A ceremony was held at the Riverdale YM-YWHA last Thursday, November 6, 2014, honoring a brave Bronx woman who helped rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II.
Berta Davidovitz-Rubinsztejn was one of the many rescuers who put her life on the line to help Jews living in Hungary escape the Nazis and the flagrant oppression posed by them. She disguised herself as a Gentile and secretly worked with Dror Habonim, the Zionist underground youth movement.
Rubinsztejn was reunited with one of the refugee orphans she saved and took care of.
Meir Brand was smuggled out of the Jewish ghetto in the Polish town of Bochnia in 1943. He was only 7 years old at the time his parents paid a smuggler to take the boy before they were sent to Auschwitz by the Nazis.
For nearly a year, Brand was left stranded on the streets of Budapest until Rubinsztejn found him and took him in as her own.
“He was like a son to me,” she said. “I had to look out for him.”
After a full month of love and care for Brand, both Rubinsztejn and Brand were on a train headed to Switzerland, along with 1,684 passengers. This fortuitous incident occurred after Rudolf Kasztner, a journalist, negotiated to provide trucks to the Nazis in exchange for the safe passage of Jews out of Hungary.
“I am standing here only because of you, Berta,” Brand said at the emotional ceremony. “I was the only survivor of my whole family.”
Brand made it safely to Israel in 1945, where he was adopted by his relatives. Today, the 79-year-old man has a family of his own.
Rubinsztejn is now 92-year-old woman who has lived in Bronx for 55 years. She is a proud great-grandmother. She was given the Jewish Rescuers Citation by B’Nai B’Rith at the ceremony.
“What I did is what everybody should do,” Rubinsztejn confidently said.
She also added an insightful remark: “Give children your love and the world grows up a better place.”