Blowing shofar in a striped prisoner uniform

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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4 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    One question that bothers me is why some Holocaust survivors reacted by becoming very observant and others with similar experiences went in the opposite direction. There are even some survivors who did not want their children to be part of the Jewish community to spare them. In my hometown there was a survivor who never entered the shul but knew a lot. Of course there were a few here and there who tried to blow the shofar ,put on tefilln,etc. In most situations, the terror and the oversight was such that this was beyond imagination. Those who doubt this story are simply generalizing from their experiences,which is normal. I wonder what will become of the Holocust Museums once the survivor generation passes on.Most American assimliated Jews aren’t that involved or historically conscious to care,once this generation is not there to push for rememberance. The orthodox remember but in another way,by living Judaism.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    I was once listening to a sermon in Shul when the Rabbi told a story about Holocaust spiritual heroism in Kelm (probably from the account told to and written by Rav Dessler ZT”L).

    A Holocaust survivor in the congregation became very agitated and indignant. I think the gist of it was that the survivor had not experienced or heard of a similar event himself, so he felt the story to be unrealistic and untrue. He even appeared to believe the story was a mockery of survivors like himself.

  3. another Nathan says:

    I suggest to L. Oberstein that if has not yet read “Faith After the Holocaust” by R. Eliezer Berkovitz, ZTL, that he do so. He deals at length with the ‘holy disbelief’ of survivors.

  4. Mark says:

    Thank you Mrs. Schmidt,

    I have a special appreciation for your willingness to go beyond the superficial level that many journalists settle for. You always provide an interesting angle and solid sources and it is very greatly appreciated.

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