What I Saw in the Holocaust

Today, we see that elite American universities that create the next leaders in society have become centers of hate. Yet, we send our children there for “higher education”, thinking that their Torah education will protect them from adverse influence. But is that what happens? 

4 min

Kalever Rebbe

Posted on 05.05.24

“Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelled, you shall not do…” (Vayikra 18:3) 


Fruit of the Trees 

There is a story of a chassid who sent his children to university. His Rebbe was concerned and rebuked him for risking the spiritual well-being of his children. 

However, the chassid was stubborn and refused to listen to his Rebbe’s advice. Instead, he remained steadfast in his conviction that his children would only gain tremendously by the college education and experience. 

He said to himself, “My Rebbe is an extremist. I would go to the Vishnitzer Rebbe, R’ Yisroel, to connect to him. He is known to be tremendously accepting; the Rebbe loves every Jew and graciously greets anyone who comes to see him. Certainly, he would understand and not rebuke me for sending my children to college.” 

The chassid traveled to Vishnitz where the Rebbe warmly welcomed him. The Rebbe invited him on his daily evening walk. As they passed through a fruit tree orchard, the Rebbe turned to the chassid and said: 

“These trees remind me of something that happened when I was in cheder. The teacher took the students for a walk. It was in the Spring and the trees were beginning to blossom. The teacher explained the characteristics of each tree and taught us about the various fruits that will blossom from each tree eventually. Some of the children were skeptical. However, the teacher explained that he knew that this was true from his experiences in the previous years.” 

The Rebbe suddenly stopped and grasped the chassid’s hands and said, “Do you know when the students acknowledged that their teacher was right? Weeks later, when the fruits bloomed, the students could see the actual fruits.” 

The Rebbe turned his face to the chassid and said, “I hope that you understand what I am telling you.” 

The chassid understood the Rebbe’s message. He could not see the long-term damage, spiritually, that attending college can do to his children. But he should know, that historically, children who attend college and not yeshiva, lived a different lifestyle than the children who spent their time learning in yeshiva. 

When he returned home, he removed his children from the university and enrolled them into the yeshiva. 


What Have You Read? 

The Mashgiach of the Mir, R’ Yerucham Leibowitz, zt”l, once traveled to see a doctor in Marienbad. While there, he met a Jewish professor who was completely assimilated and far from the path of Torah and mitzvot. R’ Yerucham wanted to speak to him and try to help bring him back to Yiddishkeit

They began to discuss the topic of faith, and the professor asked him, “Have you read the works by the German philosopher Kant?” 

“I have not.” 

“Have you read anything from the German researcher Haeckel?” 


The professor continued to ask about other works, and R’ Yerucham kept responding that he had not read them. Finally, the professor said, “If you haven’t read any of these great works, how can you convince me that you are right?” 

“Our holy Torah has produced incredible people; wise sages who lived lives focused on doing good in this world and they had refined their characters. Our sages were righteous individuals like the Taanaim and Amoraim, and the others who came in the generations that followed, until the Chofetz Chaim and the other leaders of our generation. All these virtuous sages were created by studying the Torah. Did all of these ‘great works’ that you mentioned create such people? Certainly not! Clearly, these are empty and meaningless pursuits, and a person should not spend their time on such frivolous subjects.” 


What I Saw in the Holocaust 

Years later, I saw the reality of R’ Yerucham’s words come to fruition, when the Germans, the nation and culture that celebrated these thinkers, transformed from a “refined” and “progressive” culture to evil, brutal, and cruel animals during the Holocaust. 

The University of Berlin was known to be an elite university. They accepted only the best students; applicants who were virtuous and intelligent. During the Holocaust, they were known to be the leaders and architects behind the unthinkable murder of millions of Jews. 

Today, we see this play out before our eyes on college campuses throughout America. These elite universities and colleges, institutions of higher learning that are designed to create the next leaders in culture, business, and government, have become centers of hate. They do not condemn those who support terrorism and murder. In fact, they try and “protect” their rights. The administration is silent as their faculty and students march in support of murders and proponents of violence and terrorism. 

NYPD officers arresting pro-Hamas protesters at Columbia University


This is the result of the heresy that has been taught and celebrated across multiple educational disciplines in these institutions for generations. 

They have been taught that this amazing, beautiful world was not created by a Higher Power. Rather, happenstance and change created the foundation for evolution. They believe that man evolved from an ape. Therefore, chaos is acceptable. And murdering a human is no different than killing an animal. 

They justify their actions, their promiscuity, their primal behavior, as just their animal instincts finding their expression. 

This inevitably ruins their lives. 


Real Life! 

This is possible what our Parsha is teaching us: 

“Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelled, you shall not do” – we cannot allow ourselves to behave like our host culture, who learn from the heresy of the professor and scientists, as Pharaoh said (Shemot 5:2), “I do now know Hashem… ” 

Subsequently, “and like the practice of the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you shall not do … ” You cannot indulge in promiscuity like Canaan. 

“And you cannot follow their statutes”… Don’t become drawn to their culture. As Rashi explains, these “statutes” are referring to their social practices such as amphitheaters, where they hosted a ramming bull versus a slave show, as they watched with pleasure as the bull shed the slave’s blood. 

Therefore, the pasuk continues, “You shall fulfill My ordinances and observe My statutes, to follow them“. And Rashi explains that a Jew should not think that he has studied Torah, and now he can learn other secular subjects. A Jew should be in yeshiva or seminary, studying Torah and strengthening his faith. 

When a Jew remains committed to the pursuit of Torah and resists the temptation to seek wisdom and knowledge from the non-Jewish culture, he can merit what the pasuk concludes with: “live by them”. You can merit a life that is filled with blessing and goodness.



The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. Sign up at www.kaalov.org.   

Tell us what you think!

1. Catherine Mitchell


This is a beautiful lesson in love. I am not a Jew. Such a merciful God. I tithe to the Jewish nation, especially as Israel is fighting to exist. The world doesn’t believe, thus this terrible hatred of the Jew is compounded. I believe God is still on His throne and wants believers to raise a standard and that believers can take a stand against the concept that terrorism is the right way. Hatred never wins!!!

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