Liviu Librescu: 1930-2007

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Liviu Librescu: 1930-2007

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By: Yoni Noble
Posted: 5/7/07

April 16th, 2007, the awful day when a disturbed student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, will be forever etched in the Jewish consciousness. Liviu Librescu, professor of aeronautical engineering and a survivor of the Holocaust, sacrificed his own life for those of his students. The magnitude of this act is a cause for mournful reflection on a Jewish life cut short.

Liviu Librescu was born in 1930 to a Jewish family in Ploiesti, Romania. During World War II, when Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany, he was imprisoned in a forced labor camp. Subsequently he was sent, along with his family and thousands of others, to a ghetto in the city of Focsani about 100 miles from his home. Hundreds of thousands of Jews from across Romania died in the Focsani Ghetto and in Transnistria, a Romanian-run Nazi killing field where Librescu's father, a lawyer, perished.

Liviu survived the horrors of the Focsani Ghetto and the Holocaust and nobly committed his life to academia, studying aerospace engineering at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, where he received both his undergraduate degree in 1952 and his Masters in 1953. In 1969 he received his Ph.D. in fluid Mechanics from Academia de Stiinte din Romania.

Liviu Librescu was a brilliant mind and quickly established himself as a top researcher at the Bucharest Institute of Applied Mechanics and the Academy of Science of Romania. Yet his refusal to swear allegiance to the destructive Communist regime in Romania ultimately left him jobless. Without means to support his wife, Marlene, and two sons, Joe and Arie, Librescu tried to leave Romania for Israel. But under the Romanian communist regime Jews were not allowed to emigrate. In 1978 the Romanian government finally permitted Liviu to leave, but only after a direct request was made by the Prime Minister of Israel--Menachem Begin--to Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu.

From 1979 to 1986 Librescu was a Professor of Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering at Tel-Aviv University and Haifa's Technion. In 1985 he took a sabbatical from Tel Aviv University to research and teach at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. He quickly became a vital part of the School of Engineering Science and Mechanics, and in 1986 decided to make Blacksburg and Virginia Tech his full-time home.

These extraordinary accomplishments in the face of such tribulations made Livui Librescu a hero to those who knew him. But his actions on the morning of April 16, 2007 shine through as beacon of everything that embodies his heroic spirit. On that frightful morning when a deranged gunman chose Librescu's classroom as a target for his heinous, senseless murdering spree, Liviu Librescu barricaded himself against the classroom door in an attempt to lock the gunman out. He told his students to flee through a classroom window while he threw his body against the door. Librescu was fatally shot, but the gunman never managed to gain access and no student in the classroom was harmed.

Following the tragedy, representatives of the Borough Park-based organization Chesed Shel Emes quickly contacted the morgue holding Librescu's remains. Before an autopsy could be performed, Librescu was brought to Brooklyn for a levaya (funeral service). Though Liviu had no family in Borough Park, hundreds of Jews packed the tiny funeral chapel to grieve, console, and, celebrate a life nobly lived. After stirring remarks by New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Librescu's body was flown to Israel for burial.

The death of this great man forces us to reexamine our own grasp on life. What inspires a man to willingly forfeit his life in defense of another? Branded with the memories of the Holocaust, Librecu understood that life is fleeting and transitory. The end can come at any moment, without prior notice. When given the opportunity to save many lives , Liviu unflinchingly sacrificed his own, concretizing the boundless devotion he carried for humanity.

Surely such a man deserves concrete memorials, at the very least a postage stamp or a place renamed in his honor. His name must soar as an inspiration for future generations -- not just for Jews, but for all.

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Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.yucommentator.com/media/storage/paper652/news/2007/05/07/Opinion/Liviu.Librescu.19302007-2890044.shtml> The Commentator - May 7, 2007</a>

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Yoni Noble

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The Commentator

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2007-08-08

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Sara Hood

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Zev Eleff <eleff@yu.edu>

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eng

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Yoni Noble, "Liviu Librescu: 1930-2007," in The April 16 Archive, Item #939, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/939 (accessed August 31, 2014).