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Zina Pelzman

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Zina Pelzman Obituary
Zina Pelzman, aged 93, of Brookline, formerly of Lutsk, Poland, passed away on November 23, 2015. A Holocaust survivor who emigrated with her family to Boston in 1960, Zina embraced the American dream, prizing hard work, education and the joys of raising her family. A cornerstone of the Temple Beth Zion community and grandmother figure to many in the congregation, Zina was remembered last week at a moving funeral service at the synagogue, where eight of her grandchildren shared memories and stories from the many chapters of her long and miraculous life. The youngest of six children, Zina was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust, escaping to the forest as a young teenager as the Nazis massacred the 30,000 Jews of Lutsk. Her father, Rabbi Yosef Dovid Geller HaCohen, was a teacher at the Lubavitch yeshiva led by Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, the "Lutsker Rav," who had been his close friend when they were both students. Reb Yosef was the youngest of 23 brothers, and their father had been an officer in the Russian Czar's army. With the exception of a cousin who had escaped to Israel, Zina's entire clan perished in the Shoah. Alone, Zina jumped trains and relied on the kindness of strangers, before finding refuge with an elderly Russian woman, who allowed her to sleep in an alcove above the stove, and fed herself with gleanings from the nearby fields. She was soon discovered and sent to Siberia to work in an ammunition factory until the end of the war. Returning to Lutsk on a furlough from the factory, Zina found her father's large home occupied by another family. She demanded to be let into the house and, with nowhere else to sleep, spent the night on their couch. With her trademark determination, Zina found two friends of her family who would serve as witnesses and, along with a check for back taxes, Zina reclaimed her inheritance. She found work as a waitress at a restaurant, where she met Abraham Pelzman, a soldier 12 years her senior who had been a friend of her older brother, Srulik, before the war. She nursed him back to health and they married, which ended her commitment to return to the ammunition factory. She gave birth to two children, but recognized that Lutsk was still unsafe for Jews. They secured visas to Poland, and from there, passage to Israel, through Italy, in 1957. In Israel, the family lived in a one-room mabora in the desert before buying a small apartment in Rishon LeZion. Despite the help of a third cousin she reunited with there, life was very hard as work was scarce. Always focused on what was best for her family, Zina convinced Abraham to contact his brother, Louis Pelzman, of Dorchester, who sponsored the family's application to emigrate to America. In Boston, Zina worked as a seamstress at Trimont Clothing, while Abraham worked as a carpenter. She studied English and then passed an exam to operate a punch card machine - in what was the dawn of the computer age - for Sears & Roebuck, in Fenway, where she worked until her retirement. The importance of education was the most important value she could instill in her son Joseph, who earned a PhD in Economics at Boston College to become a professor at George Washington University, and daughter Lilly, who would go on to become a leader in the Special Education department for the town of Walpole. In her retirement, Zina, who lived near Coolidge Corner for three decades, volunteered at the Temple Beth Zion office and for the Brookline Election Commission, proudly checking off names of voters performing their civic duty in her adopted country. Zina moved to the Springhouse assisted living facility, in Jamaica Plain, three years ago, and passed away in her sleep, with her son and daughter by her side, at the Seasons hospice, in Milton, where she was serenaded in song by friends and family who held vigil there during her last week of life. She was the beloved wife of Abraham Pelzman, who predeceased her in 1980, and devoted mother of Joseph Pelzman and wife Linda Kern Pelzman, and Lilly Pelzman and husband Jeffrey Borenstein. She was the adored and loving grandmother of Sarah Felicia Pelzman, Philip Pelzman and wife Dana, Amos Kern-Peretz, Ilana Pelzman, and Jacob Pelzman; Joshua Levitt and wife Halle Heyman, Benjamin Levitt and wife Lesley, and Anna Levitt; Danielle Schulman and husband Daniel, David Borenstein, and Elliot Borenstein. She loved to qvell over her cherished great-grandchildren Ethan, Boaz, Shai, and Orli, Raya and Leo, and great-grand dog Archer. Her family has encouraged remembrances in Zina's honor to any of those many charities she supported during her long life, helping Holocaust survivors, cancer and dialysis patients, and those in need, as well as those groups that continue to teach the Yiddish language and support Israel. At Temple Beth Zion, her family intends to sponsor a musical program to encourage others to share her joy of song and dance. Arrangements handled by Brezniak-Rodman Funeral Directors. www.brezniakrodman.com
Published in The Brookline Tab from Dec. 1 to Dec. 10, 2015
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