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Jan John Balan

Jan John Balan

Male 1934 - 2013  (78 years)

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  • Name Jan John Balan 
    Born 29 Nov 1934  Bratislava, Slovakia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Biography Celebrations of Words from John Balan who, at age 72, recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah........

    My partner, Annie, has my appreciation for testing me during the home stretch and making sure I had it right. And I thank my fellow celebrant, Jiro, for encouragement during the studying. It was nice to have a fellow sufferer. And I thank everyone here for inspiring me to become a Bar Mitzvah. It would never have happened without belonging to this community. But the biggest thanks goes to Rabbi Burt, the ultimate teacher. His patience, his kindness, and his sensitivity have made studying for this Bar Mitzvah a joyful experience. Rabbi Burt, thank you so much for making this possible for two guys who are no longer kids. It goes without saying, and I’m sure that it is obvious, that the preceding ceremony has been one of the great highs and significant moments of my entire life. Becoming Bar Mitzvah has been extremely fulfilling. I have not inquired whether it is possible or acceptable to dedicate a Bar Mitzvah ceremony to someone. And so I will take the chance of tampering with tradition. I would like to dedicate what has just happened here to my father, Alexander, who died forty years ago last month. A number of you here in this Shul have heard me speak about my childhood experiences as a Holocaust survivor, a story I am frequently asked to share with young-people’s groups. The part of this story which I would like to briefly repeat this evening relates to my father.

    In 1938, after it had become obvious that we would not be able to leave Czech Republic, and that circumstances facing the Jews would be getting worse, my father took me, aged close to four, to a minister of the Hungarian Reformed Church and undertook to have us both baptised. Nazi racial theories were already known at the time, and it was understood that a baptism could provide considerable protection from the inevitable anti-Jewish regulations, from the inevitable persecutions and deportations, and from the suffering that was already becoming evident elsewhere. And no one knew how much worse things would get as the Nazis began to truly fulfil their ambitions to cleanse Europe of Jews.

    You need to understand that my father was part of a large practicing Jewish family. What he now did was done purely as a tactic to enhance our chances for survival. He did not become, nor did he intend to become, a believing Christian. he sacrifice was considerable. He was no longer welcome at family holidays, for Passover, or other celebrations. He could no longer go to Shul. His co-religionists spat at him in the street and refused to associate with him. My father had given up being a Jew, and had to face the consequences. It is difficult to imagine what must have been going on in his mind and conscience. We survived the war.

    And, again as some of you know, we continued the charade of being gentiles not only after the war in Europe, but even after immigrating to America. My parents encouraged this, so afraid were they of a possible recurrence of the events of the Holocaust. Being Jewish was simply not safe. The denial was intense, and the steps taken to keep the secret sometimes bordered on the comical and absurd. Both my parents died without breaking this pattern. I, a good son, went along with all this for a half-century.

    Of the three of us, my father, mother, and myself, I am the only one who is now having, and taking, the opportunity to break the lie lived much of my life, and to return to reality and to my roots. Today is the culmination of that effort. I cannot say exactly why, although there had been various small indications during his life, but I feel that my father never did give up the beliefs with which he was raised. He knew he was playing a game, drilled into him by his experiences of surviving the war. I think that my father went to his grave a Jew. It had been my hope at the time that we could bury my father in a Jewish manner, but my mother would not have stood for it. And so the ceremony was a Christian one, hypocritical in some ways, leaving me with only the possibility of occasionally saying Kaddish or El Maleh Rachamim at his grave. I am sure that he can hear me.

    And now, can you see my father sitting up in his grave and cheering? We have come full circle. He had to stop being a Jew, at least outwardly, and I have reclaimed his Jewishness, and mine, after more than a half-century of denial. It was a slow and sometimes very difficult process, but the reward and the feeling of completeness and satisfaction are immeasurable, the catharsis intense. My father can now rest in peace, in truthful peace. And Annie, my partner, and I are celebrating my being a
    Jew by going to Israel in two weeks. My thanks go to all of you for making this possible.  [1
    Hebrew Birth 22 Kis 5695 
    Residence 1934-1948  Bratislava, Slovakia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence 1948 to present  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Immigration 23 Apr 1948  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Hebrew Death 20 Shv 5773 
    Occupation Telecommunications 
    Died 31 Jan 2013  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I8292  Blank Family
    Last Modified 3 Feb 2013 

    Father Shandor Alexander Balan,   b. 29 Sep 1894, Bratislava, Slovakia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Apr 1967, Queens, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Mother Cornelia (Nellie) Grossman,   b. 2 Nov 1906, Budapest, Hungary Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Jul 1999, New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 92 years) 
    Married 29 Sep 1933  Bratislava, Slovakia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F5862  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Living 
    Last Modified 7 Nov 2008 
    Family ID F5882  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Ann Radding,   b. 5 Jan 1947, Springfield, MA, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Apr 2019, New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 72 years) 
    Common Law 1969  New York, NY, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 7 Nov 2008 
    Family ID F5883  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 29 Nov 1934 - Bratislava, Slovakia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1934-1948 - Bratislava, Slovakia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1948 to present - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 23 Apr 1948 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCommon Law - 1969 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 31 Jan 2013 - New York, NY, USA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    John Balan
    John Balan
    John Balan (2)
    John Balan (2)
    Terka (Therese) Nagel with John Balan
    Terka (Therese) Nagel with John Balan
    John Balan, Bar Mitzvah, age 72
    John Balan, Bar Mitzvah, age 72

    Histories
    John Balan A Hidden Child, A Holocaust Story
    John Balan A Hidden Child, A Holocaust Story

  • Sources 
    1. [S332] The Shul of New York, News from the Heart , News from the Heart Fall 2007.

    2. [S171] New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 , Ancestry, SS Veendam from Rotterdam.


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