'Exodus' passenger finally makes aliya

Frances Greenberg, 88, arrives six decades after being sent back to France.

exodus 224 (photo credit: )
exodus 224
(photo credit: )
Sixty-one years ago this month, Holocaust survivor Frances Greenberg was one of 4,515 passengers aboard the Exodus 1947, which was sent back to France shortly after its arrival to the shores of the Land of Israel. Before departing on the Exodus, she had met Isak Greenberg, a fellow Holocaust survivor, in a displaced persons camp. He loved her, she said, but they parted ways because she was a Zionist and dreamed of going to Palestine, while he planned to go to America. When she arrived back in Germany after her ordeal, he came to see her, and this time she agreed to join him. They lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for many years. After Isak died last year, she revived her old dream of living in the Jewish state. At the age of 88, Greenberg proudly arrived back in Israel from New York on Tuesday morning, making aliya alongside 210 other North American olim on Nefesh B'Nefesh's second chartered aliya flight of the summer. "The last time I was alone, the last survivor of my family," said the tiny, white-haired Greenberg. She was 27, and the Jewish state did not yet exist. When, under British guard, she steamed back toward Europe and saw the Land of Israel recede behind her, Greenberg remembered being "heartbroken." Greenberg said her parents, two sisters and brother were killed by the Nazis. She said she did not know how or when they died. She survived the German onslaught by fleeing east from her hometown of Sierpc, Poland, to Siberia. "It is the first day and it's not what I expected," Greenberg told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview on Tuesday, in reference to the media attention she has received since her arrival. "I am very emotionally exhausted from all this fanfare." When asked about the experience of being on a flight with so many new olim, Greenberg laughed, sighed and said, "It was much too much for me. "My husband always wanted to live in America, but after he passed away I decided to make a home in Ra'anana," she said. "I am very, very happy to be back in my homeland after 60 years." Greenberg will face many challenges. "I am 88 years old, and I had to give up my home," she said. "I have all these things to do: financial, emotional, physical and cultural. It is exhausting to pick up 60 years of life; it's a big adjustment." Greenberg was reunited on Tuesday with her daughter, Ilana Kraus, who made aliya 36 years ago and lives in Kfar Saba with her husband and three children. Greenberg parted ways with her son, Alan, in New York after he accompanied her to the airport from his home in Philadelphia. "It is very hard for me to say good-bye to them," she said of her son and his three children. While the excitement of Tuesday's events have obviously taken Greenberg by storm, she remains optimistic about her future in Israel. "I hope I will enjoy my remaining years here," she said. "America was good to me. I hope Israel will be good, too." Those on board the aliya flight included 50 singles, 23 people joining the IDF and two former Iranians who had fled to the US. AP contributed to this report.