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She’ll Stop at Nothing

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

From when I first arrived in Tzfas, I knew about Judy Knauer — everyone did. She was the one who helped produce the community’s amazing plays, acting and singing in them with dramatic professionalism. Later, I got to know a different side to Judy, the passionate, fearless side that brought her back from New York during the Second Lebanon War to run around delivering food and toys to families trapped in bomb shelters. I was curious to get the full picture.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“I was born in Brooklyn, in an area called East New York, an immigrant neighborhood, in 1932. My mother was born in New York, but her parents came to the Lower East Side from Poland. My father was born in Kishinev; one of my earliest memories is when he told me about April 6, 1903. He was three years old, and his family was ready to sit down for their Pesach Seder when they heard the hoof beats of the Cossacks. They heard the smashing of glass in the streets, and the screams of women. My father’s family found refuge with non-Jewish neighbors.

“Both my parents grew up in very religious homes, but after my father moved to America he became angry with G-d and stopped observing the mitzvos. The only religious observance I remember is making Kiddush Friday nights, followed by my mother’s chicken soup. My mother was a simple cook, but everything she made was wonderful; I have not tasted her gefilte fish anywhere in this world.

“We lived in a good neighborhood and I went to a good public school where most of the students were Jews. But I was restless. I remember asking my father questions like ‘What is G-d?’ We had just one Jewish book at home that answered a few of my questions. But I was always restless, a restlessness having to do with why were we living, why were we born, that I couldn’t get over until many years later when I started studying Torah. But until then I let it go, thinking, I have to adjust, to get on with life.”

Judy’s adjustment to life carried her through college at UC-Berkeley where she studied general education and experienced anti-Semitism for the first time, from a student who made politely snide comments about her “Hebrew” descent. “I didn’t know what to say to him. I said something slightly nasty, but not nasty enough. I never felt I knew how to defend myself and the Jewish People.”

 

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