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The Menorah Story: A Story For All Faiths

Young Private Winneger was with the U.S. Army as it marched through Europe at the end of World War II. His unit was assigned to a European village with the orders to secure the town, search for any hiding Nazis and to help the villagers in any way they could.

Winneger was on patrol one night when he saw a figure running through a field just outside the village. He shouted, "Halt or I'll shoot." The figure ducked behind a tree. Winneger waited and eventually the figure came out and figuring that Winneger was no longer nearby, went to a spot near a large tree and started to dig. Winneger waited until the figure had finished digging and was once more on the move before he stepped out and again shouted, "Halt or I'll shoot!" The figure ran. Winneger decided not to shoot but to try to catch the furtive figure. He shortly caught up with the figure and tackled it to the ground.

To his surprise he found he had captured a young boy. An ornate menorah had fallen from the boy's hands in the scuffle. Winneger picked up the menorah. The boy tried to grab it back shouting, "Give it to me. It's mine!" Winneger assured the boy that he was among friends. Furthermore, he himself was Jewish. The boy who had just survived several years of the Holocaust and had been in a concentration camp was mistrustful of all men in uniforms. He had been forced to watch the shooting of his father. He had no idea what had become of his mother.

In the weeks that followed, Winneger took the young boy, whose name was David, under his wing. As they became closer and closer, Winneger's heart went out to the boy. He offered David the opportunity to come back to New York City with him. David accepted and Winneger went through all the necessary paperwork and officially adopted David.

Winneger was active in the New York Jewish community. An acquaintance of his, a curator of the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, saw the menorah. He told David it was a very valuable historic, European Menorah and should be shared with the entire Jewish Community. He offered David $50,000 for the menorah.

But David refused the generous offer saying the menorah had been in his family for over 200 years and that no amount of money could ever make him sell it.

When Chanukah came, David and Winneger lit the menorah in the window of their home in New York City. David went upstairs to his room to study and Winneger stayed downstairs in the room with the menorah.

There was a knock on the door and Winneger went to answer. He found a woman with a strong German accent who said that she was walking down the street when she saw the menorah in the window. She said that she had once had one just like it in her family and had never seen any other like it. Could she come and take a closer look? Winneger invited her in and said that the menorah belonged to his son who could perhaps tell her more about it. Winneger went upstairs and called David down to talk to the woman and that is how David was reunited with his mother.

This is retelling from memory (so some of the details may be wrong) from a true story told by Rabbi Allan C. Tuffs to the congregation at Matthew Weil's Bar Mitzvah, Temple Shalom, Levittown PA, December 7, 1996.


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