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Cantor Henry Drejer
March 15, 1924-March 20, 2020
Henry arrived at the United States in 1949 and settled in San Francisco, where he served as a cantor at Congregation B’nai Emunah. The synagogue was founded in 1949 by refugees and Holocaust survivors. He served there for 38 years.
Henry was born on March 15, 1924 in Slupca (District of Konin), Poland. His father was a wheat merchant and his mother was a lyric soprano who studied voice in Germany. At a very young age, he sang in a cantorial choir at the Slupca Synagogue, performing solo pieces at age 6.
With the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Slupca Synagogue was destroyed and burned by the Nazis. In 2005, the building was returned to the Jewish community. From age 8 to 14 Henry went to Yavney, a Zionist Orthodox School where only Hebrew was spoken.
At age 14, all Jews were barred from attending public school. From 1939-40 Henry studied tailoring at a Jewish trade school, and later worked in a tailor shop for men’s clothing. This skill was significant, as it saved his life in the camps.
From 1939-941, all able-bodied Jews were taken to day work camps outside of the city (workers could still return to their homes after work). Teenagers were also conscripted into day labor camps and it was during that period that Henry returned home one day to find that all the Jews had been rounded up and taken from the town, including his family. After the war Henry learned that in October 1941, the Jewish community of Slupca, was transported to the forest of Kazimierz Biskupi and murdered — they were put into lime pits and buried alive.
In 1941, at age 17 Henry was taken by cattle train to Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp.
At the camp, Henry was able to organize a tailor’s shop for the Nazi officers with the help of other Jewish tailors in the camp, saving the lives of all the tailors that worked there. In 1942 Henry and the shop were moved to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp System in Austria.
Mauthausen had 22 sub-camps. Henry would spend the rest of the war there, being moved two more times to camps within that camp system.
The first camp Henry was in Melk, Austria. It is unknown how long Henry was interred in Melk, but after Melk he was moved to Ebensee, Austria. Ebensee was established in 1943 and held a total of approximately 27,278 male inmates. Over half the people interned in this camp perished. Ebensee was considered one of the most diabolical concentration camps.
Henry’s final move was to the main camp in Mauthausen. On May 6, 1945 Mauthausen and its sub-camps were liberated by the United States 80th Infantry Division.
After liberation Henry was relocated to Innsbruck, Austria, through the help of Joint Distribution Committee which arranged housing, clothing, food, medical care and vocational training. Henry lived in Innsbruck until he immigrated to America in 1949.
He first arrived in New Orleans, with his first wife and infant daughter Francis. Three months after his arrival he was relocated San Francisco, where he was to spend the rest of his life.
In 1961 Henry married his second wife, Miriam Gilon who had two children, Elisheva and Yitzhak, from a previous marriage. He worked by day as a senior cutter in the high fashion dresses and gowns department at the dressmaking company Emma Domb.
Every year on Holocaust Memorial Day, Henry would officiate outside the Palace of the Legion of Honor, at the site of the famous sculpture created by artist George Segal to commemorate the Holocaust.
After retirement Henry enrolled at the Holocaust Center in the William J. Lowenberg Speakers Bureau. The speaker’s bureau invites Holocaust survivors and eyewitnesses to give first-hand accounts and to tell their stories of genocide in the public school system, teaching children and youth to learn the importance of tolerance, embracing diversity and combating hatred. After telling his story, the children would run up to him and want to touch him. They would try to hold his hand and tug at his jacket. They all loved him, loved his energy and most of all his jokes — he was a very funny guy!
Henry lived his life through his voice. He sang and chanted cantorial arias every moment and every day of his life, from the moment he rose until bedtime. He loved the great classical, original melodies composed by the great cantorial composers, such as, Salomon Sulzer and Louis Lewandowski, and the great voice of Yossele Rosenblatt. His voice was his lifeline in the camps. He sang for the inmates and secretly provided services for them. He was saved by a nurse at the camp when he was sick, by singing her mother’s lullaby songs for an aspirin.
But the dead were always with him. When he was forced to sing in the camps while they shot people in the yard and the lager while God turned his face away, he swore that one day he would sing in a synagogue again and make every song matter. Henry felt that if God turned his face away when he sang to him in the camps, perhaps God would hear him in synagogue and be reminded of when God looked away.
Every moment of his life he strove for a time of joy, laughter and the pleasure of chanting the song of praise. Henry was never the fallen victim — he was the warrior of survival. He worked tirelessly to be the voice of the dead left behind.
Due to coronavirus restrictions on gatherings, Henry was laid to rest in a small private ceremony on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at Eternal Home in Colma. Only members of his family were allowed to be present. Cantor Rudy Hassid of Congregation Ner Tamid, of which Henry was a member, officiated.
