Sunday, May 31, 2009

Veterans: Rose Saperstein: From New York to Jerusalem

May. 27, 2009
Jerrin K. Zumberg

And who are the people in the neighborhood?

At 92, Rose Saperstein still prepares her famous spice cakes and vegetable liver for her family each Shabbat and reads an average four books a week. She lives simply in a fifth-floor apartment on the edge of western Jerusalem in a row of matching stone apartment buildings. A dozen plants and well-used furniture decorate the sitting room where she sits with dancing crystal blue eyes as she awaits to tell stories from a near century of life experience.


Born in Manhattan in 1917, Saperstein grew up on the Lower East Side in a neighborhood bustling with Orthodox Jewish life.

"We aren't only Orthodox, but fervent believers in the Almighty," she says.

By the time she was married to a young businessman and World War II had come and gone, she was already deep into her life's work: volunteering.

For 26 years before retiring here, she volunteered at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, helped her husband on the side and managed to make time for important volunteer work among the influx of poor Jews immigrating from Europe after the war. She had two sons with her late husband.


The voyage that landed Saperstein here began early, when her father moved the family to the country for a year in the late 1920s in an attempt to resettle.

"My father very much wanted to live [in Israel], but simply couldn't make a living," she explains. The family went back only to find themselves a part of a near tragic shipwreck in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

"It never left me, the sound of the scrape as the boat went up on a reef, leaving three holes in it," she says. For a week they slept on the deck in life jackets until they were saved.
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