This week marks the third “Yahrzeit” (3 years since the passing away) of Mrs. Sarah Muschel, z”l, a remarkable lady, my mother’s “baby cousin”, a Survivor of Auschwitz. Three particular qualities that one thinks of when thinking of the traditional “tent of Sarah” (the biblical matriarch Sarah) also remind me of the life and character of Sarah Muschel: her light that was lit and never extinguished, her bread was blessed, and her modesty and dignity which lit up her tent. In her memory I would like to share the following:
When I began my book, Food, Family and Tradition, I thought it would be a simple journey: retelling my parents’ stories and writing down their recipes. But the book took on a life of its own as I connected with relatives and friends. I came to know the lives and legends of other survivors, and I was determined to share their stories as well. What began as a personal tribute to my parents became a tribute to the strength and courage of all Holocaust survivors.
One of the most poignant stories, which touched me personally, is the story about my mother’s cousin, Suri Muschel, which appears on page 247 of the book. It is accompanied by the recipe for one of Suri’s favorites: Marble Cake. It is a beautiful dessert, and especially easy because of the natural marbling that occurs during baking.
My mother’s first cousin, Suri, Sarah Muschel, was born in a Chassidic family in Czechoslovakia, the youngest girl of eight siblings. As a young child she was sent to my mother’s family to spend one summer vacation. She was so attached to her own mother that her family thought she would want to come home immediately. Instead she had a wonderful time and did not want to come home at all. It was during this vacation that my mother first became so attached to her. Suri survived Auschwitz (she was Number A7616)as a young teenager together with her eldest sister Freida Rifka. She lost both parents and two brothers and countless other relatives. Suri came to the States in the late 1940s with her older sister Piri and met and married her husband Rabbi Nachum Muschel. Despite not speaking English when she arrived in the States, Suri not only earned a high school diploma but also a master’s degree while having four children, making a traditional home, and supporting her husband’s life work as a rabbi, Jewish educator and founder of a Jewish day school. Suri was a courageous, brilliant and capable woman, and passionate about everything she did in life. She was lovingly attached to everyone in her family and dedicated to the future generation of the Jewish people. And despite the hardships she endured throughout her life, she always maintained her sense of gratitude to God.
Her mother’s last words to her as they entered Auschwitz were, ‘Always remember you are a Jewish daughter.’ She never forgot and dedicated her life as a Jewish woman, Jewish wife, Jewish mother and grandmother. This is the legacy Suri left to all of is who were privileged to know and love her.”