Moshe Sanbar z"l – in Memoriam
New York, July 9,2013
Moshe Sanbar was one of those rare individuals whose life and career seem to contradict destiny. A phoenix reborn out of the ashes. Born and raised in Hungary, deported to the extermination camps , he survives miraculously and, after liberation, he decides to join those few who want to create a homeland in Palestine. Upon arrival, without any previous training or experience, he joins the Palmach, soon to be badly wounded during one of the actions of his unit in Latrun. The comrades in arms in his jeep leave him behind bleeding profusely , promising to send a force to rescue him , but forget him there. Years ago I heard Moshe recounting how he lay there a night, surrounded by jackals attracted by the smell of blood , and the Arab Legion close by. He knows that if he fires a reconnaissance rocket to signify where he is, he will chase away the animals but attract the enemy. So he surrounds himself with stones , throwing them at the jackals all night long. He is eventually found alive by another unit who takes him to hospital. There, faced with a choice of amputation or death, he chooses to challenge death again. This is Moshe the survivor.
After independence, Moshe studies economics and embarks upon one of the most brilliant careers in Israel. He climbs up the ladder from Accountant General of the Ministry of Finance to number two at the Ministry- Director General, under the legendary Minister of Finance Pinhas Sapir, who later on entrusts him with the leadership of the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. He is finally appointed Governor of the Bank of Israel, one of the two highest economic posts in the country. There is no doubt today that Sanbar not only secures Israel's economic survival in difficult times, he also shapes that economy for years to come.
But Sanbar's interest , at any given time, is not limited to the economy. The Shoa continues to be constantly on his mind, And so, he is one of the first people to publish a book on the subject, already in the early 50's . Whereas other survivors choose not to speak about what befell them in Europe, lest this may hamper their careers, Moshe speaks proudly of the struggle to survive. Years later, realizing that the needs of the survivors in Israel are neglected, understanding that there is a continuous fight to secure their rights both at home and with the German Government, he creates, together with the late Noach Flug , the Center Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, uniting under the same roof 52 of the most important organizations . He then goes on to conceive and create and organization
which he considers an executive branch, geared to help the needy survivors, the Foundation
for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.
But Moshe is also a man of culture . He becomes the Chairman of the Habimah Theatre in danger of closing because of financial trouble, and puts it back on track. He is an ardent supporter of Yiddish and joins the board of the Yiddishshpiel. He loves the sports , supporting Hapoel.
Needless to mention here, all along Moshe is an ardent believer in the combined strength of Israel and the diaspora Jews and so he plays an important role in the Claims Conference , under whose roof we convene today , and conducts, together with the WJRO, successful negotiations for the restitution of properties , with the Hungarian Government.
During one of the controversies so typical of the debate in Israel whether Israel was created because of the Holocaust or inspite of it, Moshe says : "Let us remember that Israel got its birth certificate from the UN. Nations then stood at our side because of the Holocaust. But Israel won its independence through war, in a military struggle, and then again Holocaust survivors played a crucial, determining role : they replaced the fallen young Palmach fighters and became 50% of the fighting force"
I have tried to draw a portrait of an individual who faced death more than once, who raised from the ashes to the highest peaks of a career. And yet that does not tell the whole story, dos not nearly describe the man, the mensch he was.
What all of us loved most, what we miss, is his extraordinary personality, his understated power, his wisdom, his human decency, his moderation, his infallible logic , his elegance, his capacity to find an unexpected solution to some of the thorniest issues. Today we miss that capacity even more.
Moshe Sanbar was a renaissance man, in every sense of the word : literally, surviving so many near-death situations, and in the cultural sense , because of his many-fold interests and activities.
His personality will continue to inspire us. May he rest in peace.