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Yossele Schumacher affair

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Yossele Schumacher (Hebrew: יוסל'ה שוחמכר‎; born 1952) is a Soviet-born Israeli whose abduction as a child in 1960 became a cause célèbre within Israeli Jewish society. Schumacher was abducted by his Haredi Orthodox Jewish grandparents to prevent him from being raised as a Secular Jew by his parents, and was found in the United States after an extensive international search by Mossad before being returned to his parents' custody. Schumacher's abduction led to an early major polarization among Israeli Jews due to disagreements between Orthodox Jews, who largely supported the abduction, and Secular Jews, who largely opposed it.



Yossele Schumacher was born in 1952 in the Soviet Union to secular Jewish parents Alter and Ida Schumacher. His maternal grandparents, Nachman and Miriam Shtrakes, were conservative Haredi Jews of the Breslov Hasidic sect.[1] In 1958, the family immigrated to Israel, where Schumacher's parents settled on a secular kibbutz, but after running into financial difficulties they asked his maternal grandparents to look after him instead. The Shtrakes had settled in Jerusalem and joined the Breslov community there, and agreed to look after Schumacher, sending him to a religious boarding school. A few months later, the financial situation of Schumacher's parents improved and they asked for his return to their custody, but the Shtrakes, determined to raise him as a Hasidic Jew, refused due to the Schumachers objection to bringing him up religiously. The Shtrakes also accused the Schumachers of planning on returning to the Soviet Union to raise the boy as a Communist, which was an accusation that would often be voiced by Haredi Jews.[2][1][3] The grandparents decided to hide the boy within the Haredi community in Israel, and Nachman Shtrakes, together with his son Shalom, arranged for Yossele to be hidden away.


Schumacher was hidden in various Haredi enclaves in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Safed, Rishon LeZion, and Komemiyut. Israeli police launched a search operation for him, and the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Shtrakes to return him to his parents by 15 February 1960. The grandparents refused, insisting that the parents were planning on returning to the Soviet Union, and Nachman Shtrakes was subsequently imprisoned, but still refused to divulge any information.[4] The Haredi couple in Bnei Brak that had briefly hidden him was also imprisoned. With police still searching for Schumacher, it was decided within the Haredi community that he needed to be taken out of Israel, and they now needed to find someone who could smuggle a small child out of the country. Rabbi Abraham Elie Maizes of the extreme anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect asked one of his disciples, Ruth Blau, also known as Ruth Ben David, to do it. Blau, originally Madeleine Feraille, was a French convert to Judaism who had served in the French Resistance during World War II, managed an import-export firm, and attended graduate school in France and Switzerland before converting to Judaism in 1950. Although initially Zionist, she later adopted Haredi anti-Zionist views and in 1965 married Amram Blau, founder of Neturei Karta. Her son Uriel assisted her, and Yossele himself, who had been convinced that his parents did not want to bring him up as a proper Jew, cooperated. On June 21, 1960, Schumacher was taken out of Israel by Blau, who had disguised him as a girl, forged a passport for him, and then taken him on a flight to Europe.[5] Schumacher would spend two years total in Europe under her care,[3] living in Switzerland, France, and Belgium. Initially, Blau took him to Switzerland, where she enrolled him in a yeshiva. Meanwhile, authorities in Israel had increased their search efforts.


The Haredi community criticized the Israeli government and police's desire to return Schumacher to his parents, believing it was part of a government plot to secularize as many Orthodox Jewish children as possible. The Israeli government, on the other hand, saw the refusal to return Schumacher as a direct challenge by a religious subculture to its authority. Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, along with Israel Defense Forces soldiers and police, searched for Schumacher in religious neighborhoods, villages, and kibbutzim.[1]

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion finally asked the Mossad to investigate. Mossad Director-General Isser Harel assembled a team of forty agents, but due to their unfamiliarity with the traditions and nuances of Haredi life, they were swiftly unmasked in their attempts to infiltrate the Haredi world. As the search for Schumacher proved fruitless, Harel became convinced that the child had been smuggled abroad and was probably somewhere in Europe.[6] Subsequently, the Mossad began searching for Schumacher internationally, and Harel moved his operations headquarters to a Mossad safe-house in Paris, and sent agents to infiltrate Haredi communities throughout France, Italy, Austria, and the United Kingdom, then expanded the search to South America and the United States, but their efforts to infiltrate these communities proved difficult. During their investigation, Mossad agents abducted Rabbi Shai Freyer, a teacher at the yeshiva Schumacher was studying in, as he traveled between Paris and Geneva. He refused to divulge anything during intense questioning, convincing the agents this was another dead end, but Harel ordered him held prisoner in a Mossad safe house in Switzerland until the end of the investigation to prevent him from alerting the Haredi community.[6]

