Veterans: Susanna Kaufmann: From Copenhagen to Ra'anana

She is a definite "believer" but after her divorce, it has been challenging for her to keep Shabbat.

Susanna Kaufmann 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Susanna Kaufmann 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ticktock. Ticktock. Not everyone hears the clock ticking while working. Certainly not Susanna Kaufmann. She is too involved with fixing watches. She even left dentistry to learn about it. "During the breaks, while I was learning to become a dental technician, I would go to the [other] teacher and learn about watches. Clocks are the only 'machines' that can work for 300 years... If you take cars, planes or trains, none of them can last that long." That is why she finds watch repair to be "the most interesting profession." This kind of excitement about her work has made her an expert indeed. People come to her from all over the country, bringing her pricey pieces no one else can fix. Many years ago when she worked in Tel Aviv, she remembers someone walked in with a clock, and once she started to check it out, the customer asked to speak to the person who fixes the clocks. Susanna said that she was the person but, not believing her, the customer insisted that he wanted his clock handled only by the "man" who "really" fixes them. When he understood it was her, he took his clock and walked out. FAMILY Kaufmann learned her trade in Denmark, where she was born and raised. Her father escaped from Germany to Denmark during World War II at 16, and afterward made his way here, passing through Libya and Turkey by ship and train. For many years he worked in the Tel Aviv Port selling stainless steel sinks. At 30, he went back to Denmark to look for his lost family. Instead he found a wife at the local synagogue. "She was a beautiful woman... and he decided to stay in Denmark even though he had a business in Israel." Her mother's family had escaped from Poland to Denmark during World War I. Her mother instilled in her children Jewish values through the observance of Shabbat and by involving them in the activities of Bnei Akiva. When asked if she has the qualities of a Polish mother, she laughs and says: "Yes, but only the good things." One way Kaufmann has tried to teach her 14-year-old son about his roots is by teaching him Danish. The rest the young man is learning on his own; he recently contacted his grandfather who still lives in Denmark, asking him questions about his ancestors for a school project. BEFORE ALIYA Like many olim, she made aliya gradually. During one visit she volunteered at Kibbutz Sdot Yam, near Caesarea. There, she was supposed to learn Hebrew and pick bananas. Instead, she learned English since it was the only common language spoken among all the volunteers. During another visit she went to the Omega watch company to check the job market here, in case one day she did move. "The first question they asked me was whether I had my certificates to show them. After I told them that I had left them in Denmark, they asked if I had my tools with me, to which I answered no. The third question was, 'Can you start tomorrow?'" She ended up working at Omega for a few months. After she went back to Denmark, the company kept writing to her asking her to come back and work for it. At that time she had a great job in Denmark where she spent 10 years working. Once she moved here, she opened her own business. WATCHES REFLECT PEOPLE Clocks, she says, somewhat reflect the qualities of their designer. For example, the French are very ornate and "the outside of their clocks have a lot of flowers and gold; inside they have numerous delicate pieces." Conversely, German clocks which "have the biggest parts" are also "easiest to fix." On the outside she says, they are like the Germans themselves, "more straight, Yekke, serious." This reminds her of how she used to throw her shoes around when she would come home and how her father, a German, would take them and put them away neatly. "The first watches were made in the 1500s," Susanna notes. She wears an English wristwatch from the late 1700s. She says that of all wall clocks, she most admires the workmanship and wood inlays of the English. RELIGION When it comes to the subject of religion things are not so orderly. "Religion is a difficult question," she admits. She is a definite "believer" but after her divorce, it has been somewhat challenging for her to keep Shabbat and separate dishes. "I still eat kosher food only... it is too much in my blood." In fact, as a partner, she has chosen a descendant of Rashi, the famous 11th-century Torah commentator. Kaufmann's brother, who still lives in Denmark, has religious conflicts of his own. He is fully observant, except for the minor fact that he is dating a non-Jew. "They have two separate kitchens... He also took his kippa off because of [his girlfriend] but he observes everything else," she says. LIFE IN ISRAEL She admits that she knows nothing about the politics here, possibly because her Hebrew is still weak. The closest she has come to voting was in the Ra'anana local election where she currently lives with her son and partner. She is very pleased with the choices she has made in the past two elections. Aside from watch repair, she doesn't have many hobbies. She doesn't cook either, as watch repair takes up all of her time. "Even after I close the doors [to clients] I keep fixing watches [into the evening]." But she is not sorry because her neighbors, with whom she is close like family, cook, sending her food and cakes. What does she do for them in return? You guessed right. She fixes their clocks. Unlike Kaufmann, many Israelis don't have the patience for detail, she says. "Here they paint the electric box, they don't take the time to carefully paint around it," she jokes. But this fact merely amuses her and doesn't greatly bother her because she feels: "Here people are together, warm... People in Denmark are cold. Here it is impossible to live somewhere without knowing your neighbors." This is one of the reasons she moved here. To propose an immigrant for a 'Veterans' profile, please send a one paragraph e-mail to: