Happy 98th Birthday, Mom!

My mother will be celebrating her 98th birthday, please G-d, on Tuesday, February 7. I would like to share with you the message that Nathaniel sent to our local newspaper.

Have a wonderful month of February,


This Tuesday, February 7, Ruth Blumenthal Meyberg, my mother-in-law, will celebrate her 98th birthday in her own apartment in Far Rockaway, Queens. Perhaps reaching this age has become somewhat commonplace, but this unassuming and refined lady almost did not make it past her 37th birthday, and Ruth’s life has decidedly not been commonplace.

On April 23, 1945, Ruth, along with her husband Walter, and 2 children, Albert and Marion, were liberated from a “death train” by the Russian Army. This train, en-route for 2 full weeks, was transporting 2,500 concentration camp inmates from the notorious Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen eastwards, towards the extermination camps, without food or water, without medical supplies or sanitary facilities.

The survivors were led by the Russians to a nearby farm village in eastern Germany. As most of the villagers had fled, the survivors took over their homes. Ruth, at age 37, and with 6 ½ years of transient and concentration camp life behind her, weighed less than 70 pounds. 

Walter died of typhus 6 weeks after liberation, leaving a very sick, weak and exhausted young widow, penniless, stateless and homeless - not knowing what the future held in store for her and her 2 young children.

The family was repatriated to Holland, where Albert and Marion were placed in a Jewish Youth Aliyah home, with the intention of emigrating to Palestine. Ruth lived in Amsterdam, recovered her strength, learned Dutch, and found employment as a masseuse and manicurist. She traveled to clients by bicycle.

In 1947, just one year prior to Israel becoming a state, an illegal passage to Palestine was planned, and danger once again loomed over them. Ruth then made arrangements for the family of 3 to emigrate to America. The Blumenthals arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey April 23, 1948, 3 years to the day of their liberation. Thanks to the Holland-America Line, the family was able to use the tickets which had been purchased 10 years earlier.

The Jewish Immigration Aid Society helped relocate the Blumenthal family to Peoria, Illinois. Ruth found employment as a domestic day worker, which helped provide hand-me down clothing for the family. Ruth later worked as a skilled seamstress. 

After Marion’s marriage in 1953, and Albert’s completion of college and start of his military service, Ruth relocated to the West Coast where she lived and worked for many years. In 1990, at the age of 82, Ruth reluctantly left her “beautiful” San Francisco for New York, to be closer to her daughter. Ruth has now been living in the JASA housing complex in Far Rockaway for the past 16 years in what she describes as a homey, warm, comfortable, beautiful apartment. Her only complaint – many of the Russian immigrants who have moved into the building in recent years prefer speaking Russian, creating somewhat of a communication difficulty for Ruth.

Ruth maintains a close telephone connection with Albert, who lives in northern California, and a very close, loving connection with Marion, a resident of Hewlett, New York for over 45 years.

Marion’s Triumph, recently aired on public television, is a documentary about the Blumenthal family’s experiences during the Holocaust, and describes Marion’s mission to tell this story in schools and organizations with the hope of furthering tolerance and respect among people of various religious beliefs, colors of skin, or national origins.

Four Perfect Pebbles, Marion’s memoir, co-authored by Lila Perl, tells of her childhood years in Nazi Germany, in the concentration camps, liberation, and, finally, the start of life anew. The memoir is read in schools nationwide. Marion speaks far and wide, and by her estimate, has spoken to over 400,000 students and adults in 25 states, Germany and Israel. Ruth occasionally accompanies Marion to a local presentation. So, as we approach Ruth’s 98th birthday, we say “Mazal Tov, and may she live to 120 in good health!” 

Other than Tylenol for occasional back pain, Ruth takes no medication. I can’t conceive of a better, sweeter, more loving mother-in-law, than Ruth, a lady who carries within her no trace of bitterness or anger from the past. Just this past week, “Mom” sewed a button on to one of my dress shirts!

Mom exudes pride in her 2 children, 3 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. The way she sees it, “Hitler did not win!” 

As we say in our circle, Mom is an Eishet Chayil – a true Woman of Valor. Ruth is most definitely one of my heroines. Marion, of course, is the other!

With much love and gratitude,
Nathaniel Lazan