Rabbi Samuel Cywiak was born on March 25, 1920 in Wyszków, Poland. As a boy, he attended his first higher rabbinical seminary in Łomża, Poland, before moving to Baranovicze, where he’d received a Hasidic education at the Slonimer Rabbinical Seminary as well as a Lithuanian education under the great Elchonon Wasserman. Rabbi Cywiak was in Wyszków visiting his family for the high holidays, when Germany invaded at the start of World War II. In the woods across from the Bug River, he was the sole survivor of an execution of nearly seventy Wyszków teachers and leaders, including his well-known father, Rabbi Baruch Cywiak, who was principal at Wyszków’s “Talmud Torah” Hebrew school. This event initiated his “flight” to flee the Nazis and reunite with the rest of his family.
During his long journey to escape Poland, he was captured and placed in a ghetto near Ostrów, where he escaped only to witness the aftermath of a horrible massacre in Tykocin. His memoir, “Flight From Fear,” chronicles the six years during World War II where, not only did he survive the wraths of both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin and witness many horrors throughout Europe, but he was ordained a rabbi, became a husband and father, and witnessed and experienced many miracles.
Rabbi Cywiak was ordained by Rabbi Chaim ben Zion Notealevitz in New York and later certified fit in matters of Jewish legal questions by the great Moshe Feinstein. Rabbi Cywiak spent 32 years in Caracas, Venezuela, first as the rabbi for the new Union Israelita de Caracas, which he helped to grow into a big thriving synagogue in its first eight years of existence. After 18 years at the Union Israelita, Rabbi Cywiak took a job as Principal Rabbi for the Rabinato de Venezuela. During his time in Caracas, Rabbi Cywiak was honored for his community service with the Francisco de Miranda order, a third grade honor, by former President of Venezuela, Carlos Andres Perez. Late her received a second grade honor from President Luis Herrera Campins.
Rabbi Cywiak’s cousin, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, was Chief Rabbi of Israel for three terms from 1973 to 1983.
In 1992, Rabbi Cywiak left Venezuela for a job as Principal Rabbi of the Sons of Israel Synagogue in St. Augustine, Florida, where he continued to be their rabbi until retiring in June of 2011. He now lives in the Miami area with his children, grandchildren and great children. For over sixty years, he has had a distinguished career as an Orthodox Rabbi, mohel, and cantor.
Award-winning author and ghostwriter Jeff Swesky has had his fiction featured in the Rogues Gallery Writers’ collaborations, Writing is Easy, More Writing is Easy, and Fictitious Fiction as well as the Florida Writers Association collection, From Our Family to Yours. He ghostwrote Rabbi Samuel Cywiak’s Holocaust memoir, Flight from Fear, which won 2nd place in its category for the 2009 Royal Palm Literary Awards, was published in its 2nd edition in June of 2011, and is now an Amazon best seller. The Rogues Gallery Writers’ first group novel, The Method Writers, will be published in hardback in September of 2012.
Amongst his other writing projects, Jeff is currently revising his coming-of-age literary novel, Such a Dreamer, which is based in the underworld of South Florida. He is a member of the Rogues Gallery Writers, a small focus writers group, and also co-leads the Palm Coast Chapter of the Florida Writers Association. Website: www.JeffSwesky.com.