Judy was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930. Her parents were both Hassidic Jewsand her father worked in the diamond business, an industry primarily of Jews. In 1933 her family moved to Belgium.
She spoke Yiddish at home but also learned French. When she was five years old her father was drafted in the French army, even though her family were not citizens of France or Belgium.

Even in the army, her father would get up early every morning to pray in the barracks. One day an officer saw him pray, and though her father thought he would be punished, he was instead told to pray instead of fight in the front. His faith was accepted in the army.

Meanwhile, Judy was with her mother, her two younger siblings, and her cousin. After a year in France, the family had little money left. Judy began losing weight and her mother worried, so she put her in a home for children running away. From 1940 to 1942 Judy and her two year brother lived in this home. Her mother stayed in southern France.

Judy was brought to the United States when she was ten years old. In
the couple years prior, she had been living in a children’s home in
France. When she was ten, many of the children from the home were sent
to the United States. Judy was sent to Cleveland to stay with her
father’s first cousins. Her parents and siblings were all still in
Europe.

Her two younger brothers were hidden in France and her baby sister was
put in an orphanage in Switzerland where she was only given half a
bottle a day.

Judy felt comfortable at school in Cleveland. Her first summer she was
lucky to meet a young college graduate who spoke fluent French and
helped her learn English. So by the time school started, she knew the
basics of the English language.

That October, she was cast as Peter Pan in the school’s production of
the play because she was so much smaller than the other kids.

After the war, Judy’s mother set out to find her kids. Twelve years
after Judy had moved to the United States, her mother and siblings
came to Cleveland. Judy was 21 at the time. The reunion was very
awkward, Judy said, because they had not spoken for so long. Also, her
mother only spoke Yiddish and broken French, two languages Judy hadn’t
spoken for years. As they spoke, French came back to Judy a little
bit, but it was still difficult for them to communicate.

Judy had wanted to study commercial art, but she decided to stay with
her family instead. Her mother wanted her sons to go to a Yeshiva, so
the whole family moved to New Jersey. Judy got a job making minimum
wage doing secretarial work. It was in New Jersey that she met her
future husband. He had been in Auschwitz for six months and to this
day cannot talk about his experiences. He and Judy were both unhappy
in New Jersey and she said, that is part of the reason they got along
so well.

Author: Rotem Ben-Shachar

Winter 2009

Advertisements