Israel Cohen is an alumnus of ghettos and concentration camps, but he is also an architect of faith and rebuilding. His spirit could not be broken in Auschwitz, and after the war he became a teacher, supervisor, and role model for young people who were left with nothing but their lives — and the need for someone as devoted and inspiring as this young Gerer chassid from Lodz whose Jewish spark remained alive.
Herman Wouk came to know and admire him. As the famous novelist says in his Introduction to this book:
Israel Cohen’s … unpretentious account is outstanding for vividness — and most strangely — optimism… The author paints a telling picture of the way a religious structure gives form and strength to life, and could do so even in Auschwitz… Israel Cohen is a maggid, a storyteller. “Destined to Survive” held my interest throughout. I recommend the book as a declaration of faith that has been tested in hellfire, and as an adventurous personal history wholly Jewish and wholly G–dly.
More than once, Israel Cohen thought he was a footstep away from the end, but he was destined to survive — to start a new life, raise a proud family, and share his experiences with us. And his experiences are truly a gift, because Cohen is a man with a heart and an unshakeable faith. His moving, hope-filled articles (some of which are included in this book) have appeared in religious and secular publications in the United States and Canada, and he has often been called upon to share his experiences with audiences in both these countries.
Understandably, we pick up any book about the Holocaust with hesitancy and trepidation, but we put down Destined to Survive with gratitude that such a man was willing to share his experiences with us.