עטרת ראשנו נפלה מעלינו
This morning, just as I was taking these photos from my living room window, my friend Herta breathed her last breaths.
Herta was 95, she would have turned 96 in August.
I met Herta in 1986 when I began working at my synagogue. I was warned about Herta before I met her. I was told that she would find every error that I would make and call me on it. I was also told that when she complained she was nearly always right, and that it made good sense for me to listen to her.
Herta was born in Berlin. Yesterday her niece told me that in the family they used to say that Herta was brought up by the German army, that is her mother and her aunt, who were much fiercer than Herta was.
Herta’s Hebrew tutor was Regina Jonas. Regina Jonas asked Herta if she wanted to have a bat-mitzvah. It would have been the first bat- mitzvah in Germany. Herta declined. She said “ What do I need to do it for? The presents? Forget it!”
After Hitler came to power Herta’s father got the family to Shanghai where Herta lived from the time she was 18 until she was 28. While there were many hardships during her time there. She was often hungry. Herta also clearly had a blast during those Shanghai years. She told me about a birthday party where her fellow refugee friends all chipped in and bought her an ounce of coffee. They made that ounce into a giant pot of coffee and they all pretended that it was the good times back in Berlin.
Getting to the States after the war was difficult. Herta spent her first several months with the widow of one of her uncles, in Madison, Wisconsin where she worked as a waitress.
Eventually, Herta made her way to New York. There she met Lester, who like Herta had also spent the war in Shanghai. No, they didn’t meet in China, they traveled in very different circles. Lester was older than Herta, much less cosmopolitan and deeply deeply sweet. He adored Herta. She loved him.
The two created a full life together. They became parents to Linda. They were when I worked for the synagogue one of the most important families there. Not because they gave the most money, but because hey worked hard to make the synagogue the best it could be.
Herta was also the source of lots of truly dirty jokes. She used to send me really filthy jokes via email. Most of them are too dirty to post here. They were however, very funny.
Herta has been ill for the past few years.
I will deeply miss my smart, sharp tongued friend who was so right about so many things.