Three Generations of Hadassah Healing: A Family Profile

Monday, Apr 8 2013

Meet a three-generation Hadassah family, choosing to serve the health care needs of Israel: Hannah Gofrit, Holocaust survivor and Public Health Nurse for Hadassah's Tipat Chalav (Well-Baby Clinics); her son, Prof. Ofer Gofrit, Senior Urologist at the Hadassah Medical Organization; and Hannah's granddaughter, Shany Gofrit, a fourth year student at Hadassah's School of Military Medicine.

"My mother was a skilled dressmaker with a boutique salon and my father, a leather merchant," recalls Mrs. Gofrit, who was born in Biala Ravksa, Poland, a town where 4,000 Jews lived among Christian neighbors. "As a toddler," she says, "I had dresses and shoes galore." When Germany conquered Poland in September 1939, the Jews were soon secluded in a Ghetto, but the local women protested that their haute couture seamstress would not be accessible and so Hannah's family remained in their home!

When Prof. Gofrit was asked if he, as a surgeon, inherited his grandmother's sewing ability, he responded: "For sure. My grandmother's ability to sew saved her life. I do think of her sometimes when I'm sewing, trying to save other lives."

Mrs. Gofrit was four years old when the Germans came into Poland. She and her mother went into hiding in Warsaw. A Polish family gave them shelter in their apartment on the condition that if the Gestapo searched for them, they would jump from the roof to their deaths. When the Gestapo did come, however, the 12-year old Polish daughter warned them and insisted that instead of jumping they go back into their hiding place in a dark closet. It was there that nature-loving Hannah imagined herself as a butterfly, free to fly away. I Wanted to Fly Like a Butterfly, the internationally heralded children's book, is based on her experience.

Mrs. Gofrit, now 75, was one of two out of 1,000 children from her town to survive the Holocaust. She made Aliyah with her mother in 1949. "After the Holocaust, I wanted to leave a message to future generations that you shouldn't hurt others," she relates. She took a job as a public health nurse in the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Ajami in Jaffa, before going to work at Hadassah's well-baby clinics. Mrs. Gofrit spoke at this year's Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at Hadassah Hospital-Ein Kerem. "My mother didn't talk much about the Shoah when I was growing up," Prof. Gofrit said. "But there was a strong message in the home on the importance of life."


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