All her life, Rima was treated just a little bit differently by her mother. She was made to work harder than her younger siblings. There was always something which made her feel a little left out. Her feelings were always dismissed. “ You are the oldest,” her father said, “ we expect more from you.” Rima new something was wrong.
Years went by, Rima grew up, got married and had 2 children of her own. Then in 1977 her father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was told he would not live very long. On his death bed, he asked to speak to Rima privately. He then told her the truth about her mother.
The woman Rima has called Mother, all her life was in fact, not her mother. Her father explained that in 1933, he had married a beautiful Jewish woman. She became pregnant and they were looking forward to creating a family. Tensions in Kiev were high and Jews were nervous. One day a rumor went through the city that Jews were being rounded up. In fear for her parents life this young Jewish woman ran to the theater where they worked but she was too late. In utter shock from the loss of her parents, she went into labor. With only the help of a theater worker to help with the delivery, baby Rima was born.
Rima’s father heard the news and ran to the theater but he only found his new baby. His wife had fled in fear. Trying to do what he thought best, Rima was placed in an orphanage with the promise from her father that he would return for her when he remarried. He did return and he did remarry but Rima’s new mother never loved her as her own.
At the age of 42, Rima’s world was turned upside down. She was Jewish. In search of answers, Rima found out the name of the theater in Kiev and went to visit . There she found an empty bench, sat down, and cried. She cried for her childhood and the mother she had never known. While crying, an old theater worker came over to ask her what was wrong. Rima told this stranger her story. The worker started to cry. She was the one who had helped Rima’s mother during the birth. She remember that day like it was yesterday.
Within the FJC, we hear stories like this all the the time- deathbed confessions, family secrets, hidden stories. Rima’s story was told to our community center leaders in Ulyanovsk while she was visiting for a Shabbat dinner. That Friday night she lit Shabbat candles for the first time…