Maintaining faith when exposed to horrible injustices of humanity is a rare feat. Devoting oneself to Jewish education after witnessing the greatest misfortune to ever befall Jews is even more extraordinary.
Rabbi Meyer Juzint succeeded in both.
A master teacher in Chicago's Jewish community for decades, Juzint survived the Nazi horrors through his unwavering faith in God. His story is chronicled in The Chain of Miracles: Divine Providence in the Midst of Nazi Persecution (Kesser Maariv Press), published by Congregation Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Kesser Maariv Anshe Luknik in Skokie. When the tenth yartzheit of Rabbi Juzint arrived in 2011, the synagogue sought to honor his memory by making available selected works he left behind after his death to the public. An unflinchingly accurate account of the period of the Holocaust and a testament to the power of the human spirit, The Chain of Miracles is the first in a series of publications of Juzint's writing.
"The publishing of his books is so very important to Chicago," said Rabbi Louis Lazovsky, vice president of Human Resources at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, spiritual leader of Kesser Maariv, and former student of Juzint. "If his words aren't memorialized, he would be just another righteous person who died, not the remarkable human being that he was."
Born in Lithuania in 1923, Juzint attended the Slabodka Yeshiva where he was ordained shortly before the outbreak of WWII. There, he studied the principles of mussar, improving one's moral character, which influenced his attitude and ability to perceive the miracles materializing before his eyes.
Juzint cites three types of miracles: 1) A miracle enveloped in nature, such as waking up every morning, 2) visible miracles open for all to see and recognize God's intervention, as in a terminally ill patient miraculously recovering and 3) shrouded miracles without obvious explanation which come off as random strokes of luck. All three were forged for him and interwoven in a chain of miracles lasting four years.
Each of the book's 22 chapters sheds light on a miracle lending to Juzint's survival. From the moment German troops invaded his hometown of Kovne in 1941 to his liberation in Bergen-Belsen, the German concentration camp, Juzint witnessed innumerable acts of inhumanity committed by the Nazis, looking death in the eye every day. But instead of severing ties with his faith, he saw God's hand in the events that led to his survival.
At the outset of the German occupation, Juzint took a vow that if God granted him survival, he would write about what he witnessed. Accordingly, he kept a diary written on scraps of paper, stashing the tattered pages in corpses to hide them from German troops. These surviving pages make up The Chain of Miracles.
After being granted his freedom, Juzint came to Chicago where he became a luminary of Jewish education. He was appointed to the faculty of the Hebrew Theological College, later teaching at Ida Crown Jewish Academy. His devotion to rebuilding Judaism was unwavering, as he touched the lives of thousands over the course of his career.
"His students were his children," said Lazovsky. "He reached out to so many people and taught everyone who came into contact with him, and his everlasting legacy will continue to influence new generations."
For more information about The Chain of Miracles: Divine Providence in the Midst of Nazi Persecution, visit Congregation Kesser Maariv's website at www.KesserMaariv.org/Juzint.