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Tragedy! Young Mother Dies

Tragedy! Young Mother Dies

My great-grandmother Keila's grave
My great-grandmother Keila's grave


Young mother passes away leaving behind a grieving widower and a two-year-old orphan.

The day was May 1, 1906. More than a hundred years ago.

The young woman was my great-grandmother. The little boy my grandfather.

The widower remarried and had a few more children.

The widower died in Auschwitz, his other children in Sobibor.

The young boy, Levi, grew up to be the Chief Rabbi of Rotterdam, one of the largest cities in the Netherlands. His children and grandchildren include rabbis and community activists.

How did people react in 1906 when she died? Did they realize she was going to be one of the only people in her age group to have a grave? Did it occur to them that even the ones that were to die and get buried before the holocaust would not have anyone to come visit those graves?

Most probably not.

All they felt was pity for the woman who died so young and for the poor little orphan who would have a hard life ahead. All they felt was pity for the woman who died so young and for the poor little orphan who would have a hard life ahead.

He did have a hard life but at least he lived. And he was able to lay the foundations of many future Jewish homes. Not only does he have children and grandchildren continuing his work, the children of the people whom he taught Judaism also continue in their parents' footsteps.

We don't always understand the Divine plan.

The picture has changed.

My great-grandmother's short life is bearing a lot of fruit today.

Everyone else is gone.

My grandfather Rabbi Levi Vorst, of blessed memory, the former Chief Rabbi of Rotterdam
My grandfather Rabbi Levi Vorst, of blessed memory, the former Chief Rabbi of Rotterdam
On the hundredth anniversary of her passing her great-grandson visited her grave in an abandoned section of the cemetery. Visitors had no reason to make their way to this area. Who did they know there?

The letters were hard to read but they were there.

Kaila bas Yehuda had been put to rest 100 years earlier like all her neighbors in the cemetery. But only she has hundreds of living descendents.

She had a son saying kaddish for her for the next 80 years. She has millions of good deeds, mitzvahs, being performed because of her short stay down here. Her soul is constantly going up higher as a result of that.

Was it a tragedy? Yes.

Was it a tragedy? Is it possible to say now that she was not forgotten? Yes

G‑d's ways are mysterious, but she is still alive within us, her grandchildren and all those that they influence.

Her grandchildren are Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in The Hague, Netherlands; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Amstelveen, Netherlands; Manchester, United Kingdom; Yerres, France; Chernigov, Ukraine; Israel; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Anonymous Tzfat, Israel August 19, 2010

an amazing perspective on life this story gives much chizuk (encouragement, strength) for those events that seem so tragic at the time in our own lives. Much better than the usual platitudes. Reply

Anonymous NH, Conn. July 24, 2009

G-d runs the world that is real yichus. Not who your grandparents were, but who your children and grandchildren are. WOW!!! When you have the possibility to see the larger than life picture, you see that from the actual tzarah,suffering, comes the Tzohar,the brilliant light.What an inspiring and amazing story. Reply

John H. Minneapolis, MN via July 24, 2009

Left 2-year-old orphan Sorry Dick Dennis,
According to the Jewish religion even the loss of one parent makes a child an orphan. A boy passed the age of "Bar Mitzvah" is obligated to recite Mourners/ Orphans Kaddish for eleven months.
To illustrate how serious it is: The Mourners Kaddish cannot be recited by anyone whose parents are still alive! Reply

Yochanan Ivry Staten Island , NY July 23, 2009

Other decendents I believe there is also a great-grandchild in Grand Rapids Michigan serving as a shlucha Reply

chana y. brooklyn, ny July 23, 2009

sad so sad for the child
we should every day be gratful for what G-d gives us that some people dont have Reply

Moshe July 23, 2009

Thank you! Thank you very much for this article. It really put in perspective the small troubles that I have and how everything is ultimately for our best, because it is G-d who truly runs the world! Thank you so much! Reply

Chaim Leime S.M., ca via July 23, 2009

Great Woman! By her accomplishments, Namley Her Great Off Spring we know that she is Great. Reply

Anonymous amsterdam, Netherlands July 23, 2009

We have to thank G'd for all that comes to us. The good and the bad, as hard as that might be sometimes. Because we can't see beyond our own life, but G'd can see the 'bigger picture' . Reply

Anonymous Silverdale, WA, USA July 22, 2009

Young mother dies Here I sit reading this sad story. I am in a small town in a remote part of the world, wiping tears from my eyes and feeling pain and joy in my heart for a woman whom I have never known or met who died 100 years ago. The Good lives beyond all limits of time and evil and finds the heart of those who are open to the song. G-d bless this family. Reply

Asher brooklyn July 22, 2009

Flashback...103 years! RESPONSE Great woman?
Negative tone?

We don't know anything about her and there is no reason to assume she was 'great'.
The point of the article is to bring out G-d's mysterious ways.
What we experience as negative is negative but the future might be brighter and unexpected. Reply

Hugh Willemse Brussels, Belgium July 22, 2009

Thank you for your wonderful and moving article. G'd's ways are mysterious and at the same time the very smallest of our own deeds can change the whole world without us realizing it. All about us has been build up by our ancestors: as their influence lives forever in their offspring, so will our own influence live forever in all people to follow us, without limit of responsibility, nor for the great and influential nor for the smallest of creatures, whose influence may turn out to be greater than of all together. No one is insignificant. Hitler had ancestors and so did Einstein. Let's do our best and hope that our influence will once make the world a better place, like your great-grandmother's life did. Reply

Dennis NYC July 22, 2009

Flashback...103 years! Very interesting way of constructing an article… I could think of a few different ways of memorializing a great woman. Why strike such a negative tone? Reply

Asher brooklyn July 22, 2009

Orphan definition wikipedia:

In the common use, an orphan must not have any surviving parent to care for him. However, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), and other groups label any child that has lost one parent as an orphan. In this approach, a maternal orphan is a child whose mother has died, a paternal orphan is a child whose father has died, and a double orphan has lost both parents.[4] This contrasts with the older use of half-orphan to describe children that had lost only one parent.[5] Reply

Dick Dennis Sun City, CA/USA July 22, 2009

Left a 2-year-old orphan? I am sorry, Asher. But I just could not let this little boo-boo pass by. Besides, I don't think you would want it to continue as such.

An orphan is usually a child who has lost BOTH parents. Since the widower was still there, the two-year-old is not an orphan. Right?

Be well. Reply

yosef marcus shmateo July 22, 2009

maybe to change the title? strike me as insensitive... Reply

David Miami, FL July 21, 2009

Beautiful and Heartfelt Thank you for sharing this with us. It really puts much into perspective Reply

simcha Frankel Los Angeles, Ca July 21, 2009

Thank you Thank you for putting life and its seeming tragedies into perspective. May Hashem bring Moshiach now. Reply

Anonymous stoughton, MA April 30, 2009

Touching This was such a touching article- i never thought of how true it is- what seems to be a tragedy can always have it's positive sides as well. Reply

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