After getting word that Mossad was searching for Schumacher, Blau took him first to Brussels and then to Paris, presenting the child as her daughter each time she traveled. From Paris, she smuggled Schumacher to the United States in March 1962 on a flight to New York City, where he was hidden in the apartment of a Haredi woman, Mrs. Gertner, at 126 Penn Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City. The family gave Schumacher the name Yankele Frenkel and kept him indoors, holding him from the time he arrived in March until August 1962.[3] As they combed potential suspects in the Haredi world, Mossad investigators found a potential lead in Ruth Blau. Checks showed that she was a regular visitor to Israel, where she spent time with members of Neturei Karta, had met Yossele's grandfather on several occasions, and that her last visit to Israel was around the same time of the abduction. Focusing their investigation on her, the agents traced Blau, who was still in France, to the outskirts of Paris. At this time, Blau had decided to sell her house, and in August 1962 met a potential real estate agent named "Mr. Faber" in an attorney's office. The real estate agent was in fact Harel, who interrogated her over the abduction. Though uncooperative at first, Blau began to talk after she was told that Schumacher was cooperating with them.[7] With Schumacher's location identified, two Shin Bet officials went to the Gertners' home in Brooklyn and requested the immigration papers of Yankele Frenkel. No papers were presented and the agents took Schumacher from the house, and his mother arrived from Israel to retrieve him several days later.[3]


The abduction of Yossele Schumacher caused enormous controversy among Jewish society within Israel, driving a divide between many Haredi Jews — who supported the grandparents and claimed that Schumacher's parents were communists — and Secular Jews — who supported Schumacher's parents and viewed the abduction as wrong.

Some Secular Jews reportedly yelled Epho Yossele? ("Where is Yossele?" in Hebrew) in Jerusalem, as the phrase had previously been used by Haredi Jews that supported Schumacher's grandparents to taunt police searching for Schumacher both in Israel and internationally.[3]

The search itself was also an object of controversy, as Harel was criticized for his focus on this case at the expense of manhunts for Nazi officials, notably by then Aman director Major General Meir Amit and even from the Israeli spy Peter Malkin.[8]

Later developmentsEdit

Yossele Schumacher returned to his family, which at the time was living in Holon. At first, he attended a religious school but was later sent to a secular school. In 1969, he was chairman of the Holon Youth Parliament.[9] He was conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces in 1970, and served as an officer in the Artillery Corps. He then worked at IBM for several years. In August 1979, he married Ita Horowitz in a wedding that drew media attention.[10] Schumacher has three children, and lives in the Israeli settlement of Sha'arei Tikva and serves as a member of the settlement committee. In 2007, he visited New York and met Mrs. Gertner, in whose home he had been hidden.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Where Is Yossele Schumacher?". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Jerusalem Court Sentences Shtarkes to Three Years for Kidnaping". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 8 January 1963. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lando, Michal (2007-06-07). "Israeli reunites with NY woman who helped in his abduction". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
  4. ^ "הסב מתעקש : לא אחזיר את הילד!". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  5. ^ page 109. BLAU (Ruth) Les Gardiens de la cité. Histoire d'une guerre sainte. Paris Flammarion 1978
  6. ^ a b Thomas, Gordon: Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad
  7. ^ "Online News From Israel - Features Article". The Jerusalem Post. 19 January 2001. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  8. ^ Black, Ian; Morris, Benny (1991). Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services. Grove Press. p. 193. ISBN 0-8021-3286-3.
  9. ^
  10. ^


Goldman, Shalom. "'Where is Yossele?' Trust Me, You Want to Know"' Tablet Magazine, Sept. 30, 2015. [1]

Shlomo. "The Kidnapping of Yossele Schumacher -- A Domestic Quarrel that Divided Israel in the 1960s", Israeldocuments.blogspot, July 22, 2015.