December 12, 2008, - 12:04 pm

Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig, My Cousin, Z”L: A Great Man & Survivor Founded Nation’s First Holocaust Museum

By Debbie Schlussel
Today, I mourn the death of a righteous man, my cousin, Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig. Our family called him by his Hebrew name, Yechiel.
Related to me through my father’s side of the family, Rabbi Rosenzweig founded the first Holocaust museum in the U.S. and was a renowned throughout the world as a Holocaust scholar. He thought it was so important that the world would never forget, and was the founder and Executive Director of the Holocaust Memorial Center of Farmington Hills, Michigan, which he founded in 1980.

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Rabbi Charles “Yechiel” Rosenzveig, Z”L

A Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor, he also served as rabbi to the small Jewish community of Port Huron, Michigan from 1951 to 1993. He held a rabbinical degree from Yeshiva University in New York and was a very learned man and tremendous Torah scholar. We regularly consulted him on Jewish religious issues. Both my dad and my brother enjoyed learning and engaging in Torah study with him, regularly, and my dad always sat next to him at Sabbath prayers at synagogue.
Although leftists love the Holocaust, my cousin, Rabbi Rosenzweig was a right-winger, who was proud of both remembering the Holocaust and noting what is going on in Israel today, with daily attacks on Jews by Islamic terrorists. He also recounted to me and my family about how, on regular trips to Germany, he felt the German adults and kids wanted to forget the Holocaust. Now they are suffering the results, with their country invaded by Muslims.
Unfortunately, there are many liberal donors who gave to the Holocaust Memorial Center. And once it moved from its original location to a giant museum, it became more of a universalized display, meaning some groups not under the control of my cousin or his Holocaust Memorial Center tried to use it to compare the Holocaust to every allegedly repressed group’s tragedy. But, as my cousin Rabbi Rosenzveig knew and stressed, the Holocaust was specific and unique to the Jews and their planned elimination by the Nazis. Unfortunately, in that vein, the Holocaust Memorial Museum became the setting for an event co-sponsored by the pro-Hezbollah/HAMAS ADC (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) and other similar groups, though I only know specifically of a single such occasion.
Rabbi Rosenzweig was a fine man, a good soul, and an important vessel of history, knowledge, and goodness we have now lost. He was a mensch, and he will certainly be missed. Fortunately, his legacy–the museum–lives on. It includes important recordings of survivors, like my late grandfather, Isaac, retelling their experiences as concentration camp inmates and witnesses to the Holocaust that now live on beyond their deaths.
Rabbi Rosenzweig is on his way to Israel for burial, but he was memorialized in stories in both major Detroit newspapers, today. Here are some excerpts from the Detroit Free Press:

Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig, a victim of the Nazis who channeled his personal tragedy into creating the first freestanding Holocaust memorial center in the United States, died Thursday . . . .
Because his personal documents were destroyed during the Holocaust, Rosenzveig didn’t know how old he was; estimates range from 80 to 88. . . .
The native of Ostrovitz, Poland, immigrated to the United States in 1947, after his parents, his brother, one of his two sisters and all of his aunts, uncles and cousins were killed by the Nazis.
He was ordained by Yeshiva University in New York four years later and was the rabbi of Congregation Mt. Sinai in Port Huron from 1951 to 1993.
But Rosenzveig’s true passion was creating a permanent Holocaust tribute to honor its victims and teach its lesson of tolerance to future generations.
That crystallized in 1984, when the Holocaust Memorial Center opened on the grounds of the West Bloomfield Jewish Community Center. Exactly two decades later, the center moved to its own campus in Farmington Hills.
“He was well-known — not just throughout the state of Michigan — as a scholar and as a leader in Holocaust memorial movement throughout the world,” his son Rabbi Ely Rosenzveig said Thursday.
He also taught at United Hebrew Schools and Midrasha College in Detroit and was project director of the 1996 tome, “The World Reacts to the Holocaust.” He was in the middle of writing a book on Jewish legal decision-making when he died.

Rabbi Charles Rosenzweig, Zichrono LiVrachah–”Blessed Be His Memory.” His absence brings tears to my eyes.

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10 Responses

I am sorry for your loss.
It is unfortunate, but the Holocaust Museum set up by your cousin is not the only such example where a museum dedicated to the Holocaust is co-opted by groups for the suffering of others.
I was at Ann Frank’s house in Amsterdam almost 10 years ago. A large part of the house was turned into an exhibit commemorating suffering by many other groups and at many different times.

i_am_me on December 12, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Condolences on your loss.

c f on December 12, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Anything that is not by definition will not stay Jewish for long just as anything that is not by definition conservative will remain conservative for long. The Left will subvert the noblest of enterprises for aims other than they were intended to fulfill.

NormanF on December 12, 2008 at 1:49 pm

My condolences to you and your family Debbie…

ob3 on December 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm

My condolences on your loss, Debbie. Your cousin was a giant among men.

Thee_Bruno on December 13, 2008 at 9:15 am

Dear Debbie, I would like to extend my deepest and sincereous condolences to you and your family. As a kid, I grew up in the suburbs of NYC (Westchester County) and your cousin was mentioned on many occasions during services. And was even spoken about when I attended Hebrew school. He wasn’t just known in the MI. area. He was praised as a great man. The nazis will never be forgetton due to his efforts. But neither shall the great Rabbi who cared so much about his people and humanity. People like your cousin are a rarity in todays society. It’s an honor just to be told what he accomplished. And I truly wish I could be sitting at a dinner table with him. And soak up all he would have to say. I bet he was the type of man, when he spoke. People listen intently. May G-d Bless his genlte and kind soul. Respectfully, A Tennesse Scholar.

Tenn Scholar on December 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

The world is a better place thanks to his knowledge and strength. Through his efforts to build the museum, and in the eyes of his family, he will live forever.
My sincere condolences go out to you and your family Debbie.

tita2juju on December 13, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Debbie,
My prayers to you and your family. we all should cherish our elders as they have have treasure to share with us if we will listen. I know he will be missed by many

Holly on December 14, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Dear Debbie,
As a member of the Board of the HMC and the Docent Educator, I will truly miss the Rabbi. Both my husband, Martin, and I had a warm relationship with him.
The Rabbi was a brilliant, gentle man who was driven to create a Memorial Center that would teach the evil of bigotry and hate. He truly believed the the Holocaust (the Shoah) was a singular event of government sponsored hatred and killing. He NEVER equated it with other genocides although he acknowledged other genocides the Holocaust and its evil results stand alone. Anti-Semitism still exits and, in fact, is rising in light of the current economic conditions world wide.
Sincerely, Judy Miller

judith miller on December 15, 2008 at 1:11 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss, Debbie. I had the pleasure of working with your cousin, Rabbi Rosenzweig, during construction of the impressive Holocaust Memorial Center. In fact, we were collaborating on new exhibits just weeks before he passed. His vigor and vision for new ways that children and visitors could become engaged by the HMC’s message inspired those around him to perform their best. The community has lost a true mensch. Solemn regards,

Tim Rochon, Wall Street Productions, Ltd. on January 19, 2009 at 5:32 pm

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