When I first met her I was struck by her aristocratic appearance. She exuded calm serenity and self-assurance while sitting in a wheelchair and being maneuvered by an escort. I admired her from a distance. Her elegantly-styled wig in the tradition of Orthodox Jewish women, her classic features and reserved demeanor inspired respect.
After a while, my interest in unusual people overcame my reticence. I approached her one afternoon, as she was relaxing in the lobby of the resort hotel where we both spent Sukkot. After introducing myself, I opened the conversation by asking where she came from and how long she was staying at the resort.
Soon an unusual, sad and inspiring life story emerged from eloquent lips. Lucy Cohn was born in Berlin almost a decade before the rise of Hitler, a second daughter to a well-established Jewish family. However, the shadow of tragedy rose early in Lucy’s life. She was only two when her father died, and only eight when her beloved mother passed on, leaving Lucy and her nine-year-old sister Devorah orphaned.
As their family relations had left Germany for Palestine years earlier, the two orphans were placed in foster homes with strangers. Luckily they were able to obtain the necessary documentation for travel to Palestine so that in 1935 the two orphaned adolescents made their way to the Jewish Homeland. They settled in Jerusalem with their uncle’s family, and started attending school in the country’s capital.
When Lucy’s uncle died and the family suffered economic difficulties, Lucy left school and looked for work in order to help out with expenses. At fourteen she chose the lifestyle of an adult: she worked in a governmental office by day and attended night school in the evening.
Later she took a higher paying job in a bookstore where she eventually became a manager.
In 1949 Lucy Cohn met Zvi Korech, a young college graduate turned teacher. The two were married in Jerusalem where Zvi obtained an M.A. in education; in time he became a school superintendent.
Lucy Korech became a mother in 1956 when her daughter Leah was born. Today Leah is the mother of nine children, all employed in different professional positions in Jerusalem.
Two years after the birth of Leah, a second daughter, Tamar, was born to the Korech family. Tamar became the mother of five children she never saw grow to adulthood. In 2003 she died of cancer, and Lucy, having suffered the sudden death of her brilliant husband, Zvi, four years previously, now underwent the unbearable agony of a daughter’s demise, and the tragic reality of orphaned grandchildren.
What gives her the strength to carry on, to endure the barely endurable with dignity?
At the time of her husband’s unexpected death Lucy was already wheelchair-ridden, having suffered a devastating heart attack in 1974. How could a damaged heart bear an additional blow, the death of a daughter?
“Emunah,” she whispers. “Faith in the Almighty.”