Rabbi Who Held Secret Services in Lithuania During WWII Dies

NEW YORK (AP) - Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, who held secret worship services and helped Jews continue to live religiously during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, has died. He was 89.

Oshry died Sept. 28 in a Manhattan hospital.

Oshry was a rabbinical scholar in Kaunas, Lithuania, when the Nazis invaded in 1941. During the occupation, Nazi officials made Oshry keeper of a warehouse of Jewish books being stored for an exhibit of "artifacts of the extinct Jewish race."

His mother and two sisters died in the Holocaust.

Oshry used the books to interpret Jewish law on questions of survival, like whether a widow could remove her dead husband's gold teeth, a practice he said would desecrate a corpse. He said Jews could not buy Christian baptism certificates, even when faced with death, and could not commit suicide.

Oshry preserved the questions and his answers on pieces of paper and buried them in cans, which he retrieved after he was freed from forced labor. His notes were eventually published in Hebrew in five volumes, two of which won the National Jewish Book Award for best book on the Holocaust.

After the war, Oshry set up yeshivas - schools for religious instruction - in Rome and Montreal before moving to New York. In 1952, he became rabbi of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, one of the city's oldest synagogues.

He established a yeshiva for gifted boys in Monsey, New York, about 15 years ago.

Oshry is survived by his wife, Fraida, three daughters and six sons.