What A Difference A BOOK Makes!


Over two and a half years ago, when I had first met with Rabbi Samuel Cywiak to begin work on his Holocaust memoir, Flight From Fear, I was amazed at how active and lively he was for a 88-year-old man. Here he was, and still is, working as the Principal Rabbi for Son of Israel Synagogue in St. Augustine, FL. In addition, he also performs circumcisions, conversions, weddings, etc. just to make ends meet.

Admittedly, he’d waited longer than he should’ve to work on his memoir, so trying to remember the events from over sixty years ago became draining for him at times. We had sessions where he couldn’t remember the details he wanted to and would feel bad about it. But later, he’d wake up in the middle of the night from a dream or nightmare, and those images and memories would return with a vengeance, fresh in his mind as if they’d happened yesterday.

Rabbi Cywiak was unaware of just how much is involved in the researching, writing, and editing of a book; the process wore him down over the two years it took to produce the final manuscript of Flight From Fear. And the six months it took produce the final product became torture for him; for both of us.

I became concerned over these years as I watched his vibrancy deteriorate. I worried about his health. Here he was nearing the ripe ol’ age of 91, and I feared he wouldn’t be around to see his tragic, yet inspiring and meaningful memoir in the completed, printed form. What good would it do if he wouldn’t be around to rejoice in his achievement and be the one to personally sign books for all the people he touched and inspired over the years?  

When the books were finally delivered nearly two weeks ago, I had witnessed an instant transformation in the Rabbi. It was like he took a little trip to the Fountain of Youth in downtown St. Augustine and drank bucketsful of the mythical age-restoring water. I noticed a bounce to his step, a sparkle in his eyes, and a grin a mile wide. His deep voice had strengthened and his memory and hearing had improved. The Rabbi Cywiak I had met on that humid summer day in 2008 had returned, and with the energy of a twenty-year-old athlete.

Welcome back, Rabbi Cywiak!!!


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6 Responses to What A Difference A BOOK Makes!

  1. NL Quatrano says:

    Congratulations, Jeff. Yes, I’m not sure there is anything more invigorating and rejuvenating than the completion of a project that one has started. I’m excited to have my copy in hand and just want to say again what a well-written memoir Flight from Fear truly is. It deserves to be the award-winning work that it is. Best wishes to you and Rabbi! NQ

  2. Donna Swesky says:

    Once again Son, words can’t express how proud I am of you and your newest accomplishment, “Flight from Fear”! You have such a talent and gift. You changed the life of Rabbi Cywiak by completing his memoirs while he can still enjoy the recognition. May you always use it to reach for the stars and may all of your dreams come true! I love you. Wummer

  3. I really like your transitions and lucidity. I have been writing for Ghost Writers for a while now, and they pay me well to write blog posts like this, or articles. I clear $100-$200 on a poor evening.
    Judging by your ability with the written word, you may enjoy doing the same.
    It wouldnt hurt to check them out.Here are the details

  4. Frida Cielak says:

    To you Jeff and to Rabbi Samuel Cywiak, my deepest thanks to your 2 years effort in providing us with such a thoughtful, sensible and real story, told in an easy reading style.
    For me and my siblings and many of our group of descendant of the Wyszkow family MARCUSCHAMER, it was a ‘need to know’ story and, to find out, when we, my sister and I, interviewed Rabbi Cywiak in St. Augustin, FL. in Oct. of 2010, that he was personally, a living witness and a survivor among those, that were on Sept. of 1939 forced out from their homes in Wyszkow, under the threat of the Nazi guns and taken by force to the Wyszkow Forest with the inhumane purpose to murder them just because of their race and their believes, and to hear now from Rabbi Samuel Cywiak own lips about this life success, this event, that happened to him, to his father and…, to our own grandfather, Yankl Marcuschamer, who was among those innocent souls that were cowardly murdered and shot from their back, was for me and my sister, an impressive moment, as this is how our grandmother had told us about this tremendous event of which she was, alike the Rabbi Cywiak, a witness! She also marched among that group, she marched aside our grandfather who limped and needed a can to walk, who suspecting and expecting the worst from the nazi intentions, had the courage, when they were almost approaching the open forest site (where they, the nazis had already excavated an open pit), and there, he promptly pushed her aside into the bushes of the pine trees, murmuring to her those that were his last words: ”See what you can do!”.
    And, our grandmother, after all her own odysseys to escape the clutches of the murderers, she also felt that she had to tell the world about the reality of the horrific events that the Nazis carried out. She, our Grandmother, did so after she was found in a DP-Dispalced Persons Camp from the allies, in Vilseck, Germany, and was brought to America. She was then interviewed by the Detroit Sunday Times Newspaper (June 27, 1947), a testimony that we have kept for our grandchildren and family as part of our own history and now, this valuable and human history of Rabbi Samuel Cywiak, his recently released Holocaust memoir book, “Flight From Fear”, will be added to our family heritage and it will be a great heritage of Rabbi Samuel Cywiak who has been telling his story to hundred of people, but now, at the ‘young age’ of almost 90 and with the help of Jeff Swensky, he has printed it for the world therefore fulfilling once more his murdered father’s wish to have the world know about the Nazi atrocities and tell the world who want to erase this horrifying reality from the annals of history, that this indeed happened!!!!!!!
    Thank you Rabbi, thank you Jeff, FRIDA CIELAK and ANGIE DAVID (nee GRAPA-MARCUSCHAMER) from Mexico City and Beverly Hills, Ca. respectively.

    • Jeff Swesky says:

      Hello Frida and Thank You so much for the kind and thoughtful words! It really means the World to me and Rabbi Cywiak. We’re happy that “Flight from Fear” touched you and your family as much as it did. And thank you for sharing a little about your own family’s experience in this terribly tragic time in history. G-d Bless you!!

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