Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Never to Forget

In 1938, when  native New Yorker Lucy Schildkret Dawidowicz (1915-1990) was 23 years old, she traveled to Vilna, Lithuania, in order to immerse herself in the Yiddish culture that she had begun studying during a Masters program at Columbia University. Her experiences during that year, in which she studied at YIVO (Yiddish Scientific Institute) in Vilna, and the tragic world events that followed shortly thereafter, would shape the direction of the rest of her life.

Returning home to New York one month before the start of War World II, Dawidowicz worked for the New York branch of YIVO. Although she had witnessed the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, like many Americans, she had no real comprehension of the full horrors of the Holocaust until after the war. In 1946, she returned to Europe with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and worked as an aide in the Displaced Persons camps. At the same time, she actively participated in the recovery of looted and confiscated books.

After returning to the United States in 1947, Lucy Schildkret married Szymon Dawidowicz, a Jewish refugee from Poland. Dawidowicz focused her energies on preserving the culture of the Eastern European Jewish world that had been destroyed. She published numerous articles in prominent newspapers and magazines. She also began teaching at Yeshiva University, where she eventually held a Chair in Interdisciplinary Holocaust Studies. Dawidowicz published several books on the Holocaust. The best-known of which is 1975's The War Against the Jews 1933-1945. 

In 1985, Dawidowicz founded the Fund for the Translation of Jewish Literature from Yiddish and Hebrew* into English. She was also active in the campaign for freedom for Soviet Jewry.

Dawidowicz, whose 100th birthday would have been today, passed away on December 5, 1990.

*As recorded on Wikipedia.

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