“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Elie Wiesel

This is What 90 Looks Like: Inspiration from a Holocaust Survivor


If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I recently went back to the US after having made aliya 2 1/2 months ago. The reason I left my beautiful country  was for a 90th birthday celebration for my adopted grandmother, a woman who is not related to me by blood, but is most definitely family. Libby is one of those people that just lights up a room. She’s funny, sharp, and has the biggest heart. Although she’s almost 90, she dances around the room, lives alone, and prepares her own meals.

Libby’s life has not been a particularly easy one, and certainly one that could have left her with a bad attitude and a very large grudge. Libby was born in Vilna, Poland, in 1925 and attended Tarbut, a Jewish and Zionistic cultural school. By the age of 16, the war had taken over her area, and Libby ended up in various concentration camps; doing hard labor, being starved and beaten, made to march hundreds of miles in the cold without food until she was liberated in 1945. She lost everything: her family, her possessions, connections to the people in her town, memorabilia and heirlooms, pictures and memories. But she never lost her faith and she never lost her light. Libby ended up in a DP hospital for over a year, mostly on her back, recovering from TB. She desperately longed to make aliya, but missed her chance, as she was hospital-bound and sick. The hospital is where she met her future husband, Phil, who had lost one wife in childbirth before the war and a second wife and a child through atrocities during the war. The terrors they both lived through are unspeakable. And yet Libby has this beautiful, kind way about her, giving to everyone, thanking God for all that she has, asking him to keep her and her family safe, having a positive attitude and a sharp memory for the good things in her life.

There are some people who touch us so deeply, so profoundly, that we cannot possibly comprehend what life would have looked like without them. For myself, and for many others, Libby is one of those people. Libby embodies Judaism- she is literally a light unto everyone. I’ve known Libby since I was a very small child, and although we do not share blood or DNA, we definitely share parts of our souls.

In my quest to continually become a better person, daughter and friend, I look to Libby’s example. I hope that in some way my having made aliya can help fulfill part of a dream she never got to make true.

I called Libby on my way to Newark airport to ask permission to publish her story. Her answer? “Of course, mamaleh. You can do whatever you want. And know that everything in your life will go well for you, everything you do will be OK.” Then, as we were saying good-bye, like teenagers in love who don’t want to hang up, she said something that touched me profoundly. She said “I love you. I love you very much. Never forget. Never forget that I love you.” To hear the words “never forget” from a Holocaust survivor in the context of pure love, of retaining the memories of the love in your life, of focusing on the positive, embodies who Libby is and what she is about.

May all we be a light unto ourselves and others, have a positive attitude toward everything that comes our way, praise God for the goodness in our lives and be divinely guided by something higher than ourselves. And may we never, never forget….we are always loved.

Post courtesy of The Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com

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