Witnesses to history
By Deb Silverthorn
Max Glauben and Jori Epstein have nearly 120 years of life, and together the two have written the book on living to the fullest. “The Upstander,” to be released on March 30 and now available for pre-order, is Epstein’s tribute to Glauben.
“Max is one of my best friends. We know and care about each other and he’s taught me so much,” said Epstein, an Akiba Yavneh Academy and University of Texas graduate who now reports on the Cowboys and NFL as a journalist for USA Today. She worked previously for Sports Illustrated and The Dallas Morning News. “Our understanding is so deep and powerful, and it’s why ‘The Upstander’ is now a reality.”
“The Upstander” explores survivor Glauben’s childhood and teen years as a ghetto smuggler and his journey from displaced person to American immigrant. In speaking with Epstein, Glauben shares memories and events he had held back until now.
“Jori authenticated everything; she’s a good writer, but also an excellent reporter and she didn’t just take my memory for granted. Even through 14 March [of the Living] trips, and hundreds and more hours of lectures, there were still some things I’d kept inside,” said Glauben, 93. He first met Epstein as a student and has watched proudly as she has become a professional writer. “Jori is a real truthful, Jewish gute-neshamah — a neshama tova — who has religion in her heart. Over the years we’ve built a very special bond and this book comes from that.”
Glauben was 11 when World War II began in 1939. In 1944, when he was 15, he and his family were deported to Majdanek. He spent the rest of the war at Budzyn, Mielec, Wieliczka and Plaszow in Poland, and Flossenburg in Germany. After liberation on April 23, 1945, he spent two years in Nuremberg, Germany, with the 179 Signal Corps. He arrived in the U.S. in 1947 and spent a few weeks in an orphanage in New York City and then in a foster home in Atlanta. In 1948, he registered for the draft and entered the Army, based at Fort Hood in Killeen in 1951. He moved to Dallas in 1953 and began his career in the garment industry, later owning the Imperial Garment Supply company, which manufactured articles for the sewing trade.
By happenstance, Epstein and Glauben sat next to each other on the flight to the March of the Living in 2012. She had grown up at congregations Beth Torah, Shaare Tefilla and Shearith Israel and is now involved at Shearith and The Intown Chabad. Glauben is a longtime Shearith Israel member.
“Max’s focus is always to look at how far we’ve come,” said Epstein, who reviewed three oral histories and researched hundreds of records. “He misses none of the nuances of humanity.”
Both families are eager to read “The Upstander.” They include Glauben’s wife Frieda and their children Barry (Michelle), Phillip (Linda) and Shari (Norm) Becker; grandchildren Alec (Ellen), Blake, Delaney (Justin) Katz, Hayley, Madison, Ross (Stacey) and Sarah (Brett) Golman; great-granddaughters Natalie and Amelia Golman; and great-grandson Julian Glauben. Epstein is the daughter of Barry and Dia and sister of Daley, Jason and Zach.
Published reviews of “The Upstander” include those by Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins; reporter and author Rachel Siegel; and Rabbi Meir Tannenbaum, former Yavneh Academy associate principal for Judaic studies. Siegel, a Yavneh graduate, made the 2015 March of the Living trip with Glauben, and Tannenbaum, now with BBYO International, chaperoned many trips with Glauben.
“From the gates of Auschwitz to classrooms across Texas, Max has spent decades channeling the most excruciating memories of his past into messages of resilience, forgiveness and hope,” said Siegel, a Washington Post reporter and author. “Through ‘The Upstander,’ Jori ensures no details from Max’s story are lost to the passage of time.”
In 2012, while on the March of the Living with Glauben, Epstein couldn’t have imagined the words she wrote, as a witness to Glauben’s life, would ever be published. It was as he spoke during the visit to Majdanek, where his mother and brother were killed, that she felt compelled to walk beside him and to take it all down.
Those journals, and the many she’d continue to write at the encouragement of a professor, became the base of an assignment months later at the University of Texas at Austin.
Epstein and Glauben continued to meet in person, sitting at his kitchen table. In 2017, Epstein returned on the March, walking again side-by-side with Glauben, now knowing the conversations and stories would be part of a book.
“I interviewed alumni of the March, his family, educators at the Shoah Foundation and the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum,” said Epstein. “We want readers to see Max’s life and loss through a new lens, understanding the rich Jewish tradition and community lost. Max’s mother making cholent, him playing with his brother and his childhood mischief create the story before ‘the story.’”
Glauben’s story, his speaking, teaching and making the March, are his way of giving voice to his parents Faiga and Isaac and his brother Heniek, all of blessed memory.
“Going on the March is like going to the cemetery that my family doesn’t have and then to Israel, where the dream lives on,” said Glauben. “Those who read our book will become witnesses to that time in history and I hope they will learn, especially in the tough times we are living in right now, to never give up.”
Pam Fine, who has led the Yavneh March of the Living program since 2005, made 14 trips with Glauben and two with Epstein.
“Max is most generous with his time and dedication to teaching the Holocaust and being with him on the MOL has been a gift. Each year he shared more of himself in his optimistic manner, allowing us to always see the good in life despite the tragedies he faced,” said Fine. “Jori is smart, articulate and tenacious in her attempt to understand any subject and it’s easy to see how putting Max and Jori together would create the magic of this book.”
The dedication in “The Upstander” is to Glauben’s family and the souls lost in the Holocaust.
“I don’t ask ‘why me.’ As long as it is me, I think about what I can do with what my life was, and with the blessing of what it became and what it is,” said Glauben. “I wake up each morning a husband, a father, a grandfather and great-grandfather, three and four generations after so many who perished, whose last name is Glauben.”
In German, glauben means believe.
“Of course, I have always had to believe,” said the man whose life defines his name. “We must all, always believe.”
“The Upstander” is now available for pre-order, on Amazon, at tinyurl.com/Glauben-Epstein-The-Upstander.