Remembering a Shoah Survivor: Gittel Bas Yisrael Dov Moskowitz

Written by Nathan Moskowitz on . Posted in Features

March 12, 1929-May 19, 2019, Niftar: Yud Daled lyar, Pesach Sheni

The two phrases that best characterize the essence of my mother's neshama (soul) are eishet chayil and tzadeikes (woman of valor and righteous woman).

She was born in Kuzmino, Czechoslovakia, 90 years ago. She was the sole survivor of her family who were all transported to and cremated at Auschwitz in 1944.

My mother informed me that one week prior to her family being rounded up and transported to the Munkacz ghetto, her grandmother, at the ripe old age of 82, died of natural causes. She had the zechut (merit) of having a proper Jewish burial; a zechut denied to all her other family members, a zechut that my mother now shares.

After my mother's liberation, she spent four lonely years in a British orphanage as part of the tail end of the Kindertransport program. She then came to the United States of America relatively penniless. My father, Leib Moskowitz, had a similar trajectory. Both my father and mother came from the same town. My father's mother, Leah Moskowitz, who also survived the Shoah, made my parents' shidduch (match). This was a very great and powerful shidduch lasting 69 years, producing thus far, two children, eight grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

My mother was a completely self-less human being. Everything she did, she did not for herself, but only and exclusively for others. For many years she worked as a seamstress in sweatshops in the Lower East Side slaving away, literally for pennies, so that she could pay for her children to have a Yeshiva education, so that they would grow up with Jewish values, and a love for Yiddishkeit and for Am Yisroel.

When her mother-in-law, her shadchan (matchmaker), fell ill with a chronic, debilitating neurological disease, she dedicated herself to looking after her like she was her own mother. This required enormous physical stamina and emotional endurance. She was her primary care giver, day and night, 24/7, for many years.

When children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren needed emotional or financial support, she was always there with a smile and loving words. Countless examples can be given, too numerous to enumerate. Her last dying words to my father in the hospital, immediately before she suddenly expired, were: "What shall I make you for dinner tonight?"

She was self-less to the very end, to her last dying breath.

Her personality could be described as one of quiet strength. I cannot remember a single episode or time when she lost her temper or when she raised her voice. She was always the voice of reason, of peace, and of shalom bayit (peace in the home). There was not a trace of "raash gadol" (great noise) in her voice, only that of "kol dimama daka" (a whisper).

May her wonderful qualities live on in all her descendants, and may her memory be a countless source of inspiration and awe. May her nesahma have an aliya, and may she enjoy the fruits of Gan Eden with all her holy ancestors and the martyrs of Am Yisroel.

Although it is true that her body, her guf, the very transient garment of her soul, has departed from us, her precious eternal neshama burns brightly in the heavens and illuminates us all.

By Nathan Moskowitz


 

Nathan Moskowitz MD, PhD, is the author of "Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival," "The Color of Prophecy: Visualizing the Bible in a New Light," and "The Color of Conquest: Visualizing the Bible in a New Light."