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106-year-old Survivor of Czarist pogroms, Nazis, Passes

The Associated Press
In this photo provided Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007 by Chabad.org, Maryasha Garelik, center, holds her great grandchild Yaakov Dovid Kotlarsky, in this 1988 photo. At left is Maryasha Garelik’s gradndaughter Henya Laine, in the center background is Garelik’s daughter Rosa Marazow, and at right is Rivkah Kotlarsky, who is Garelik’ granddaughter and Laine’s sister. Rosa Marazow is Laine’s and Kotlarsky’s aunt: their mother’s sister. Garelik, a 106-year-old Jewish grandmother who survived the pogroms of czarist Russia, Soviet anti-Semitism and Nazi terror, and became a central figure in the Lubavich community, died Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 in Brooklyn, N.Y. (AP Photo/Chabad.org, Chie Nishio)

Brooklyn, NY — In Brooklyn, they called her Bubbe Maryasha — a 106-year-old Jewish grandmother who survived the pogroms of czarist Russia, Soviet anti-Semitism and Nazi terror.

Members of the Lubavitch Jewish community on Thursday announced the death of Maryasha Garelik, the grandmother — “bubbe” in Yiddish — who survived milestone moments of the 20th century, including the Soviet execution of her husband for helping to keep Judaism alive.

She breathed her last on Wednesday night in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, after passing her wisdom on to thousands who came seeking inspiration, said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of the Lubavitch World Headquarters there.

The Hasidic Jewish movement follows the teachings of Eastern European rabbis, emphasizing the study of Hebrew scriptures while spreading its faithful worldwide. Some of Garelik’s more than 500 descendants are Lubavitch emissaries in China, Australia, South Africa, France, England and Poland.

Garelik was buried on Thursday at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, in a grave near the late Lubavitch Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, whose disciple in Russia became her husband.

Her advice came from decades of trial by fire.

When she was 5, her father was killed in a pogrom and her grandparents — with whom she and her mother lived — were subsequently executed.

Years later, Garelik, her husband and their small children were evicted from their apartment into the deep snow because he refused to do factory work on the Jewish Sabbath. He was arrested as one of Schneerson’s underground operatives in the 1930s under Josef Stalin, then shot to death. (His wife didn’t know what happened to him until 1998, when his fate was revealed in an unsealed KGB file).

When authorities warned her against lighting the Sabbath candles, Garelik fled with her six children. The family moved six times in three years due to harassment from Soviet authorities; one home was a stable.

But she was resourceful, growing potatoes in back of a synagogue to feed her family — with enough left over for a profit that paid for the dilapidated synagogue to be fixed.

When an acquaintance tried persuading her to send her children to the Communist public school, she said emphatically: “Stalin will be torn down before my children are indoctrinated that way,” as quoted by her granddaughter Henya Laine, who is now herself a grandmother.

By 1941, when the Germans advanced onto Soviet soil, Garelik and her brood escaped to Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, where she made and sold socks to survive. In 1946, they ended up in a detention camp in Germany.

After the war, she moved to Paris, where she established a Lubavitch Jewish girls’ school that still exists. She immigrated to the United States in 1953, starting a Brooklyn organization whose members visited the sick, and a boys’ school for which she collected money into old age.

God gave her “two healthy feet,” she would say. “I can walk, I can take care of myself and help others.”

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In this handout photo provided by Chabad.org on Friday, Jan. 11, 2007, Maryasha Garelik, left, dances with her granddaughter Henya Laine at Laine’s wedding in 1965 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Garelik, a 106-year-old Jewish grandmother who survived the pogroms of czarist Russia, Soviet anti-Semitism and Nazi terror, and became a central figure in the Lubavich community, died Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 in Brooklyn, N.Y. (AP Photo/Chabad.org)

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In this handout photo provided Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007 by Chabad.org, Maryasha Garelik,poses with her mother Etta Esther Garelik, center, and her brother Moshe Nosson while still a teenager living in Russia in the early 1900’s. Garelick, a 106-year-old Jewish grandmother who survived the pogroms of czarist Russia, Soviet anti-Semitism and Nazi terror, and became a central figure in the Lubavich community, died Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 in Brooklyn, N.Y. (AP Photo/Chabad.org-HO)

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Members of the Lubavitch Jewish community prepare to bury Maryasha Garelik in New York, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007. Maryasha Garelik, who was approximately 106 years old when she died on Jan. 10, 2007, was witness to the whole of the 20th century and is survived by more than 550 direct descendents living on every continent except Antarctica. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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Members of the Lubavitch Jewish community pray near the body of Maryasha Garelik before her burial in New York, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007. Maryasha Garelik, who was approximately 106 years old when she died on Jan. 10, 2007, was witness to the whole of the 20th century and is survived by more than 550 direct descendents living on every continent except Antarctica. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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Members of the Lubavitch Jewish community bury Maryasha Garelik in New York, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007. Maryasha Garelik, who was approximately 106 years old when she died on Jan. 10, 2007, was witness to the whole of the 20th century and is survived by more than 550 direct descendents living on every continent except Antarctica. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

11 Comments

  • 2. CM wrote:

    It is from AP (Associated Press). They were at the funeral as well and took pictures.

