When Alex Kernish asked an elderly Holocaust Survivor to put on a tefillin he responded “I used to be a Jew, but am no longer Jewish.” So Alex offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse.
By Anash.org reporter
Alex Kernish from Issaquah, WA was supposed to be heading to Israel for a year at Mayanot Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. However, due to the war currently raging in Israel, he is currently studying at Chovivei Torah Yeshiva in New York.
Last Friday, Alex went on mivtzoim in a park near Crown Heights. He went around among people and suggested that they put on tefillin.
In the park, there is an area where people sit and play on chess tables. He approached everyone who looked Jewish and he offered them to put on tefillin. One of those who was playing chess pointed him in the direction of someone who was old, and told him he is Jewish and will soon be 102 years old. He suggested that he would put on Tefillin.
Alex approached the Jew, and asked him if he is Jewish. The Jew answered him, that he used to be a Jew, but he is no longer Jewish. Alex continued to ask him if he wanted to put on a tefillin. The old Jew did not respond. So Alex, a talented chess player, suggested he play chess.
The elderly Jew agreed to the game, and Alex added on the condition that if he (Alex) wins, he will agree to put on tefillin with him. The Jew did not respond. And so the game began. Within ten minutes Alex beat the elderly man at the game of Chess.
The elderly Jew shared that the last time he saw his father was when they were playing chess. And since then, he doesn’t want to remember or know anything about Judaism.
In two weeks I will be celebrating my 102nd birthday,” the elderly Jew said. “But the deal must be respected.”
The elderly Jew rolled up his sleeves, and for the first time in his life he put on a tefillin. A Bar Mitzvah at the age of almost 102.
In an emotional phone call, Alex told how he saw a direct link to the Parsha of the week, Avraham Avino was circumcised at the age of 99 – and this Jew is doing a Bar Mitzvah at the age of 101.