The most truly amazing thing happened this afternoon — as captured in this somewhat blurry picture of me and my daughter, together with our across-the-street neighbor, Betty.
Betty is a Holocaust survivor. I met her one other time before today, shortly after we moved into our house last August: We were walking to shul at the same time on Rosh Hashana – she was remarkably fast!
All day today (Yom HaShoa), I found myself thinking about her, even though I’d only met her once. So, I decided that my daughter and I would bake her a banana bread.
We brought it over to her a few hours ago. At first when she came to the door, she seemed confused and didn’t recognize me — but then I reminded her that we had met on Rosh Hashana, and her eyes lit up.
I asked her to tell me where she’s from. “From Romania,” she said, “I’m Marmarosher.”
“Really?” I said, quite surprised that I hadn’t asked her about this when we met before. You see, my grandmother and great-grandparents were Marmarosher. They moved to Cleveland from Romania in the 1920s.
“My family was, too,” I told her. “Maybe you knew them — Benny and Esther Katz.”
She looked at me astonished. Her eyes welled up with tears.
“We’re mishpocha,” she said, slowly.
Her husband, Mike z”l, was cousins with Esther, my great grandmother, for whom I am named. They all grew up in the same small village of Sapinka, Romania.
Betty is sharp as a tack. She remembered incredible details from 60 and 70 years ago. She recalled meals my bubbie had prepared for their shul — I’d always been told she was an amazing balabusta.
Betty even told me, “You wouldn’t believe the meal your bubbie made for me and Mike when we moved to Cleveland. Oh, the food!” She remembered my grandmother well, and even recalled meeting my father a few times – “He was just a short little boy then!”
I couldn’t stop hugging her. She is a survivor, who moved to Cleveland at the age of 22, and into the house she now lives in after she was widowed 36 years ago. Eight months ago, my family moved to Cleveland and bought the house across the street.
May this mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother live until 120!
I am so truly humbled by what happened today. I’m not one to often say that I see the hand of G-d in things, but I definitely feel as though I was supposed to (re)meet this treasure of a woman. I can’t wait to get to know her better. What a blessing!