Leon Weinstein was born in 1910 into a large, extended family of Hassidic Jews who had lived in Poland for many generations. He married his childhood sweetheart, Sima, in 1939, and they gave birth to a daughter, Natalie, in 1940, as their town of Radzmin was becoming a ghetto.
I was fortunate to celebrate with the 1939 Club, Leon’s 100th birthday on Sunday, May 16. Leon has an inspiring story of survival, yet suffered as many did with the loss of many family members. The dangerous situation forced Natalie’s parents to leave their 18 month old child at a door step, hoping someone would care for her. Sima found shelter, but eventually perished while Leon worked with the resistance, smuggling arms into the Warsaw Ghetto. Miraculously, Leon survived the Warsaw Uprising.
After the war, Leon eventually found his daughter in a convent, and married Sophie Sikora, a survivor of Auschwitz. The family moved to France, and eventually, the United States in 1952.
Leon was instrumental in the rescue of countless Jews and the repossession of 13 sefer Torahs, stolen from the synagogue during the War Years.
The loss of his entire family set Leon on a lifelong quest of restoring the religious and warm communal life into which he was born. Continuous membership in a synagogue, support for Israel, and The “1939″ Club has helped to fulfill that quest. Leon and Sophie have been members of the 1939 Club for over 50 years. Sophie filled many capcities and offices of the 1939 Club until she passed away in 2005.
It was an honor to meet Leon, learn of his story, and participate in a milestone celebration of his first 100 years.