Baruch Dayan Emet, we mourn the passing of Rifka “Rebecca” Weiss Fried, of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Mrs. Fried was niftar on April 1, 2020 (7 Nissan 5780). Mrs. Fried, a Holocaust Survivor, was born in 1928 in Brod, Czechoslovakia, and was the daughter of Alexander Weiss, a roofer, and Sima Leah Weiss, who taught Hebrew.
In 1944, Rifka, her youngest brother Simcha, and her parents were sent to a ghetto in Mukacevo, then sent to Auschwitz, where her parents were killed immediately. She had 4 brothers, Abraham, Zvi, Mordechai, and Simcha. The youngest died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chamber and one of her older brothers was shot by a Nazi, when he could no longer walk. The two other older brothers studied in a Yeshiva but were later conscripted by Hungary for forced labor, but survived. Rifka worked as a seamstress at Auschwitz and later in the cabbage fields. In 1945 Rifka was taken to Bergen-Belsen, then sent on a death march until she was liberated. She went back to Czechoslovakia, then joined a kibbutz hachshara (preparing to live in an agricultural settlement) in Holtzhausen, Germany, and learned how to cook. Rifka later made her way to France to bard the Exodus 1947 ship.
Rebecca’s interview with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum can be heard at https://collections.ushmm.org
As a Volunteer for Connect2, Friendly Visiting for Holocaust Survivors, a project of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island (JCCGCI), and the Mitzvah Man, Michael Cohen’s chesed foundation, I recently delivered mishloach manot on Purim to Mrs. Fried, who always appreciated visitors and welcomed me with a cheerful smile and positive outlook. She would always tell me, “say hello to the Mitzvah Man,” even after recovering from hospital visits.
When I first met Mrs. Fried in 2016, I mentioned that I was working on a photo book of orthodox synagogues in the 5 boroughs of New York City. Rifka told me that she and her Husband, Israel Fried, Obm, prayed at First Congregation Anshe Sfard on 14th Avenue. When I showed her a few photos, she knew several local synagogues and told me about praying at the Eldridge Street Synagogue and the Bialystoker Shul, on the Lower East Side. She told me that although she did not attend synagogue recently, she read tehilim.
Mrs. Fried was quick to tell me about the Altneuschul, or the Old New Synagogue in Prague. One of Prague’s first gothic style buildings, this shul is the oldest monument of the Prague Jewish Ghetto and the oldest preserved synagogue in Europe, built in 1270. Rifka told me it was the home of the legendary Golem of Prague, which I later had to Google that evening. On a later visit I framed a photo of the Altneuschul, gave it to Rifka and she was very appreciative.
On another visit, I noticed a photo of the S.S. Exodus 1947 and Mrs. Fried who was one of 4515 passengers on that famous ship explained how she remembered the voyage to Israel, where the ship was denied entry to the Port of Haifa by the British. Holocaust Survivors were not allowed the enter Palestine and they were sent away on 3 ships to France, and eventually to Germany. From there, many went to Displaced Persons (DP) camps. On the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum site, there is a photo of Rifka Weiss in the kitchen at the Holzhausen camp in Germany. It was world-wide attention surrounding the plight of the S.S.
Mrs. Fried eventually made it to Israel, in 1948. lived on a Kibbutz in the Galil, cutting banana leaves, working with babies (before Pampers, she added with a smile), and working in the kitchen. She married Israel Fried, had two sons, Alex and Motty (now Matthew) and in 1959 they started a new life in America.
Mrs. Fried was fortunate to have many friends and visitors in the community. One of Mrs. Fried’s Grandsons, Robert Fried, published a book of poems, “From Generation To…” in 2013, based on his Grandmothers’ accounts as a Holocaust Survivor. Robert recently told me that his Grandmother, despite her recent health problems, always appreciated the flowers for Shabbos, the visits from all the volunteers which, “allowed her to re-focus her energy.” Robert added, the volunteers, particularly Michael Cohen and the 3 girls who took a car service to visit regularly, “really made a difference, and what you are doing is extra special, as you help bring happiness and support to people who need it.” Michael Cohen, founder of The Mitzvah Man organization, commented that “Mrs. Fried gave volunteers joy…she will be missed by many people. She always welcomed us with a smile and a good word. I used to sit in her kitchen and she would insist on making me lunch.”
I consider myself fortunate to have met such a wonderful person. May her Memory be for a Blessing.
Written by Michael J. Weinstein, Volunteer for Connect2, Friendly Visits for Holocaust Survivors (www.connect2ny.org) and the Mitzvah Man (www.themitzvahman.org) Michael is a Long Island resident with deep roots in Brooklyn. He can be reached at email@example.com