by Barry Chamish
It was early summer, 1975 and I was about to move to Israel. My zeide, grandfather, came over to my parents' home to say goodbye to me. Since, for all I knew, I might never see him again, I decided to make some inquiries that were long overdue. He never spoke of his family and as far as anyone knew, our little family in the middle of Canada were the only Chamishes in the world. I asked him if he knew of anyone else named Chamish. He said that 60 years ago, he heard that a cousin had made it to Baltimore.
I dialed long distance information (give me Baltimore, MD) and asked if there was anyone named Chamish in the directory. There were two entries, Benjamin and Donald. I assumed there were no Donalds roaming the European shtetls and took Benjamin's number and called it.
He answered the phone. "Good evening sir. I'm calling from Canada."
"Do you know anyone named Shlomi Chamish?"
"He was my cousin."
"Wait, I'll get him for you."
My grandfather took the receiver and immediately he began a smiling, spirited conversation in Yiddish. For the first time in 60 years, he spoke with family from the Old Country. The rest of my family was astounded. Why hadn't anyone been curious enough in all these years to ask him such a simple question?
Within days, my grandfather was flying to Baltimore where a joyous reunion took place. My father told me, "They toasted you for two days. Benjamin announced that you were the one Chamish who remembered what it is to be a Jew."
And it was Benjamin who broke the big news. One of my grandfather's brothers, David, made it to New York before the War. He had died but his two sons were living there. Suddenly, my father had two first cousins.
My sister was living in New York at the time and I had already moved to Israel when she called cousin Paul for the first time. He was not easy to persuade to meet. He was a trader and limited partner at Bear Stearns and adopted the tough cynicism of Wall Street. However, he relented and once he understood this wasn't some sort of scam to part money from him, was, like everyone else, astounded. He later introduced my sister to his brother and their two kids, and she instantly had two new first cousins, once removed.
When my sister got married in Ramat Gan, Paul flew in for the ceremony. We hit it off from the first moment. He, like me, was single with a wild streak and we loved each other's company. While serving in the IDF, I received an invitation to his niece Amy Chamish's wedding, and requested a furlough to attend. For the first of many times, Paul put me up at his mid-town apartment. Meanwhile, my parents, brother, and Canadian cousin all flew in for the wedding. Two Canadian and American branches of the Chamish family were reunited after six decades.
Shortly after arriving in Israel, I decided to investigate if there were relatives here as well. I went to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem and asked the librarian to find me any records of a family named Chamish. Efficiently, she brought me a folder with fifteen names. I photocopied the batch and studied the documents at home.
The records were compiled voluntarily over the years. Survivors of the maelstrom filled out the forms: name, spouse's name, approximate date of birth, occupation, number of children and names: and where and when murdered. The names and addresses of those who had filled out the forms was at the bottom. These were the people I would try to contact.
I stared at the names of all these people with my name and looked away from the names of the death camps they were sent to. I mailed the forms to my father and requested that he gently go over them with my grandfather. A letter arrived two weeks later, "Okay Columbo, your zeide found his brother. He, his wife Pearl and their two children were lost."
Now it was time to do some leg work. For no other reason than the name seemed most likely, I called Avraham Chamish in Rehovot. I arranged a time to meet when my grandfather would accept a long distance call. My first impression of him was his resemblance to my grandfather and this impression never stopped: all Chamish males had the same build and features. But alas, after a few moments on the phone with my grandfather, they knew no one in common.
But I learned a lesson. This family was more spread out than I knew, and next time I would ask the older members to make a list of EVERYONE they could recall and what their work was. And that rule proved wise about six months later when I met Yaacov Chamish in his moshav near Rehovot.
Yaacov took to me immediately and stated simply, "I'll believe we're family. You don't have to prove it." But, short of DNA testing, I wanted an answer. I asked him to make a list of everyone he remembered, and I asked my grandfather to do the same. The challenge was this: I had found three branches of the family, all living within forty miles of each other, just south of Lvov. Their towns were Horochow, where my branch originated, Stervich and Berestichko. And there seemed to be no interaction between the communities.
The first exchange between Yaacov and my grandfather bore no fruit. Each went over his list of the perished but not a name in common could be found. Yaacov put down the phone and announced, "Well, that's that. We don't know the same people."
I pleaded for one last opportunity and asked he and my grandfather to squeeze the last names from their memories. Yaacov made a list of just five names. One of them was Lazar Hirsch, a butcher. My grandfather made a similar list. On it was a second cousin he vaguely recalled, a butcher named Lazar Hirsch.
And that's all it took to reunite the Horochow and Berestichko branches of the Chamish family.
There was one other branch, they left for the Russian town of Kozin, and a strong branch settled in Vineland, New Jersey. Over the years I have met the dispersed Chamishes and been delighted by the success of just about every member. Gideon was the junior table tennis champion of Israel, a career cut short by losing much of his hand in the Yom Kippur War. Leah was the junior show jumping champion of California. Leanna is an actress whose genre is horror films. But two people stood out for me because they had inherited my soul.
Rene Chamish, of the New Jersey branch, was a writer and a good one. She contributed to the Jewish Press in New York and sent me a lovely piece about her memories of her father. She was a rarity in the Chamish world, an Orthodox Jew.
