I met my two very closest friends in junior high. Not surprisingly, all of us are children of Holocaust survivors, born in Germany after the war. Yiddish was our first language. These similar experiences bonded us together. We sometimes burst into laughter when using Yiddish expressions that convey nuances that are untranslatable into English. We grew up in families that were extraordinarily close and raised our children with almost identical values. And yet, we all have different stories to tell.
I was born in Bergen Belsen, where my beloved parents, Frank and Jennie Krystal, met and married after the war. As I grew into adulthood, I realized how my parents’ past was integral to shaping my identity. My mother, born in Vilna, was an intelligent, hardworking woman who lost her parents and two sisters. Only her younger sister, Chasia, survived with her.
My father, from a small town in Poland, suffered the ultimate tragedy, having lost his first wife and three youngest children. Only he and his eldest son Josef survived together, barely escaping the horrors they endured.
Despite unimaginable pain and loss, my father was a very warm and generous man who never gave up his commitment to the orthodox life that meant so much to him. His dream was to make our home in Israel, but when my brother and his family moved to Toronto, we followed a few years later. Like many survivors my parents worked hard, yet always made community and generosity priorities.
When I met my husband, Larry, it was new for me to be part of a large, extended family. However, Larry was an only child whose parents, Eze and Alice Torkin, were totally devoted to us and our three wonderful children, Michael, Jeffrey and Leah. Our children’s values were shaped by Shabbat family dinners, Yom Tov celebrations and Jewish day school education. We also made our love for Israel a significant part of our family’s identity. We celebrated Michael’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem and were delighted when each child returned: Michael as a camper, Jeffrey on the March of the Living, and Leah with Birthright.
Larry and I are tremendously proud of our vibrant Jewish community and are committed to doing our share to help it grow from strength to strength so that our grandchildren and future generations will continue to embrace our beautiful traditions based on our precious heritage.