February 18, 2020

L.A. Holocaust Survivor Acknowledged at SOTU

Joshua Kaufman, a Holocaust survivor living in Los Angeles, was among the guests at the State of the Union on Feb. 5.

During the Tuesday evening address, President Donald Trump singled out Kaufman for honorable mention.

In a 2016 story in the Journal, reporter Orit Arfa, who went to local Orthodox school, YULA, with Kaufman’s daughters, writes about spending Shabbat with Kaufman, who was born in Hungary. She remembered him from ninth grade when they ran into each other in Berlin. 

“He’s hard to forget – a tall, quiet yet imposing, strong presence,” Arfa writes. “Some [L.A.] locals may have seen his well-known plumbing truck cruising the streets of LA. At 88, he still works.”

At that time, Kaufman was traveling to Berlin to testify against a Nazi war criminal, though he was ultimately denied the opportunity to do so.

Kaufman is a regular presence in the Jewish community in Los Angeles, whether at the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day event at Pan Pacific Park, or even at shul. Last year, Kaufman attended High Holy Day services at Pico Shul, an Orthodox congregation in Pico-Robertson led by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife, Rebbetzin Rachel Bookstein. He spoke about his reluctance to attend services and his ambivalent relationship with God, due to his experiences in the Shoah. He said, however, he was heartened to see Jews coming together to pray on the High Holy Days.

The spotlighting of Holocaust survivor Kaufman was one of several key moments pertaining to the Jewish community during Trump’s speech at the House of Representatives chamber at the Capitol Building.

Another guest of the evening was Judah Samet, a member of the Pittsburgh-based Tree of Life synagogue that was targeted in a deadly shooting last October. The speech coincided with Samet’s 81st birthday, and after Trump announced that it was Samet’s birthday, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Samet, who is also a Holocaust survivor.

Trump explained that 75 years ago, Samet spent 10 months in a concentration camp; an American soldier rescued Samet and his family from the Holocaust.

Regarding to the deadly shooting at Tree of Life, another guest of the President at the address was Pittsburgh police officer Timothy Matson, who was one of a number of police officers wounded during the synagogue attack while trying to take down the shooter, Robert Bowers.

Speaking about foreign policy, Trump reiterated his commitment to the U.S.-relationship with Israel by highlighting his relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

He also spoke about his commitment to pushing back against Iran, which he described as a genocidal regime committed to targeting the Jewish people.