Szyfra’s mother (Esther Sarah Jurkiewicz nee Hirschberg) had two sisters. One lived in Poland and the other lived in Belgium. All of their families were murdered. However, a nephew and niece of hers by the names of Feivish (Philip) and Bronia Hirschberg did survive the war and they eventually moved to San Francisco USA, after the war. Szyfra’s father Berish Yona Jurkiewicz had large family; all were murdered. My father Jacob Pelta was never privileged to grow up with a Grandmother or a Grandfather.
Grandma Szyfra (we called her Grandma Shefka) at one point started writing down her memories from before the war. She compiled around eleven pages of handwritten notes. At the time of writing her memories her psychological stress induced in her into a nervous breakdown; her blood pressure became elevated; she got physically sick. She decided to go on a vacation to Palms Springs (California) to recover. Despite this short vacation, she did not fully recover; she described herself as delirious on the plane ride home to San Francisco.
After the war Szyfra and Leon Pelta settled in San Francisco. Uncle Abe Hirshberg was not supportive once the Pelta family arrived in San Francisco. He was an assimilated Jew who was “married” to a Catholic woman, with no children. Maybe he was resentful of the huge financial expense that he endured to bring the surviving Pelta family to the USA?
My Grandma and Grandpa Pelta lived in San Francisco with my Grandmothers brother Izek Jurkiewicz and her sister Tosia. Grandma Szyfra always was grateful and recognized that they came to the USA on account of her uncle Abe “Murphy” Hirschberg.
In the USA their quality of life was much improved. She said that “it’s a bad thing to get older”. She wished she could have benefitted from life’s comforts at a younger age; since at a much older age, she became wealthy after many years of hard work.
Grandma Szyfra was always very proud of her son “The Doctor”. My father Jacob B. Pelta, MD is a graduate of New York Medical College (I also graduated NYMC). He is a practicing Internal Medicine and Rheumatology physician in Los Angeles California.
My Grandmother always hated the Germans; there is no forgiveness. She never changed in her opinion. She would never purchase a German car, such as a Mercedes Benz or BMW. The Germans tried to cover up their crimes just like the Polish people did. Their hatred of Jews is bred in them from birth; it’s in their mother’s breast milk.
The world has not changed, when Jews want to survive and thrive; like in Israel they are called “racists” instead of “dirty Jew” or “Zionist”. It’s the same hatred of Jews, nothing has changed.
Even the USA has demonstrated acts of anti-Semitism. Jonathan Pollard was put in prison by the USA for saving the Jews of Israel, because he was a Jew. [In 2021, Pollard was finally freed after 30 years in prison, and is currently living in Israel as a free man].
Many of the Arabs, in her opinion, act like the “new” Nazis. The world lets them get away with a lot because they have oil. So, oil is worth more than Jewish lives. Jews bring wisdom to the world. Many are jealous of the Jew’s accomplishments. Jews are not selfish – it’s a crime to ever call a Jew, a racist.
Israel is building our future. She was very proud of Israel. If it was not for the hot weather, she said that she would have settled and lived in Israel. She liked to dance at family Smachot and sing songs in Yiddish and Hebrew. She never cried with tears. She had lots of pride and always told me to walk proud and tall with my “chin up”.
Grandma believed in charity and giving donations generously. The following is a short list of some of the charities that she funded:
Founder Hadassah Women (Hospital in Yerushalayim Israel)
Founder Hebrew University (Yerushalayim, Israel)
Founder Boys Town Jerusalem
Founder Girls Town Jerusalem
Board of Directors Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital
Hebrew Academy of San Francisco
Chabad of San Francisco
The Institute of Jewish Medical Ethics (Founder)