The Razel Family Mourns Savta Fanny
This morning I heard that Savta Fanny passed away this last Shabbat at the age of 96. Savta Fanny Roselaar was the grandmother of singers Yonatan, Aaron Razel, and Ricka Razel and over the last two decades or so I would meet her at Razel family events–brises, bar mitzvahs, baby-namings etc. I was really fond of Savta Fanny, until the end she was a very strong, vivacious, regal woman. And she had an amazing smile.
Savta Fanny was born in 1920 in Germany. When, in 1933, Hitler forbade Jews from attending German schools, 13-year-old Fanny, in disbelief (and with characteristic determination) showed up at school anyway. The principal, whom she had previously greatly admired, slapped her across the face and called her a “Jewish swine” who was not welcome at his school. At that point her parents realized the time had come to flee Germany to Holland.
By the time the Nazis entered Holland, Fanny was married and expecting her first child. Righteous gentiles hid Fanny and her family for two years, and she and her immediate family survived the war. Tragically, most of her extended family did not.
Often when I hear about Holocaust survivors and their families, I think of the power and awesome potential of every Jew. One Jew who survived the Shoah, Rabbi Lau, became a Chief Rabbi. Another survivor, the Klausenberger Rebbe, rebuilt a Chassidic empire. And
another survivor, Fanny Roselaar, became the grandmother of the some of today’s greatest Jewish musicians. This reminds me, again, of the unfathomable tragedy and loss of the 6 million, 6 million souls with infinite potential snuffed out like candles in the darkest of nights.
The first thing I thought of when I heard that Savta Fanny had passed away was a story I shared about her in my second book, One Baby Step at a Time . 17 years ago I wrote:
“This past Shabbat, at the kiddush for a new baby born in my community, I went up to the baby’s great-grandmother, an impressive and noble woman who was born in Germany, and wished her a big mazal tov. She said to me with tremendous pride, ‘You know, this is my fifteenth great-grandchild.’ And the great-grandmother, who is not an observant woman, continued, ‘Not long ago a very religious woman told me that I am forbidden by Jewish tradition to state the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren I have. But,’ and her voice took on the slightest tremor, ‘I told her that as a person who lost seventy of her family members in Auschwitz, I think I am entitled to count my great-grandchildren. Don’t you?'”
Since that kiddush many more great-grandchildren were born to Savta Fanny–she is survived by 45 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great grandchildren who loved her very much. And until the end, even when it was extremely difficult, Savta Fanny made sure to attend every simcha, remembering her loved ones who had been taken, and counting every grandchild, great-grandchild, and great-great grandchildren she had been given with profound joy and gratitude.
Here is a video made about Savta Fanny’s visit to her childhood school with her sister, Betty.