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Ephraim Oshry, 89; Helped Jews Worship in Lithuania

October 07, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, who held secret worship services and helped Jews continue to live religiously during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, has died. He was 89.

Oshry died Sept. 28 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

Oshry was a rabbinical scholar in Kaunas, Lithuania, when the Nazis invaded in 1941. During the occupation, Nazi officials made Oshry keeper of a warehouse of Jewish books being stored for a planned exhibit of "artifacts of the extinct Jewish race."

Oshry used the books to interpret Jewish law on questions of survival. He ruled that Jews could not buy Christian baptism certificates, even when faced with death, nor could they commit suicide.

Oshry preserved the questions and his answers on pieces of paper and buried them in cans, which he retrieved after he was freed from forced labor. His notes were published in Hebrew in five volumes, two of which won the National Jewish Book Award for best book on the Holocaust.

After the war, Oshry set up yeshivas -- schools for religious instruction -- in Rome and Montreal before moving to New York. In 1952, he became rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, one of the city's oldest synagogues.

He established a yeshiva for gifted boys in Monsey, N.Y., about 15 years ago.

Oshry, whose mother and two sisters died in the Holocaust, is survived by his wife, Fraida, three daughters; six sons; 40 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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