Tag Archives: Rotterdam

Remembering My Father

dadc193 years ago today in Rotterdam, Holland, my father Nardus Groen was born.  His life was one filled with substance, meaning, and love.  I remember him fondly and miss him often.  Despite what one might take from the book “Jew Face”, I was aware of my father’s faults.  Every human being is flawed and my father was no exception.  However, one of the things I witnessed from the time I was a child, was that he never spoke one bad word of his parents who were murdered in Auschwitz.

My father was a great man.  I say that with certainty and pride.  He was principled, strong, ethical, and loving.  I often wonder if he would have liked the book “Jew Face” and my portrayal of his life.  I have often said that the greatest joy for me in writing the book was that in writing it I felt as though I got to know my parents as young adults.  My father never was able to confirm if that feeling of mine was justified, but it is one that I keep with me and cherish.

To use more modern vernacular, when looking at my father in the most difficult of times, my father was a bad ass.  He claimed in later years that he often felt fear, but his actions during the worst of times showed a behavior that showed otherwise.  The hardest thing for me as his son has always been the feeling that I have never been close to being the man that he was.  But then again, many never will be.

He was proud of who he was, and as a Rabbi he tried to use his understanding and extensive knowledge of Judaism to help and teach others, Jew and non-Jew alike.  The debate on what makes one truly religious is an endless one, but in my eyes and the eyes of many others, my father was indeed very religious, even if somewhat unconventional in practice.

He loved my mother, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren very much. No one has ever perfected the art of showing that love, my father being no exception, but to this day his love is never questioned.  Together with my mother, who God willing turns 91 in 2 weeks, a new world sprung forth of decent and loving people who do them both proud.

So today, on what would have been my father’s 93rd birthday, I remember my father, Rabbi Nardus Groen, with love and respect, and hope that some of what I have done this past year has helped part of the world know why.


Congressional Tribute to Nardus Groen


[Congressional Record Volume 153, Number 112 
(Friday, July 13, 2007)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1512]
From the Congressional Record Online through the 
Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                     TRIBUTE TO 
                 RABBI NARDUS GROEN

                      ______

                            HON. JOE SESTAK

                            of pennsylvania

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, July 12, 2007

  Mr. SESTAK. Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize and honor the 
life of a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, 
son, veteran, and community leader--Rabbi Nardus Groen, who passed away 
on Wednesday, June 13 after living a full life of community service.
  Rabbi Nardus Groen was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 
December 18, 1919 and grew to become a hero and a family man. As a 
member of the Dutch Underground during World War II, Rabbi Groen was 
captured by German soldiers multiple times and heroically managed to 
escape each time. One particular act of heroism occurred in 1940 when 
Groen was guarding a Jewish hospital in the Netherlands during its 
evacuation. Although the patients had escaped, Groen was protecting a 
group of Jewish nurses as the Nazis approached. Selflessly, he slipped 
on a Red Cross arm band and escorted the nurses into a room. When the 
Nazis asked who was in the room, Groen explained that he was caring for 
patients with Scarlet Fever. Fearing the illness, the Nazis spared the 
Jewish nurses, including Groen's future wife, the former Sipora 
Rodriguez-Lopes.
  After World War II, Rabbi Nardus Groen served at Camp Lejeune, North 
Carolina under the American Marine Corps. Following his stint with the 
Marines, Groen worked as a psychologist at a Jewish orphanage for 
Holocaust survivors. He helped countless youths cope with one of the 
greatest tragedies in human history. Two years later, he began to serve 
as a rabbi at the oldest congregation in the Western Hemisphere in 
Surinam. Groen led a mixed Sephardic Ashkenazic congregation in Surinam 
until 1952 when he served as a rabbi in Einhoven, the Netherlands. He 
became one of the foremost leaders of his community, uniting two 
different cultures in one synagogue.
  Nardus Groen moved to Lansdale, PA as a renowned rabbi in 1963 where 
he served as Beth Israel Synagogue's rabbi for 13 years. He provided 
guidance and spiritual leadership to Beth Israel's community, helping 
his community grow to the vibrant Jewish center it is today. Groen 
moved back to Europe and retired in 1986 as the chief rabbi for the 
eastern six provinces of the Netherlands. He lived what he preached and 
will be remembered across the Netherlands.
  After his retirement, Rabbi Groen and his loving wife Sipora lived in 
the Netherlands and Delray Beach, Florida after his retirement before 
permanently settling in Florida in 2005. Rabbi Groen spent his last 
years as a loving father to Marcel Groen, Leo Groen, Ruben Groen, David 
Groen, and Debra Groen; a loving brother to Meyers Groen and Sophia 
Groen; a loving grandfather and great grandfather to twelve 
grandchildren and six great grandchildren; and a loving husband to 
Sipora Groen.
  Madam Speaker, I ask you to join me in honoring and remembering Rabbi 
Nardus Groen. Through his hard work, Rabbi Groen has spread hope across 
three continents and will be remembered as a strong leader, a caring 
mentor, and a true mensch.