Many of you who have joined us over the years at JCC Krakow for a Shabbat dinner had the good fortune to hear a sweet older gentleman sing a few songs in Yiddish at the end of the meal.
Emanuel Elbinger, "Mundek," Holocaust survivor, the last Krakowian born native speaker of Yiddish still living in Krakow, passed away peacefully this past Friday at the age of 86.
You can read more about his life in the below article.
Mundek was born in Krakow in 1931 and lived in Nowe Brzesko (35km outside of Krakow) with his family until September 1942 when his family was divided and hidden by Polish families. Before the war, his parents owned a textile factory and hid some of their textiles throughout Krakow in case they needed it for trade. His youngest sister was taken out of hiding and sent to a deportation center and his grandmother was killed among many other elders before the deportation.
Mundek’s mother and younger sister were initially hidden by a priest, but later on joined Mundek and his father in the attic of a farmer’s house. His family soon realized they were no longer safe there and left to seek shelter at another house. Mundek and his mother would dress up in peasant women clothing to retrieve the textiles that were hidden in exchange for their safety at the house. On one of his trips, Mundek’s former classmates recognized him and Mundek ran towards the countryside in fear someone would hear them yell “Jew”. One evening his mother went out to get food for the family and never returned.
After the liberation, Mundek, his father, and younger sister went back to Nowe Brzesko where his father placed them at a Jewish orphanage in hopes they would get the help they needed. Shortly after, his father passed away from Tuberculosis. Mundek graduated with an Engineering degree in 1954 and worked in the field until retirement.
Mundek was an active JCC Krakow member ever since the Center opened in 2008 and has joined us for our weekly Friday night community Shabba dinners, where he often shared a couple of his favourite Yiddish songs with everyone.
May his memory be a blessing and may we all continue to sing on Shabbat with the energy and love that he did.