CINCINNATI — “Don’t be a bystander,” Holocaust survivor Zahava Rendler told her audience, “be an upstander. When you see someone promoting hate, bigotry and prejudice, be an upstander – stand up and do the right thing! I don’t want my past to become the future of my grandchildren.”
Rendler’s remarks were made during the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center’s annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day program held Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati’s historic Union Terminal. The sold-out ticketed event featured a conversation between Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center CEO David Wise and Rendler.
During that conversation, Rendler discussed her views on the recent rise in anti-Semitism. She also reflected on the lessons that can be learned from her life.
Zahava Rendler was born Golda Feuerberg in Stryi, Poland on March 30, 1941. Following the German invastion of Poland, Rendler and her family hid in an underground bunker along with a couple hundred others.
Rendler’s father had owned a large factory prior to the war, and one of his former employees brought food to the bunker once or twice a week. The food was paid for with gold, silver and precious jewels those hiding in the bunker had brought with them.
Eventually her parents decided it was too dangerous for her to remain in the bunker and they sent her to live with a Polish woman. After some time, the woman, fearing she would be discovered, placed Zahava in a Catholic convent where she lived with a number of other children.
Following the war, Zahava was retrieved by her father. Poland was under the control of Russia, and fearing the Russians as much as the Germans, the family began their journey to Palestine, then under the control of Great Britain.
Their ship was intercepted by the Royal Navy, and they were diverted to an internment camp in Cyprus. Eventually, the family escaped the camp and made their way to Palestine, where they found thousands of other Jews who had fled to what would become the modern state of Israel.
As Rendler spoke about her experiences, Wise would ask questions that would guide the conversation. Rendler eventually ended up moving to Cincinnati, became an educator, and at age 82, still teaches. In fact, her story is just one of the stories of courage, perseverance, loss, redemption, and new life, as told by local Holocaust survivors within the walls of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.
“We are so fortunate to learn from Zahava’s wisdom,” Wise said as the program concluded. “She truly exemplifies what it means to be an upstander,” Wise said.
“My personal connection to Zahava makes this event even more meaningful because I grew up learning from her as my teacher,” Wise continued. “She has touched so many lives throughout her years as an educator. In fact, she also taught my own children.”
As the conversation, Zahava received a standing ovation. Attendees then had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Mrs. Rendler in the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.
The center is just one of the museums housed in the former Union Terminal. Others include the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, the Duke Energy Children’s Museum and the Cincinnati History Museum. The Museum Center is open Thursdays through Monday 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. The Museum Center is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.