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CHANGING THE GEARS OF THE SPIRIT
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CHANGING THE GEARS OF THE SPIRIT
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It is easy to be fooled by Francois Wasservogels casual dress and unassuming manner. Here is a man who served as Corporate Director of Renaults Product Planning Division back in the 70s, and as Vice President of Usinor Sacilors Automotive Division in the 80s. For those of us who dont happen to know the steel business, the Paris-based Usinor Sacilor Corporation is one of the worlds largest steel companies, employing 66,000 people worldwide.

Since becoming observant and moving toIsraela few years ago, François Wasservogel has not changed professional gears too drastically. He is still very much involved in industry. As a special advisor to the president of a major Israeli banks investment subsidiary, he assists European companies in establishing themselves inIsraelby finding local partners for joint ventures.

However, it wasnt professional achievements that Dr. Wasservogel wished to discuss during his interview at Arachims international headquarters in Bnei Brak. Rather, it was his own odyssey, and the Hand of Providence which he and his wife saw over and over again.

Wasservogel was born inAuschwitz. Not the concentration camp itself he is quick to clarify but the prison next door. Long before he sounded his first cry, the Nazis had murdered his father, a mathematician and pianist, when he resisted arrest. His mother was shipped off to theAuschwitzprison camp, where she gave birth to François. An attorney who spoke perfect Polish, she managed to foil her captors efforts to identify her as a Jew.

Following the Liberation, the young widow set out with her baby forSouth America. A stopover inParisgave rise to second thoughts. She decided to stay inFranceand try to rebuild her life in the shadow of theEiffelTower. A kindly Jewish intellectual fromBerlincame into her life, and the two refugees decided to try to rebuild their lives together. The second husband, Wasservogel, treated the young François as his own son in every way.

The household the new couple built together was identifiably Jewish complete with gefilte fish and the accouterments of Passover. But earnestmitzvahobservance and an appreciation of HaShem as the Giver of Torah were lacking. That was to come to François Wasservogel long after leaving his parents home, after accumulating not one, but two doctorates, writing a book on the appropriate role of the car in modern life (LautoImmobile), and carving out a notable career for himself in French industry.

Why Change Gears?

While Wasservogel'swife Batya had begun taking an active interest in Jewish practice already in the 80's, his own movement towrads Torah Judaism began more recently, thanks to his daughter Sophie. A college friend of Sophie's suggested that she might enjoy a talk given by R' Eli Lemel, the Coordinator of Arachim's Paris center.

Did she enjoy herself? Suffice it to say that Sophies dialogue with the speaker after the presentation stretched late into the night, so late that the venue had to bemoved to the Lemels home. Here, Sophie also had an opportunity to hear Mrs. Lemels perspective.

For this liberated young French intellectual, the evening was an eye-opener. She had never encountered such eloquent spokespeople for Jewish Tradition. The next day she shared her find with her parents.

Although Sophie herself let her enthusiasm for Torah wan,aliyahto


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