Henry is survived by his loving family of three children: Frankie Besch of Indianapolis; Elisheva and her husband Chaim Gur-Arieh of El Dorado County; and Yitzhak and his wife Betsy Gilon of El Dorado County. He is also survived by his three loving grandchildren: Sivan Gur-Arieh, her partner Chris Daddio, and their son Nico Daddio of Oakland; Yosefa Gilon of Palo Alto; Paloma, her husband Mark Korich and their children, Amana and Kamara of Centennial, Colorado.
If you wish to make a donation in Henry’s honor, the family has designated the American Jewish Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-891-1454.
With deep sorrow,
The Besch, Gur-Arieh, Gilon, Korich and Daddio families
December 10, 1923-April 10, 2020
Warren Yale Fineman passed away peacefully on April 10, 2020 at age 96. He was born on December 10, 1923 in San Francisco to Gertrude and Nathan Fineman.
Warren leaves behind his most cherished wife, Vonda. He is also survived by his two loving, devoted daughters, Gayle Null (Clark Beckstead) and Shelley Homel (David), his adoring grandchildren, Michael (Beth), Rachael, Robyn (Michael) and Kevin, and six beloved great-grandchildren, Joshua, Eleanor, Natalia, Jacob, Omry and Zev. Warren is also survived by his beloved brother Don (Trude) Fineman, and he leaves behind many loving nieces and nephews. Warren proudly served in the U.S. Navy during WW II, was in the furniture business in the Bay Area for many years and subsequently retired to Reno, Nevada.
A memorial service is planned for a later date due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Donations may be made in his memory to the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, 302 Silver Ave., San Francisco, CA 94112.
Apri 11, 2020
Madelyne (Maddi) Misheloff, beloved daughter, wife, mother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, grandmother and friend, died quietly on April 11 after a valiant battle with cancer.
Maddi was born to Gerson (Buddy) and Judy Abramson in Neptune, New Jersey, and grew up in Oakhurst, New Jersey. After graduating from high school, she attended the American University in Washington, D.C. Maddi met her husband, Mike, in 1967. They married in 1971.
They have three children, Robert, Brian and Ilene. Ilene disappeared in 1989 and has yet to be recovered. Robert and his wife, Rita, have two children, Maddie and Lauren. She is also survived by her brother Steve, sister-in-law Kathy and niece Michelle.
For Maddi, grandmothering was the heart of her heart and her deepest joy. Maddi was very devoted to her family and friends. She was extremely friendly, leaving new acquaintances feeling they were best friends. In her empathetic nature toward her relatives and friends, she felt keenly their joys and sorrows. Friends and colleagues remember Maddi for the grace and zest with which she approached all of life. Her gentility and authenticity shined through her endearing presence to all. She was a faithful and dear friend who loved times with her girlfriends. Maddi had a keen mind, varied expertise, a strong work ethic, determination and dedication in all that she did. Most especially, she was a model of strength and resiliency in the face of personal tragedy and her illness. She is a teacher to us all in this.
Maddi was an exquisite knitter, even designing her own patterns, at least one of which was published. She loved travel, which took her and Mike around the world. As they made their way, they made many friends with whom they have kept in touch.
Maddi inspired us all. She will be most remembered for her beauty inside and out. She will live on in our hearts and shared memories always.
In these unusual times, Temple Beth Sholom, where Mike and Maddi are members, will convene a Zoom shiva on Wednesday, April 15 at 7 p.m. for the congregation. At a later date, a celebration of life will be planned. Charitable donations in Maddi’s memory may be made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Misheloff family expresses deep gratitude for all the prayers and support coming their way.
Frances Friedman Weiner
June 28, 1925-April 10, 2020
Frances Friedman Weiner, of West Hartford, Connecticut, died on April 10 at age 94. She survived her husband, Solon Weiner, with whom she shared a loving and deeply committed relationship, and with whom she anchored a home layered in Jewish and social values.
She grew up in an immigrant Jewish family in Hartford, daughter of the late Israel and Lena (Chorches) Friedman. She identified herself first, by her immediate and extended family, and second, by the web of the Hartford Jewish community. She was inseparable from her identical twin sister, Dorothy Friedman Wernick, who predeceased her. A proud graduate of Weaver High School in Hartford, Class of 1943, and a student at the University of Connecticut, she started her career as a Comparison Shopper at the G. Fox Department Store in Hartford and then, together with Dottie, was the proprietor of a millinery shop on Main Street. After marriage, like many of her generation, she focused on being and thrived as a wife and mother in the post-War years. She exemplified the truth that the Greatest Generation was not just great because of its menfolk.
Fran was the loving mother of Lori (Weiner) Rosenthal and David Rosenthal of Oakland, Andrew Weiner and Debra Lewin Weiner of Scarsdale, NY, and Howard Weiner and Patti Weber Weiner of West Hartford, CT; adored grandmother of Joshua (Rachel), Hannah (Adam), Ross (Jane), Elizabeth (Andrew), Stephanie (Jeff), Emma, and Rebecca; and an adoring great-grandmother of seven.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Weiner Family Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation, 333 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford, CT 06117, or to Temple Beth Abraham, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94610.