Yom Hashoah pioneers

The late Ben and Bernice Muler, interviewed for the Faces of the Holocaust series produced by Renate Frydman and Wright State
The late Ben and Bernice Muler, interviewed for the Faces of the Holocaust series produced by Renate Frydman and Wright State

Remembering Bernice and Ben Muler

By Sam Heider, Special To The Dayton Jewish Observer

Bernice and Ben Muler were, to us, like our own family. Ben was the first one we met. Our friendship goes back more than half a century ago.

Bernice passed away on Aug. 30 in Hollywood, Fla. at the age of 89. Ben passed away on Jan. 27 in Hollywood at the age of 91. Both were Holocaust survivors. They were born in Poland and met as exiles in Russia.

Our friendship began in 1951 when Phyllis and I and our 4-year-old son, Morris, were walking on Main Street in Dayton with thousands of people.

Out of nowhere I hear a Yiddish Litvak voice, “Amchu? Du bist a Yid, One of us? Are you a Jew?”

It took us completely by surprise to hear someone speaking Yiddish. So we stopped and we talked for a while and Ben said, “I think I found a job and we will move to Dayton.”

A few weeks later, the Muler family moved to Dayton, and for a short time they stayed with us, until they found an apartment.

Ben’s late father was a newspaper printer in Poland. The Dayton Daily News hired Ben and he would work there until he retired in 1986.

We became the best of friends. Our children were born and raised together. We attended every simcha (celebration) together, we ate together, and we even slept together (but not in the same bed).

And as time went by, Ben became active in the Jewish community. I remember Ben was the first one to organize a Yom Hashoah committee, so that we could observe Yom Hashoah every year, honoring our six million Jewish people who perished during the Holocaust.

There was some opposition, but Ben never took no for an answer, and Yom Hashoah was observed for the first time in Dayton. There was not an empty seat: the synagogue was packed and Ben was the main speaker.

From then on, Yom Hashoah has been observed every year in Dayton, thanks to Ben.

After being in Dayton for a short time, Ben found out that there were some single Holocaust survivors living in Dayton, so he invited everyone to come every Sunday for breakfast, to our apartment.

He would make salami and eggs and potatoes, and everybody loved it. But after a while, they all went their own ways.

Ben was on the board of directors at Beth Jacob Synagogue and a lot of Jewish organizations. He was always a great supporter of the state of Israel, and after they moved to Florida, he continued being involved in Jewish causes.

As for my own experience, I can only say Ben, I will never forget what you did for me. I barely survived an open-heart surgery, nish haint gedacht, it should never happen again.

Ben came to visit me in the hospital almost every day and when I came home Ben would run back and forth to bring whatever we needed.

Nothing was too much for Ben. He would come up to me every night, stay with me till late at night, walk with me in the hallway; he kept saying, “God vet helfin, God will provide, you will be alright.”

Ben, you gave me moral support and I will never forget you. The Torah tells us there are 613 mitzvot (commandments); one of the greatest is when a person visits a sick person.

Ben, you are the one who fulfilled a great mitzvah. And Bernice followed up with also a great mitzvah, she would cook special meals for me.

She knew what I liked because we used to eat at each other’s home. The only food we didn’t agree on was gefilte fish. Ben liked fish with salt, and I liked sweet fish, but we came to an agreement, we mixed the fish together.

Bernice and Ben, we love you very much. We will miss you tremendously and we will cherish your memories forever. May this be a living tribute to your memory.

Daytonian Sam Heider is a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.

To read the complete October 2014 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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