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Goldie Steinberg, World’s Oldest Jewish Person, Passes Away at 114

Goldie Steinberg, World’s Oldest Jewish Person, Passes Away at 114

She lived through the Kishinev pogroms and on her own until 10 years ago

Goldie Steinberg, taken in October 2013 (Photo: Dovid Margolin)
Goldie Steinberg, taken in October 2013 (Photo: Dovid Margolin)

Goldie Steinberg, the sixth-oldest person in the world and the oldest Jew whose age has been verified, passed away yesterday at age 114 in Long Beach, N.Y. She was just two months shy of her 115th birthday and remained mentally sharp until her last moments.

Born Oct. 30, 1900 in Kishinev in the Russian Empire (today, Chisinau, Moldova), Steinberg was a survivor of the infamous 1903 Kishinev pogrom, during which 47 Jews were killed and hundreds more wounded; a second, smaller one, took place in 1905. Steinberg was likely the last living survivor of the massacres.

“We were saved by a Russian neighbor who made sure nothing would happen to us,” she recalled during an interview in the fall of 2013. “He told them that we weren’t Jewish.”

Steinberg was one of eight children born to Chazkel and Devorah Garfunkel, Chazkel being a respected member of Kishinev’s enormous Jewish community.

“My father dealt with customers, and he always had a name for honesty; he was known as an honest man,” Steinberg recalled, adding that when her father offered to serve as a guarantor for a 1,500 ruble loan, the lender trusted him immediately. “He said ‘[Chazkel] doesn’t need to sign; I trust him.’”

Her Life: ‘A History Lesson’

Steinberg moved to America in 1923 together with her two sisters, Raizel and Sura, where they were taken in by their father’s brother, Max Garfunkel. She lived with her uncle and aunt in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., until she met and married fellow Kishinev immigrant Philip Steinberg in 1932. The couple had two children, Don Sargent and Ann Teicher. Steinberg’s husband worked as a jeweler until his passing in 1967, after which Steinberg continued to support her family as a seamstress, working until she retired at 80.

Steinberg's father, Chazkel Garfunkel (Photo: Dovid Margolin)
Steinberg's father, Chazkel Garfunkel (Photo: Dovid Margolin)

“My grandmother’s life—surviving the pogroms, losing siblings in the Holocaust—it was a history lesson,” says her grandson Peter Kutner. “She was a very selfless person; she always thought of others. She lived on her own in Bensonhurst until she was 104 and refused to move in with my mother because she didn’t want to be a burden on her. That tells you something about her.”

At 104, Steinberg moved into the Grandell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Long Beach, N.Y., where she was known for her warmth and consideration for others. Just prior to her 113th birthday, the staff at Grandell traded stories about “Goldie,” including one about her waking up in the middle of the night to offer her coughing roommate a throat candy.

“She was a tremendously special person,” says Rabbi Eli Goodman, co-director of Chabad of the Beaches in Long Beach. “Each year there was a birthday party for her. I attended a number of them, and children from the local Jewish schools would come and sing, and bring her presents. It wasn’t just her old age that made her special; everyone truly looked up to her.”

When Kutner got a call yesterday from the doctor at Grandell telling him that his grandmother wasn’t feeling well, he drove over with his wife and mother.

“A lot of the family was there, and we Facetimed with those who weren’t, so they could all say their last goodbyes,” he says. “After she spoke to my cousin Steven and we shut the phone, we saw that she was gone. She waited until the last person.”

In addition to her two children, Steinberg is survived by four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

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Wanda krantz Ohio, USA December 10, 2015

May God bless the family in this time of grief, sounds like a truly remarkable woman who left her inprint in this long life God blessed her with. RIP IN THE ARMS OF GOD. Reply

Brenda McGee Worcester, Mass. October 1, 2015

My Sympathies My name is Brenda. I am 51 years old and raised in an Irish Catholic family in Massachusetts. I am writing a speech about Chabad Lubavitch for a class I am taking at a local community college. I am a great admirer of The Rebbe, and of your community. I want to express my sympathy to the family of this precious woman, Goldie.
I want you to know that even in her passing, she is an example to me of virtue and faith. Reply

Karen August 22, 2015

Beautiful Story! Thanks for sharing Beautiful story. Beautiful family! R.I.P Mrs Steinberg Reply

Anonymous Massachusettd August 20, 2015

"Rest in Peace" Reply

Anonymous Maryland August 18, 2015

Zahava bat Yechezkeyl v'Devorah, z"l May the name of Goldie Steinberg be a shem shel ishah tzaddik l'bracha. Reply

Richard M. Cohen Coconut Creek, FL August 18, 2015

Goldie - An Eiches Chayil What a beautiful soul resided in Ms. Steinberg. May her memory be for a blessing. Reply

Anonymous August 18, 2015

Just curious, why doesn't her son have the same last name as the father? I know that was common in Europe but was that also common in the 1940s in America? Reply

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