The Rescue of Israel’s Future Chief Justice

The Mozuraitis and Rakevicius families were simple Christian farmers in Lithuania. But when the Nazis began to murder their Jewish neighbors, the farming families did all they could to save the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto. One of the children they rescued, an eight-year-old boy named Aharon Barak, would go on to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel) and become the Jewish state’s highest legal figure.

The Nazis overtook Kovno, Lithuania, in June of 1941. Two months later, they forced the city’s Jews into a ghetto, and began to methodically murder them by the thousands.

While all this was going on, Jaroslavas Rakevicius and his family did their best to save as many Jews as possible. Jaroslavas and his sons smuggled Jews out of the ghetto, sneaking them through the forest to their farm that was 60 miles away. The entire operation was very dangerous, and the Rakevicius family turned their home into a fortress, with three different secret shelters, escape routes, and an observation post on the roof.

Among the Jewish families saved by the Rakevicius clan were the Meltzes, the Tulishevitzes, the Goldsteins, the Libmans, the Shapirs, and the Briks. Lea Brik and her young son Aharon were among those saved by the Rakevicius family. The mother and son had survived multiple executions carried out by the Nazis, including the Children’s Aktion in March of 1944, when 2,000 youngsters were taken from their homes and murdered.

In August of 1944, Nazis searched the Rakevicius home and found a Jewish prayer book. Jaroslavas knew that things were becoming dangerous, so he sent Lea and her son to stay with his friends, Jonas and Ona Mozuraitis, another poor farming family with four children of their own. This new family built two underground bunkers for their Jewish charges, and sheltered them until liberation.

After the end of the war, Lea and Aharon returned to their hometown, where they found Zvi, Lea’s husband and the boy’s father. In 1947, they made aliyah and changed their name to Barak. Aharon became a lawyer, professor, served as Israel’s Attorney General, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1978, and was Chief Justice from 1995 until his retirement in 2006.

The Mozuraitis and Rakevicius families were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for their heroic actions that saved so many Jewish lives, including one that would help make the Jewish state what it is today.

Tags: Advocates and Allies Video

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