In the Halls of the Sorbonne

Paris, late 1930s
Rabbi Yoel Reitzer lives in Antwerpen, Belgium. His father, Moshe Zev Reitzer was studying to become a pharmacist at “the Sorbonne,” attending some of the same classes as the Rebbe in the late 1930’s.

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…My father was from Grosswardein, a little town which at one time was part of Hungary, at another time it was part of Romania. He was called up to the military draft. He had a brother who had already moved to France to escape the draft. He advised my father to also come to France, so my father came to France. In the Old Country my father had studied at the Yeshiva of Maharam Brisk, one of the greatest Yeshivos in Hungary. But he had no livelihood, so he decided to study something. Otherwise he couldn’t make a living in Paris.

He studied at the Sorbonne. There he met a Jew - at the time he didn't even know who he was; later he became the Lubavitcher Rebbe. My father was in awe of him, the Rebbe would come straight to the lectures; and he didn't speak with anyone, he would come in, and as soon as the lecture ended, he would leave. He [my father] was very impressed by him he was extremely careful - my father told me - to guard hi eyes, not to see anything impermissible, He spoke to almost no one, and if he did say something, it was very brief.

There, he got to know the Rebbe a little. My father was a Torah Jew. He was still single. Apparently, the Rebbe appreciated him.

One day, the Rebbe said, "would it not be a good idea... There are a number of young boys wandering around in Paris, they have nowhere to study Torah, we need to ensure that they remain good Jews. Would you teach them privately?"

My father agreed. For my father it was a windfall, as well, because he deeded to eat [livelihood]. The [future] Rebbe pulled it together; this child, another one. Later, my father had a class at night with a whole group of boys - my father used to say, that when he left Paris, he went to Lyon - later when he hot engaged - the children were really crying - my father really loved children had a deep love of Torah. The children became very attached to him….