One of Anash in Johannesburg did his Purim seuda this year with only peoplethat he and his wife knew normally wouldn't have a seuda otherwise. One ofthe guest called up a day before and said their friend wants to bring aJewish friend from their public school and he happily agreed. A day laterthe guest calls to say that the parents of this friend wanted to know ifthey could come to as they are Jewish but never attended anything Jewish atall and since their child was going they would like to come along, and ofcourse the parents are invited too...
At the party he notices that this parent of the friend is standing on theside somewhat lonely and goes over, says L'chaim and while talking theydiscover that their offices are right near each other. "okay, I'll cometomorrow to put on tefillin with you!" The guy, who didn't even know whatTefillin are laughingly agrees, joking that you wont even remember tomorrow.
He shows up in the office the next day and the guy, surprised to see him,welcomes him inside to his office - which is full of buddhist getchkes. Whenhe asks him if they can perhaps go somewhere else the guy says no, notreally and so they agree to do it on the side.
When he pulls out the Yarmulkeh, the guy says "that I won't do, becausealthough I know nothing about Judaism, the one thing I know is that the headcovering is supposed to symbolize belief in G-d, so if you want to put onTefilin with me anyways then fine, but no Yarmulkeh. After debating in hishead whether or not to do it, the orayso of tefilin wins and he says, okwe'll put it on anyways"
"Really, you'll let me put it on anyways?, ok, do you have a yarmulkah forme to wear..." So they start putting on Tefilin, the guy (wearing ayarmulkeh...) repeating word for word, not recognizing the brochos, thelanguage etc.
As they start saying the words Shema Yisroel however, the man starts gettingvery emotional and by the time they reach Echod he's broken down inuncontrollable sobbing... When they finish Shema, he asks to see thetranslation in english of the words he said but when reading them doesntseem to be moved by their content in any significant way.
After they finish taking off the tefilin the man explains.
My parents were German holocaust survivors of the concentration camps. Afterthe war they got married and in their disdain for anything Jewish theyescaped to South Africa and with German names were never identified as Jewsand never associated with anything Jewish. The only thing Jewish of myupbringing was that any time anything Jewish was mentioned or discussed myparents would get very angry and it was something we never discussed orengaged in.
My one memory though, is that as a child I remember my mother waking upnight after night, shrieking in horror through the nightmares that wouldrevive the horrible memories of her experiences. Through all the screamingthe only thing I would hear besides for her sobbing was her screaming aloudthe words "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod...."
(...The koach of Shema Yisroel to pierce through the rishus of the nazis,the assimilation of the diaspora and the eternal struggle of the neshomo...)