Honoring a Commitment to Education
When Rose Kfar Rose passed away in 2007, her daughter, Esther Rose, decided to honor her mother’s legacy by funding a book stack range in the book repository at the Yiddish Book Center.
Rose Kfar Rose had grown up speaking both Yiddish and Polish in her childhood home in Lvov, Poland (now the Ukranian city of L’viv). She was a supporter of the Yiddish Book Center from the very beginning, says Esther. When the Center built its permanent home in Amherst in 1997, Rose funded shelves in memory of her parents, Benzion and Ester Kfar, her husband, Alfred, and her aunt, Frances Herzer. Esther, in turn, has donated to the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program for college students, recently establishing an endowed fund in her maternal grandparents’ names to provide ongoing support for a Steiner faculty member.
“I liked the idea of supporting a teacher because my mother was a teacher,” Esther says. While neither of her grandparents went to school past the eighth grade, they stressed the importance of education to Rose, their only child. “Even though the tuition was, I think, sometimes beyond their means, it was something they made sacrifices for,” Esther says.
After her mother’s death, Esther came across letters in Yiddish from family back in Europe; eager to read them, she signed up for a Yiddish class.
In November 1942, with Poland having fallen to the Nazis, Rose’s parents managed to hide their then fifteen year-old daughter in a small village outside of Krakow, using falsified papers that identified her as Janina Gornicka, a Polish Catholic schoolgirl. Rose was taken in by a schoolteacher named Krystyna Moskalik, who taught her and other students in an underground school. (Krystyna was recognized posthumously as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations,” an honor bestowed by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.) Rose’s parents, along with many other relatives, perished in the war. “When my mother realized at the end of the war that her parents were gone, what she had to keep her going was the idea of pursuing a higher education,” Esther says.
In 1948, after several years of waiting, Rose and her one surviving aunt Friedka (Frances Herzer) were able to come to New York, where they had relatives. Rose worked as a secretary during the day and in the evening attended Hunter College, where she finished the college degree she’d begun in Poland. She went on to earn a PhD in chemistry and became a professor. Her husband, Fred, was an engineer who came to the United States from Vienna as a teenager at the start of the war. The last project he worked on before his death in 1966, Esther says, was Temple Israel of the City of New York—where, she notes, years later she first heard Aaron Lansky speak about his vision for the Yiddish Book Center.
Like her grandparents before them, Rose and Fred passed on their passion for education to Esther, who became a doctor. She’s studied several languages, including Yiddish, which she recalls hearing her mother speaking with older relatives when she was a child. After her mother’s death, Esther came across letters in Yiddish from family back in Europe; eager to read them, she signed up for a Workmen’s Circle class near her home in New Jersey. She also took part in the first YiddishSchool, the Center’s weeklong course for adult learners.
As a student of Yiddish herself, Esther says, “I’m very happy that Yiddish is still being studied and kept alive.” Supporting the Steiner program, she adds, is a way both to preserve the memory of her grandparents and to continue her family’s legacy of valuing education.
To learn how you can sponsor a faculty member in the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, please email or call Zvi Jankelowitz at 413-256-4900, ext. 117.
From Kvel, the newsletter of the Yiddish Book Center (Spring 2016)