Renia: A Holocaust Memoir

Table of Contents

We occupied half a prefab crif like the ones in the background.

We occupied half a prefab crif like the ones in the background.

Around Kfar Saba, there are small orange and grapefruit groves. Although we had no cash — the last of our money had gone to buy tickets — we did have the extra things we’d brought with us in the lift. We sold some of them to the men and women living and working in the groves. The money helped us buy what we needed for the house. Then we inserted a couple of windows in the empty lift and converted it into a workshop.

When we came to Israel, my sister Gitta arranged for Eva to go to a gan, a kindergarden. A few houses away there was a family with a little girl named Dina. She and Eva played together and went to the same gan. We would take them there and pick them up. One day Eva and Dina decided not to wait for us. They took a short cut through a pardess, an orange grove, and made their way home all by themselves. Until they showed up, we were frantic with worry but we probably didn’t need to be. Although Kfar Saba was only a few kilometres from Jordan, so close we could sometimes hear the muezzins, it was a safe place, a close community where people looked out for each other.

Gitta and Naomi.

Gitta and Naomi.

Gitta helped us in many other ways. I don’t know how we could have managed without her. She used to bring us care packages — calf’s liver, for example — so the kids would get enough iron. When Rick was having trouble learning Hebrew, Gitta tutored him. (Eva had a much easier time learning the new language.) Gitta was doing a lot for us even though she wasn’t having a easy time of it herself. Josef had suffered from severe diabetes for some years and had had to have a leg amputated because of gangrene. Not long after we arrived in Israel, he died.

We’d had absolutely no idea how hard life in Israel was going to be. There was no electricity. We had a small ice box and did our cooking on a small naphtha stove. The oppressive heat in summer was different than anything Leon and I had ever experienced. We didn’t know the language. Everything was expensive and we had no money. The truth is we’d had a good life in Poland in the years before we emigrated. A lot of immigrants couldn’t take life in Israel and went back to their homes in Poland and elsewhere. That thought crossed Leon’s mind more than once. But I didn’t want to go back.

Among the many families who emigrated to Israel from Poland were our dear friends, Hanka and Izio Reiser and their children. They came in June 1957.

Among the many families who emigrated to Israel from Poland were our dear friends, Hanka and Izio Reiser and their children. They came in June 1957.

To make things worse, my husband couldn’t find a way to earn a good living. So he started a little business out of our prefab. He made little mirrors that could be attached to a lipstick and we named the product Eva. Our neighbour and friend, Alina Smuszkowicz, helped Leon bevel the mirrors. But you couldn’t support a family that way and as a result, Leon was becoming increasingly frustrated and discouraged. He wanted a better life for himself and his family than could be found in Israel at that time.

Leon’s brother Morris, who was now living in Chicago, encouraged us to consider moving there. He was willing to act as guarantor. When Morris had left the German DP camp, he moved to the U.S. — first, briefly, to Dallas and then to Chicago, where he had a television store and did repairs. He’d married a Jewish woman from Cuba, Blanche Schneiderman, whose parents had emigrated from Poland. They’d had met in Dallas and had two sons, Fred and Alan.

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