Friday, December 11, 2009

Ita Berkowitz

Today, at sunset, marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the eight day Jewish holiday which commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple of Jersusalem.

So, in an odd twist--and connection--I read today of the death of Ita Berkowitz who died Wednesday on the eve of the 2009 Hanukkah celebration.

I occasionally will peruse the obituaries in the Kansas City Star, not for some morbid interest but because there are times when a story of someone's life will jump off the page at me. Today was such a day.

You see, Mrs. Berkowitz, 84, passed away at the Assisted Living Center of Leawood. No cause of death was given and she was preceded in death by her husband and a sister. We can likely make the assumption that Mrs. Berkowitz died of old age in her rest home.

What jumped out at me, though, was the fact that Mrs. Berkowitz was a Holocaust survivor. She immigrated, with her mother, to the Kansas City area in 1950 where they joined her sister. She ultimately co-owned Berkowitz Catering, a business noted by the Star as "well known for catering weddings and Israel Bond Dinners over the years."

Given her age, Mrs. Berkowitz would have been 17-20 during the time of her imprisonment. And, given that she survived and immigrated to the United States, we can only assume that her mother also survived, as did her sister. What of her father? Did she have a brother? Other relatives who were imprisoned with her?

The thought of anyone, must less a teenage girl, imprisoned in the conditions of the Holocaust are almost too much to consider. But, today, on the start of Hanukkah, we stop and say, "bravo, Mrs. Berkowitz," for surviving one of mankind's darkest events--mazel tov on a full life well traveled.

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