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ULSTER PARK - Josef Ben-Eliezer, 83, a much-loved pastor of the Bruderhof communities, died unexpectedly on Friday, March 22, 2013 with his family at his side at the Maple Ridge Community in Ulster Park.
The third child of a Polish Jewish family, Josef was born in Frankfurt, Germany on July 14, 1929. Many of Josef's relatives died in the Holocaust. But through a series of near-miraculous escapes, his immediate family made their way across Europe - only to find themselves exiled to Siberia under unspeakable conditions. Thanks to their parents' courage and ingenuity, the family managed to flee south to Uzbekistan, where Josef's mother Mina died of typhus. In 1942 Josef joined the so-called Teheran Children, a group of 1000 Jewish orphans who were transported by The Jewish Agency to Palestine.
As an enthusiastic Zionist, Josef fought with the underground Haganah group for the establishment of the State of Israel. Over time, however, he became disillusioned even with that idealistic struggle, which seemed marred by the same injustice and violence he saw in wider society. After years of seeking a solution as he traversed many countries, Josef ultimately joined the Bruderhof community. Here he found an answer to his search through a life of faith in Jesus which he shared with others who also sought to live out the justice, peace and solidarity for which he yearned.
Josef always retained a great love for his Jewish heritage and for the country and the people of Israel. He travelled there many times in an effort to encourage reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians, most recently in October 2012.
Last December, Josef and Ruth celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. He will be missed by his wife, by his seven children Channah, Shulamith, Chaim, Eldad, Tikva, Ephraim, and Mina, by his many grandchildren, and by all who knew him. Josef's autobiography My Search can be found at www.plough.com.
Published in the Poughkeepsie Journal from Mar. 28 to Mar. 30, 2013