And cousin Paul kept coming back to Israel. He couldn't stay away. He finally gave up his handsome Wall Street salary to become Orthodox, finally settling with his new family in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. His journey began barely a decade before when I asked my grandfather this most obvious question: are we alone in this world?
We were not.
But how much richer we would have been were it not for the Germans and the forces which promoted and funded Nazism.
Back to Israel and I visited a family from the Horochow branch in Haifa. Sadly, the husband, Mordechai had died in the army so no memories could be tapped. But he did leave a prize behind: a memorial book to the Jews of Horochow.
There were once 80,000 Jews in Horochow. A few hundred, at most, survived the Holocaust. And within were their pictures. Here is the Horochow Betar football team looking like winners, there is the theatre group. Here are the community leaders, there are the rabbis. All dead and gone.
Existing in our sickened world is a growing phenomenon called Holocaust denial. The believers of this idiocy have reached the conclusion that all the Horochows of Europe weren't wiped out. That the soccer teams are still on the pitch, the actors still reciting their lines, the community leaders still raising their funds and the rabbis still studying their tracts.
It's time someone put an end to their delusions, as much for their own dignity as those they claim weren't slaughtered by the millions.
And it was my very reluctant decision to accept an invitation to speak at a conference of such deniers in Sacramento, that is causing me my current aggravation. One Daniel Pipes spread the accusation over the internet that he has the proof needed to end "the Chamish cult." Since I am going to the conference, he reasoned, therefore I am a Holocaust denier. Without checking the facts, Pipes issued a blood libel against me.I immediately contacted my attorney and received some solid advice. Pipes in arriving for the Jerusalem Conference, sponsored by Arutz Sheva, beginning mid-March for three days. He would slap him with a defamation of character suit and Pipes' passport would be confiscated unless he left a deposit with the court proving his intention to return for the trial. I could make his trip extremely uncomfortable and it wouldn't cost much to do it.
However, I think there may be a better way to expose this fraud. Pipes is speaking at a conference sponsored by Arutz Sheva, the Jewish Voice of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Or in the common parlance of the media, the settlers have organized a conference aimed at preserving their community against a world determined to see Israel weakened then removed, quite likely with another Holocaust.
A "peace" process and "Roadmap" prepared by a New York think tank, the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) is in fact, a carefully concocted recipe for massacre. A thousand new Jewish graves have been dug over the past three years but this isn""t nearly fast enough for the CFR.
The CFR is the most anti-Israeli organization in America and Daniel Pipes is a proud member of this august gang of hoodlums. They sponsor his think tank and they pay for his magazine. In return, he touts an anti-Islamic line that the CFR finds useful in its current military expansion. For this reason, right wing Jews think he is an ally. And they are so wrong. He will tow the CFR line in the end and sometimes he lets it slip. This little item appeared on Ric Shulman's site:
4/17/02 ARABS & ISRAEL 7979:
Pipes Reveals True Colors
Enemies Within, Enemies Without section 4/17/02 ARABS & ISRAEL 7979:
"CNBC interviewed Daniel Pipes and Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria.
Daniel Pipes revealed that he supports eventual Arab statehood in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
That makes him a short-term friend and long term enemy of Israel.
Before Pipes arrives for his settler jamboree in Jerusalem, write him and ask him one question: Do you believe there should be a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza? Yes or no. Don't let him obfuscate the issue with an answer like, "The conditions aren't right for a Palestinian state." Just, yes or no.
You will quickly discover what a lying hypocrite he is and how you've been
fooled. His address is:
More because of the behavior of the organizers of this deniers convention than anything else, I decided to back out of attending. And Pipes took credit for this decision in his next blog. I don't like being cowed that way but the Pipes slander gave me a bitter taste of what I could look forward to if I did show up at this gathering of the deluded and dangerous.
Yesterday, I received two letters from an organizer, who believe it or not, has many good qualities, asking me to rescind my decision and arrive. I didn't answer them. I just couldn't make up my mind.
Last night I visited the Elozory family in Har Nof, Mr., Mrs. and son. It was the observation by Mrs. that turned the tide. She said, "You'll lose everything you built up in America."
Now what do I have to lose in America? For the past eight years I had gathered indisputable evidence that Yigal Amir could not have murdered Yitzhak Rabin. The evidence is overwhelming and the case is airtight. And this is well known in Israel where polls show that about half the country and over 75% of the religious and right, believe Rabin was murdered in an internal coup.
The reaction of American Jews has been one of complete neglect. The leadership of these Jews has taken extreme pain to hide the facts from their public and when rumors leak out, the handiest way to contain them is to revile me.
And nothing is going to change. American Jews will continue to accept outright fabrications as the true state of Israeli affairs and their CFR leaders including Bronfman, Lauder, Seigman, et al, like the leaders of the 30s and 40s, are guiding these Jews into supporting the end of Israeli Jewry.
What the heck; I'm going to the conference. The worst that could happen is my name becomes recognizable to American Jews and maybe later, my message.
But I shouldn't be alone. Who appointed me the sole voice of Jewish reason
and guts? I have many readers in the Sacramento area, four have already invited
me to stay with them. One rabbi informed me that he is presenting a lecture by a
Holocaust survivor to offset the deniers. It's time these Jews stood up for
themselves and joined me at the deniers gala farce and maybe help put an end to
And, as always, you can order my English books, Who Murdered Yitzhak Rabin, Israel Betrayed, The Last Days Of Israel and Save Israel! by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org