Jack Ratz, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, will be awarded a high-school diploma alongside his grandson, Brian Fine, during Rambam Mesivta’s graduation ceremony taking place on June 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence.
Mr. Ratz was 14 years old when the Nazis invaded Latvia in 1941 and vividly recalls them immediately creating two Jewish ghettos. One ghetto was for those men who were able to work, and the other was for the infirm, children, and women who were immediately targeted for death. He opted to go with his father rather than with his mother and the children, and he credits that decision for saving his life. Shortly thereafter, all of the women and children of the other ghetto were brought to the forest and mercilessly shot by the Nazis. Mr. Ratz spent his high-school years in a labor camp and never had the opportunity to go to high school.
Coming to the United States after the war and building a family, he ended up authoring a heartfelt yet gut-wrenching book about his experiences, titled Endless Miracles. Mr. Ratz has lectured to thousands of students across the United States, and his book has become a mainstay in Holocaust education in many schools.
Mr. Ratz’s grandson, Brian Fine, will be one of the 43 talmidim graduating from Rambam Mesivta this year. An honorary diploma will be conferred upon Mr. Ratz because, as Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, rosh mesivta of Rambam Mesivta, stated, “Mr. Ratz went through unspeakable horrors during his high school years and yet survived with emunah, dignity, and a message for all of us. There is so much we can all learn from him.” v