The view from my veranda

Alla Raviv z’l – Eshet Chayil


Born on September,18th, 1913, in Lodz, Poland, Leah Hendler did not realise what a fascinating life lay in front of her. Her travels began when she was only five months old. Her family, father Meir, mother Golda and big brother, four year old Shmuel, fearing the already extreme antisemitism of their homeland, left Poland for the relative security of life in Russia.

Since the name Leah was difficult to the tongue of a small child, so she called herself Alla. Her mother, an exceptional woman of her times, understanding the future of the Jewish people, decided that despite the stringent anti-religious laws of post-revolutionary Russia she would bring a Hebrew teacher into their home, through the back entrance, so that her children could learn Hebrew. She talked always of the home land in far off Palestine and of the Jewish dream of a State of Israel. Times became more difficult for the family in Russia, Meir was taken to prison by the Communists for being bourgeoise, for being successful. His wife and children never knowing if he would be alive or dead at their next prison visit. By the age of 10 Alla found herself back in Lodz, Poland, the family having lost everything in Russia. The young girl had to accustom herself to the strange environs of a Polish school. New language and new atmosphere. Based upon their Mothers insistence upon teaching her children Hebrew Alla and Shmuel gained entrance to the top schools in Lodz, the Jewish Gymanasia, with rarely achieved scholarships.

Both children studied well and achieved high marks. After the Baccalaureate Alla made up her mind that she wanted to study Pharmacy at the University in Vilna. There was a problem however, Jews were banned from studying sciences or medicine. In an every increasingly antisemitic Poland. The University accepted her to study Classics. The ban and the clear antisemitism that it signified worried Alla. That night, as she was packing her clothes for University, she expressed her concerns. Her mother simply unpacked her daughters bags and they made the decision together, Alla would go to study at the newly formed Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

It was a long and lonely journey. Her future unknown, Alla spent her time learning to sew so that she would have a skill if she didn’t find a job. Over the next years she used that skill to repair her own clothes as they grew old and frayed. She tutored children in Hebrew, she scrubbed floors and cleaned bathrooms at the University all to pay for her studies and her meagre keep. Alla worked as a school secretary in Jerusalem, girl Friday to the headmaster.

Alla went back to Lodz once. She went to see her parents after feeling her letters were not sufficient to tell them of the handsome young man who had won her heart, Kalman Raviv, Mandate Policeman number 81, spy for the Hagana. On that visit to her family Alla saw the horrors of the future beginning to take a firm hold. She begged her family to leave Poland, to join her in the fledgling country of Israel and they promised to come soon, in a little while. They did not come for Allas wedding to Kalman, held on the roof of her cousins home in Tel Aviv arriving by bus rather than carriage, carefully repairing her torn skirt on the journey so as not to embarrass her beau. By the time Allas first son Zvi was born in 1945 her entire family had died in the torture of Auschwitz at the hands of the Nazis.

Alla chose to work, to fulfil all the great ambitions that her mother had set for her. From acting school secretary she became a replacement teacher; from replacement teacher she won a permanent position. She, together with her lifes’ partner Kalman, headed the Teachers Union in Jerusalem. Alla went on to be a headmistress, one of the most famous, and beloved in the City. She has won every award possible from the City for her community service and her outstanding work.

This woman who had lost everything, her parents and brother to the Nazi horror; her younger son to a road accident, never gave up or felt sorry for herself. She lived to give reason and purpose to the lives of others in the country that she so loved. At the age of 87 she, together with her lifes partner Kalman, was still active in running a social and learning group for some three hundred retired teachers.

Alla Raviv is the shining example of what every woman should try to attain. To turn every obstacle into a rung up the ladder; to spend the energy wasted upon crying and moaning to build a stronger future to justify the pain of the past. Her relationship with her beloved husband was one of two people who had only each other – both of their families had been erased by the horror of the Holocaust.

She became as a Mother to me, understanding all to well what it meant to lose ones mother at a young age. She and Kalman took me under their wings, wings so wise and kind. Her last words to Zvi were to tell him how handsome he was, not a word of complaint about herself.

Alla left behind her a wonderful legacy of school children who became educators, a deeply respected and loved son who learned to give to his community and country; Amiad and Leor her two adoring grandsons; Amit and Gili her two little grand-daughters. Alla was loved by my own children and grandchildren who will also miss her dearly. She will be missed more than one can imagine but she left the world is a better place for Alla Raviv having been in it.

Alla Raviv, aged 97, woman of worth, Eshet Chayil, I loved you very much.

26th Nissan, 5771