket Tanya, which I still have with me. When he gave it to me, he said that if it gets torn, I would be given a new one. In other words: “Keep on learning daily, diligently, and don’t worry if the book tears.” (more…)