  • 4. HANA wrote:

    WE UNFORTUNATELY LOST A GREAT NESHANA
    IN THE WORLD OF CHABAD…. HER DUGMA
    CHAYA WILL BE FOREVER… WHAT A WOMEN
    OF MITZVOT AND KEDUSHA….ALWAYS AT ANY AGE OR TIME WITH HER SIDDUR….HOPEFULLY
    HER TEFILOS WILL BRING US NOW TO MASHIAH
    TZIKENU AND A WORLD OF JUSTICE & EMET &
    SHALOM

  • 6. brachie wrote:

    wow…may we all be zoche to such long lives…and overcome the mesiras nefesh of today. Her children are certainly carrying on in her ways. May she pull some strings up there and demand the emmediate revelation of moshiach….because the strength she had is one not many of us have got.

    moshiach now!

  • 8. SHIMON COHEN wrote:

    THERE IS SO MUCH MORE! SHE DID SO MANY THINGS QUIETLY AND WITH DETERIMINATION. IF YOU KNOW OF HER KINDNESS, WRITE HERE ABOUT IT.
    SHE WAS THE COOK IN OHELI TORAH IN WHEN THE KITCHEN WAS LOCATED IN A BROWNSTONE ON E.P. BETWEEN BROOKLYN AND N.Y. AVENUES ON THE 770 SIDE OF THE STREET. IN THE LATE SIXTIES AND ON, EVERY BOCHUR FROM QANY OF THE YESHIVAS IN C.H. KNEW THAT OF THERE WAS NO FOOD IN THEIR SCHOOL, AS WAS THE CASE IN HADAR HATORAH THEN, WE KNEW SHE WOULD SEE THAT WE WOULD NOT GO HUNGRY. SOMEHOW, THE FOOD STRECHED TO FEED ALL OF US, AND SOME OLDER MEMBERS OF ANASH TOO.I REMEMBER THE ARGUMENTS SHE HAD WITH THE HANHALA ABOUT THIS, BUT SHE COULD’NT LET ANY OF US GO HUNGRY. WE ALL CALLED HER “BUBBE”.
    THERE WAS A WELL KNOWN STORY ABOUT HER GOING AROUND THEN,THAT WHEN, DURING THE WAR SHE WAS ON A TRAIN PACKED SO TIGHTLY THAT ONE COULD HARDLY BREATHE,WITH RUSSIANS FLEEING THE NAZIS, Y“SV”Z, SHE HELD A BABY IN HER HANDS SO TIGHTLY THAT AFTER A WHILE IT STOPPED BREATHING. THE PEOPLE ON THE TRAIN HAD FORCED EVERYONE TO THROW OFF ALL BAGGAGE TO MAKE MORE ROOM. WHEN THEY REALISED THAT THE BABY WASN’T BREATHING THEY TRIED TO MAKE HER THROW THE BABY OUT THE WINDOW, BUT OF COURSE SHE WOULD NOT. ONE OF THE RUSSIANS RIPPED THE BABY OUT OF HER HANDS AND THREW IT OUT THE WINDOW. WHEN THE BABY HIT THE SNOW, SHE HEARD IT GIVE OUT A CRY! YEARS LATER I HEARD THAT HE HAD SURVIVED AND FOUND MARYASHA IN C.H. I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS TRUE, BUT IT WAS ALL OVER C.H. IN THE LATE 60’S.
    I REMEMBER HER AS ONE OF THE KINDEST, FINEST PEOPLE I HAVE EVER MET. SHE WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMERED FOR GOOD!

  • 10. Mendy in Midwest wrote:

    she is now in gan eden
    w/ the rest of the tzadikei olom

    may she be a “gutte beter”
    for us all – the talmidim of oholei torah – that she collected money for
    outside of 770 for many years

  • 11. Shmuel Y. wrote:

    In her memory we should all give $1.00 to Oheli Torah, I think that would be a nice way to remember her one last time.

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