By Deb Silverthorn
Heinz Meir Wallach celebrated 101 years and 101-plus blessings as friends, family and community gathered in his honor on June 6.
“My life, this long life, has always been in the hands of the Almighty,” said Wallach of his May 23 birthday. “My birthday was a lovely affair. To see the children and my family and then there was a fire engine that came — it was all very nice. I could never have imagined my life so long and so full, but every day is something special.”
Wallach, who celebrated with his family, was warmed by the extended well-wishes shared at the entrance of The Legacy Midtown Park’s Healthcare Center, where he is recuperating from a fall before moving to the home of his daughter Tamar Leventhal.
“The attention and outpouring of love to my father was beautiful,” said Leventhal, who lit a candle to honor her father’s history as part of this year’s virtual Yom HaShoah commemoration. “Life is filled with hardships and tribulations but for my father, who lost his own family, who fought in four wars in Israel and who experienced so much sadness, to remain so positive — he is my inspiration.”
Among the celebrants were students of Akiba Yavneh Academy, Torah Day School of Dallas, members of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, leadership of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum and The Legacy Senior Communities and even Karl Kuby, Sr., owner of Kuby’s Sausage House, for whom Wallach worked for more than a decade after moving to Dallas in 1980.
“Heinz is a lovely man and I was delighted to witness this very special tribute to him,” said Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins, among the many who feted Heinz. “I believe he’s our oldest survivor and to hear his story, to know how much he overcame and to see him there smiling and receiving all the love … it was beautiful.”
Born in 1920, the son of Gerdi and Leopold and brother of Liesl — none of whom survived the Holocaust — Wallach was sent to Buchenwald the day after Kristallnacht in November 1938. After two months there, he embarked on a two-year ordeal that included working at a labor camp, being transported on a ship that was deported at Haifa Bay, and finally reaching Palestine, where he was imprisoned in a British concentration camp for a year before reaching freedom.
He served in four Israeli wars and was injured in the Six-Day War. Wallach and his wife, Doris, of blessed memory, moved from Israel to Dallas to be close to their daughters and grandchildren. However, Israel will always be his homeland.
“After I lost my parents and sister, my life began again when I met my wife and we began a family. They are my passion. Life is about strength and belief and long ago I hoped to survive,” said Wallach. “There have been many hard times but my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, they give me strength.”
Wallach was married to Doris for 72 years at her passing in 2016. The two were parents of daughters Ruth (Yoram) Block, of blessed memory, and Tamar (Arthur) Leventhal; grandparents of Lisa (Ryan) Leventhal Alexander, Eran (Maripaz) Block and Limor Block and Daniel Leventhal; and great-grandparents of Jordan Heinz Alexander, Benjamin and Emily Block and Allan, Danielle, Lily and Mark Garcia.
“Saba would do anything for his family whatever it took. He loves to be with people and he stood behind my grandmother, no matter what,” said Lisa Leventhal Alexander, whose fondest memories include sleepovers at Saba and Savta’s and Israeli breakfasts, still her grandfather’s favorite. “My grandparents were here my whole life and on Shabbat I always got to sit between them. While he has so many reasons to be an angry man, I’ve never known him that way. His life with us has been joyful.”
The Wallachs lived across the street from the JCC and were regulars, playing aerial tennis; Heinz never missed an opportunity to catch a game of ping-pong. The family has long been connected to Congregation Shearith Israel, where Leventhal has tutored more than three decades of b’nai mitzvah children.
“I always love talking with Heinz, seeing his warm, smiling face, and hearing him share in his gentle voice his stories of the ma’apilim and Israel’s War of Independence,” said Rabbi Ari Sunshine. “Even at 101, he still tells the stories in such vivid detail as if the events happened just yesterday. The whole Shearith klei kodesh [clergy] team joins me and the community in wishing Heinz a happy 101st birthday and ad meah v’esrim, may he live to Moses’ ripe age of 120!”