15 Year Effort to Bring Jewish Family out of USSR Ends; Rabbi and Brother Reunited

The story of a Jew from Gorodmoskatchova, a village in the Carpathian part of the Soviet Union, who, through the intervention of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, was finally permitted to leave with his family to join a brother he had not seen since 1944, was released to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today by Rabbi Herman Eisner. For 15 years Rabbi Eisner, spiritual leader of Congregation Ezrath Israel, had sought to bring his brother and his family to the United States. Yet, when he finally succeeded and 62-year-old Joseph Eisner, his wife, Rose, and his six children landed in New York on Feb. 2, and reporters asked. “How come you were allowed to leave Russia?” Joseph Eisner could only answer, “I don’t know.” And, in fact, he didn’t. The story began in 1944 when the Nazis cleared Kusnica, a small town in Slovakia, of its Jews, deporting Joseph Eisner to a slave labor camp in Hungary, and his mother and father, six brothers and a sister to other concentration camps. As the war drew to a close and Soviet troops entered Hungary, they transported the slave laborers to Russia where Eisner married and raised a family.

His father and mother, three brothers and a sister perished in the Auschwitz death camp. Three brothers survived. In 1947. Rabbi Eisner came to America. In 1948, he brought his brothers, Samuel and Mayer Eisner, to America. Samuel now lives in the Boro Park, and Mayer in the East Flatbush sections of Brooklyn. Rabbi Eisner knew that his brother Joseph had survived the holocaust, and was living in the Soviet Union. The brothers corresponded, but Joseph was afraid to apply to apply for an exit visa. Finally, in 1956, Joseph wrote to his brother, stating he had applied for a permit to come to America with his family. For the next 15 years Rabbi Eisner battled to bring his brother and his brother’s family to the United States. Time and again he wrote to Soviet leaders pleading that his brother and his family be permitted to emigrate. He approached every federal agency that he could think of including the State Department and his Congressmen, without success. Then, in the summer of 1970, Ulster County Clerk Albert Spada, knowing of Rabbi Eisner’s efforts, suggested he contact Rockefeller. Spada wrote to the Governor on Rabbi Eisner’s behalf. On July 15, the Governor wrote to Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin requesting that Joseph Eisner be granted permission to emigrate to America to rejoin his family.

Rockefeller wrote that he knew that “this was an internal Soviet affair,” but the Governor urged that an exit visa be granted on grounds of compassion. Two months later, on Sept. 15, the Governor received a telephone call from George Shapkin, First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, telling him that Joseph Eisner and his family had been granted permission to join his relatives in the U.S. The Governor notified Rabbi Eisner of the good news, but requested it not be made public so that nothing be done or said that might hold up the Eisners’ departure from the Soviet Union. The story is being made public now because Rabbi Eisner has asked for permission to do so. What of the Joseph Eisner family now? The Eisner’s live in Boro Park. They are “very happy” to be here and grow “very disturbed and angry” when they hear people “complaining about America.” The Yiddish speaking family is studying English in adult education classes in Boro Park. Joseph Eisner, who was a supervisor of a government store in the Soviet Union is unemployed as is his daughter, Rosalie, 20, who was a school teacher in Russia. A second daughter, Leah, 20, is working as a bookkeeper. The two younger sons are students at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. The two older sons, Ludwig, 17 and Todres, 19, will enter Yeshiva College in the fall.

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