I was dating her son in my 20s and Dr. Lusia Hornstein – this regal, talented, intelligent woman – became my mother-in-law.
From the start, I admired her. She was the only survivor of the Holocaust from her immediate family. She had lost her parents and two brothers. Having grown up in Poland in a wealthy, aristocratic family, she carried herself with elegance and grace. She was saved by nuns and fought in the second Warsaw uprising. She was a hero, but didn’t like to draw too much attention to herself, teaching us all about humility.
She went to medical school in Heidelberg, Germany, and throughout her career worked as a pediatrician with children with genetic issues, caring for another vulnerable population in Hitler’s Germany – an early pioneer for women in medicine.
She taught me to be a powerful woman; she stood up for what she believed. She taught me that even when it wasn’t easy, family sticks together. She visited from Cincinnati every four to six weeks after Rebecca, our daughter and her first grandchild, was born.
She taught me dignity – when Lusia was diagnosed with cancer, she fought for five years – long enough to see five more grandchildren – the legacy of her family.
And she died the way she lived. She waited until her sixth grandchild was born and two days later, she took her last breath. Her legacy lives with me every day.
Zichrona L’vracha – may her memory be a blessing.
Marcia Zimmerman is the senior rabbi at Temple Israel, a 2,000-household congregation in Minneapolis that takes seriously the words above Temple Israel’s entrance: “Our house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.”