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An upsetting question mark

Today the Jerusalem Post reported that a homeless Holocaust survivor living in Manhattan passed away at the age of 92.  She left $100,000 to Hebrew University, and $100,000 to the man who gave her a room in exchange for parking his car all over the city.  She did not have any connections to Hebrew University, and according to the report, nothing else is known about her. Will we ever learn her name?

Reading about this unknown woman has made my stomach constrict and I feel curiously upset.  I am not sure why I am reacting so strongly to this story. It may have to do with all the questions it brings up, like: Why was she homeless if she had $200,000? Also, why did she choose Hebrew University?

I think this story is hitting me so hard because of the other, more painful, questions it raises.  We have so many different Holocaust organizations in this country.  Was anyone aware of this woman?  Did anyone reach out to her?  It is upsetting to think that the Jewish community could have missed, or ignored, one of our own survivors. 

Of course, we don't know that she needed, or wanted, help.  We don't know anything about this woman, and perhaps that is truly the saddest part of this story.  She is gone and the opportunity to learn her story has been lost.  It puts the work we do here at the Jewish Women's Archive in sharp perspective for me.  She reminds us of the value of all women's stories, and of the many stories that slip away unrecorded and unacknowledged. 

No one should die a question mark.  

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "An upsetting question mark." 7 August 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 21, 2018) <>.


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