Veterans: Ada Hausman

Though teaching music was her profession, it was her feet that guided the course of her life.

Ada Housman 88 224 (photo credit: David Stromberg)
Ada Housman 88 224
(photo credit: David Stromberg)
Ada Hausman has extremely small feet - but their influence on her life was monumental. Hausman first visited Jerusalem in 1949 during Israel's first tourist season as a Jewish state. When she decided she just couldn't leave Jerusalem, she asked her mother to send some of her winter clothing, and along with sweaters and jackets, she sent "cognac pumps that looked good on my tiny feet." More than that - unlike most other shoes, they fit. Hausman wore the pumps to shul in December, and her feet were so cold that when she got to her friend's house she warmed her feet on her radiator - resulting in frostbite from which she still suffers. But her small feet brought her more than suffering. Soon after the incident with the pumps, her cousin took her to a local shoe store to buy a pair of warm shoes, but she was unable to find a pair that actually fit her. Jerusalem was a small town then, and it was going to be difficult to find the exact right size, so the owner put some filling into a pair of size 5 shoes. Later, the owner, Benno, asked Hausman's cousin, who owned the store next to his, who the pretty young lady was, and whether she'd be interested in going out on a date. Six weeks later they were engaged. PREPARATION "I didn't prepare to move here," jokes Hausman in her apartment on Rehov Keren Hayesod, in a building flanked on one side by the King Solomon Hotel, and the Dan Panorama on the other. "My father, Moses Brevda, was a teacher and and part-time principal of Crown Heights Yeshiva, and he instilled a love for Zion in me and in my brother, Rabbi Shlomo Brevda. After studying English literature in college, I became a music teacher at a Hebrew school in Cedarhurst, Long Island. I taught Hebrew songs, and English. In 1949, the Jewish Education Committee in New York organized a trip for a group of teachers to come to Israel for two months." Planning to return to her teaching job, she packed lightly. JOURNEY "My mother was so frightened," says Hausman. "She though she'd never see me again. In a way, she was right, because it was a year before we saw each other again. I knew no one here except some cousins from my mother's side. It took three full days by plane to get here from New York at that time. This was before El Al, and we got stuck in Geneva and Rome. I think we even made a stop in Iceland." ARRIVAL "Everyone stayed in Beit Hakerem, but I stayed with my cousins in Rehavia and took the bus there each morning to take Hebrew courses in history, geography, music and literature. At the end, we had a few days to ourselves, and I went with one of the other teachers to Tel Aviv. But once there I missed Jerusalem so much that I realized there was no way I'd go back to New York." She wrote a letter to her parents informing them of her decision. "I had no one in Israel except for a few cousins, and I rented a room with a piano in their building." It didn't take her long to find a job teaching music and English. SETTLING IN In December, Ada met Benno Hausman, the owner of Comfort Shoes, and for their first date they went to the Eden Hotel for dinner and dancing. Their engagement came six weeks later, but because Ada's parents were in the US, it was decided that their wedding would take place there. Instead of settling in, they arranged for a wedding across the ocean and in May 1950, less than a year after her arrival in Israel, she and her fiancé flew to New York to marry. They returned with a container which included, among other things, a large four-burner electric stove - "gas wasn't as yet available" - a refrigerator and Ada's piano, all of which was stuffed into their one-room apartment. "The first meal I made for my husband was a disaster. I made a siesta meal for him, set it all out on the table and waited. But he came late and all the food was cold." DAILY LIFE "Overnight I became an Israeli housewife. Even though I had this large Westinghouse stove, most of the time I had to cook on a small kerosene stove because of constant stoppages of electricity." She had a lot of work to do: The milk, which was brought by a man on a donkey, had to be boiled; the live carp she bought had to be killed, cleaned, filleted, ground; she didn't like the white cheese that was then available, so she learned to make her own cheese. This often-disruptive routine was once again disrupted by her first pregnancy. Many foods were rationed and she received extra food coupons, but she and Benno decided it would be best for her to be with her parents in the US, where everything was readily available, for the rest of the pregnancy. Her first son, David, was born in 1951, and six months later Benno joined them abroad, where they stayed until 1955. Their second son was born after their return to Israel. LANGUAGE "When I first came here, I couldn't speak Hebrew; I could only read and write it, because at home my parents spoke only Yiddish." She also knew how to sing in Hebrew, having been the Hebrew music counselor in three American Jewish summer camps for five years. Her courses during the two months of studies with the Jewish Education Committee also helped her realize her latent knowledge of Hebrew. REWARDS "Then, Jerusalem was a small town. Everyone knew each other. Over time people got cars, there's traffic everywhere, hotels have been built all around. There was only one hotel - the President Hotel - when I came here." Just being here is its own reward for Hausman, and every time she went abroad, all she wanted was to come back. Her parents planned to make aliya in 1967, until the Six Day War broke out. They wrote to her that they wanted to postpone their move to the next summer, but after the war ended she insisted that they come immediately. They moved in 1967 and made aliya in 1968 - and eight months later her father died. "Those were my happiest eight months in Israel. I could see my parents every day, I could bring them things, have them over for Shabbat and Pessah." REST OF THE STORY In 1975, Hausman became the social secretary of the AMIT educational network's Chug Ayelet, a post she held for 30 years. After her father's death, Ada took care of her elderly mother for the next 13 years; in 1991, Benno also died. One of their sons moved to Paris, and the other stayed in Israel. This year, Hausman was honored as a Halutza by AMIT, where she also initiated special fund-raising projects that include originally designed greeting cards, posters and certificates for bridal and golden books, and tribute cakes - all of which she makes herself. ADVICE "When making aliya it depends on the age of the people. If it is a married couple with children it is advisable to come and scout around before arriving to find a job and decide in which city they would prefer to settle. If the people are retired then volunteering in an organization or any other place that asks for volunteers. This would be the best way to involve oneself in Israeli life and get great satisfaction from it, like I do." To propose an immigrant for a "Veterans" profile, please send a one paragraph e-mail to: [email protected]