History of the Hugo Lowy Synagogue

In 1991, Peter Lowy, his wife Janine and their children, went to a hotel in Palm Springs, California, to spend the Passover. One morning, Peter went down to the hotel shop to collect his newspaper, and standing in front of him was an elderly man also waiting to be served. When the shop assistant asked for Peter's name, he replied 'Lowy'. The elderly man remarked that his name was Lowy too. Thinking they might be related, the man engaged Peter in conversation.

"Where are you from?" the older Lowy asked.
Peter replied that he was from Australia.
"No, no, no," said the man. "I mean where are you really from?".
"My father was born in Czechoslovakia but during the war he lived in Budapest," said Peter.
"What was your grandfather's name?"
"Hugo".
Then, the older man, Myer Lowy, who was not related, told Peter that he had been with Hugo Lowy from Filakovo at the railway station in Budapest on March 20, 1944.

After hearing his story, Peter immediately called his father at home in Sydney. Frank rang his two brothers and sister, and eager to meet this man, he and his wife Shirley boarded a plane to Los Angeles. Frank wanted to get to Palm Springs before Passover ended and before Myer Lowy returned to his bakery in New York. The coincidence had been astounding, going beyond sharing names and meeting in the hotel shop. This had been the first and only time Myer Lowy had been in Palm Springs.

From the airport, Peter took his parents directly to meet Myer Lowy, his wife and his adult son...This is what Myer told them:

I was 18 years old, and on March 20, 1944, I was standing in a queue at the railway station in Budapest trying to buy a ticket to the country. A railway guard kept coming up to me and telling me to go, pulling me out of line and saying, 'Go away, you stupid Jew, just go away'. I didn't realise this man was trying to save my life because Nazis were inside, and as we came through the station we were all arrested. Hugo Lowy, many others and myself were taken to a camp not far from Budapest. Hugo was a religious man, as I was, and we stayed together and prayed together for six weeks in that camp. Then we were taken to Auschwitz. When the doors of the train were opened we were told to take our meagre belongings and throw them on a heap. Hugo left the train and, still holding onto his little parcel, began to move away with the rest of the group. An SS officer came up to him, reprimanded him, grabbed the parcel from under his arm and threw it onto the heap. As the officer turned around, Hugo went back to the heap to retrieve his parcel. Another guard noticed and beat him relentlessly with the butt of his rifle until Hugo could no longer get up. People moved on. Hugo Lowy was left to die by the train. What was in that small parcel? His tallit and tefillin which he used every morning to pray....

When approached to assist in the building of a new campus for Moriah College in Sydney, Frank Lowy ran his eye down the list of needs and saw that the College wanted a synagogue. He pointed to it. "I'll fund this. I want to have it named in my father's memory".

From "Frank Lowy - Pushing the Limits" by Jill Margo
Harper Collins Publishers, 2000


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