Arrivals: From Vienna and London to Jerusalem, 1971

Celia Goodman remembers vividly the noise in the streets of Vienna when Hitler came to power.

By NETANYA HOFFMAN
September 20, 2007 11:56
celia goodman 88 224

celia goodman 88 224. (photo credit: Netanya Hoffman)

 
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Having grown up next to the Danube, Celia Goodman remembers Vienna as a beautiful place. However, after leaving on a Kindertransport at 11, she has no desire to see her hometown ever again. In fact, she declined the offer of an Austrian passport and wants no further connection with England either, from which she made aliya 36 years ago. PREPARATIONS She remembers vividly the noise in the streets of Vienna when Hitler came to power. Soon after that, the Jewish children were thrown out of the public schools and had to travel to school in the Jewish area. Goodman's schooling was disrupted at 11 and finished at 15, so most of her education came from avid reading at public libraries. Goodman's home was ransacked by the Hitler Youth on Kristallnacht. Her father, the head cantor at a prestigious synagogue, ran with a Torah hidden under his coat, and later managed to bring it with him to London where it was used by his new community. THE JOURNEY In the middle of the night on February 22, 1939, Goodman and her two younger siblings were put on a Kindertransport train with 117 other children. Upon arrival in England, when they realized they were to be separated, the three tried to run away, but were ultimately returned to the group and assured they would be placed with families in walking distance of one another. The children were "dished out" to families in Ardington, near Reading in Berkshire, and Goodman was chosen by a wealthy family with a 12-year-old, thinking she could be a companion to their daughter. The family had not accounted for the language barrier, though, and Goodman felt more comfortable spending her time with the hired help. She and her siblings tried to keep kosher, refusing to eat pig but not realizing that the rabbits they helped to catch were just as treif. Her parents arrived six weeks later, and the children rushed to join them in a tiny vermin-infested room. Although they were cold, hungry and "poor as church mice," the children felt they were in paradise because the family was together again. Goodman's parents wanted their children to be in a more Jewish environment, so as soon as spots opened up in a Habonim hostel, the kids were sent to stay there with other young evacuees. It was a kibbutz-like environment, with all the children pitching in with chores and agriculture work and sharing what they had. After school they learned Hebrew, sang in a choir, danced and put on shows. She remembers Teddy Kollek and other famous people coming to visit. Goodman's sister died of meningitis at 12. On the same day and at the same hour, 93 Bais Ya'acov girls who were being prepared to be prostitutes for the Nazis committed suicide in Auschwitz rather than succumb to this fate. Goodman's father received a letter from these girls, asking that someone say Kaddish for them. Goodman's father said Kaddish for the 94 girls every year. Sixteen years later to the day and hour, he died, as Goodman believes, "of a broken heart." Her brother and all of Kibbutz Shluhot, which he helped found, continue to say Kaddish and a special prayer on that day. The family had always been Zionists - Goodman remembers putting money in a JNF box at two. They had wanted to come to Palestine from Vienna, but were stuck in England because of the war. She then intended to make aliya when the state was born, but Goodman married her husband, Joe, and started a family, and again her plans were put on hold. Finally the Six Day War gave them the push to come, deciding it would be better to worry in Israel than from a distance. By the time the plans were finalized in 1971, two of her five children were already here. ARRIVAL Goodman remembers only good things about the "remarkable" year she spent in the absorption center Mevaseret Zion, even though the five of them had moved from a 13-room house in London to a 59-square-meter room. When they arrived, they stood on the roof and breathed in the holy Jerusalem air. "We were so happy to have arrived safe and sound, and we had no regrets. We were going to make it." They arranged the beds in the room like a jigsaw puzzle, and fashioned a false wall out of the 59 tea chests Goodman had brought from London. Joe started a small community center so the residents would have things to do. Goodman had always been a collector. She bought her first antique at 15 and still has it today. In 1964, she and her brother opened an antique business in the Islington market to keep their young widowed mother occupied. When she and Joe moved here, they opened their store, David Neil (named after their two sons, David and Neil) in the center of Jerusalem. Gradually the store became well-known and people came to see their antiques from all over the country, from Ramallah, Bethlehem and even Jordan. In 1973 the family did what it could to contribute to the Yom Kippur War. Her sons were too young to be drafted, so they volunteered with Magen David Adom. (There are also three daughters, Susan, Terry and Judy.) Joe drove soldiers to and from the borders. The Goodmans bought hundreds of soccer balls to send to soldiers to play with during their downtime. Their store became a depot for goods sent all over the country. Customs was holding up necessities that were to go up North during that cold winter, so the Goodmans took it into their own hands to have coats, hats and mittens sent privately from England to cut down on the bureaucracy. Joe died almost 10 years ago, and Goodman had been running the shop herself since then. She had been trying to sell it for five years, but did not want to sell to a pub or an eatery. She finally sold to an art gallery and it closed its doors on August 15. Her plans for retirement include volunteering to read (and act out) books to older people. She also wants to buy a monthly bus pass and take every bus line from one end to the other. She hopes to learn the city "from alef to tav." OBSTACLES "We were in our 40s when we moved here. We had a factory and a house, we had to lower our standards of living. The challenge was starting afresh, and we did. Our children were 14, 15 and 17 and they had it very hard because of the language." BEST THING ABOUT ISRAEL "The weather. I would rather a heat wave than the flooding and the unbelievable damage of the rain in London. "The other day in the heat, a young girl offered me a ride, even though she didn't know where I lived and it was completely in the other direction. I declined, and she came back a few minutes later and insisted that I accept the ride. She changed my mind about this generation. I told her they say this generation is spoiled. She said, 'I am spoiled, my father bought me my car.' They often offer to carry my bags - I don't let them, but they offer. "Shabbat here lifts me up. It's quiet. One feels the Shabbat. One hears the silence. It's unbelievable. Shabbat here is Shabbat. There's nothing like it in the world." ADVICE TO NEW IMMIGRANTS "You must have patience in everything because nothing happens quickly here. They will have to learn to cope with the bureaucracy. When something nice happens, it's a pleasant surprise." To propose an immigrant for a 'Veterans' profile, please send a one-paragraph e-mail to: upfront@jpost.com

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