JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories, and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read previous columns here.
Camp and communism survivor, author
Heda Kovaly, a Czechoslovakian Jew who survived concentration camps and then Stalin’s reign of terror, died Dec. 5 at 91 in Prague, to which she had returned in 1996 after fleeing for her life in 1968 and spending many years in the United States.
Kovaly was born Heda Bloch in Prague in 1919, where her father was an executive at a factory. She and her new husband, Rudolf Margolius, were deported to the Lodz ghetto in Poland in 1941.
In August 1944, Kovaly was sent to Auschwitz with her parents, who died in the gas chambers. She escaped after the camp was evacuated in early 1945 and made her way back to Prague, but neither friends nor the farmer who had been given her property welcomed her back.
She and her husband joined the Communist Party after the war, and he became a deputy minister of foreign trade, but he was purged and executed in 1952 after a false confession extracted by torture.
In 1955 she married philosopher Pavel Kovaly and eventually became one of Czechoslovakia’s leading literary translators. Kovaly fled her homeland for the United States in 1968 and became a librarian at the Harvard University Law School.
Her 1986 memoir, "Under a Cruel Star" (1986, published in Britain in 1988 as "Prague Farewell"), which recorded the horrors she and her family had endured, opened with this lovely passage:
“Three forces carved the landscape of my life. Two of them crushed half the world. The third was a shy little bird in my rib cage an inch or two below my stomach. Sometimes in the most unexpected moments the bird would wake up, lift its head, and flutter its wing in rapture. Then I too would lift my head because, for that short moment, I would know for certain that love and hope are infinitely more powerful than hate and fury, and that somewhere beyond the line of my horizon there was life indestructible, always triumphant.”
Kovaly’s translator, Helen Epstein, wrote about her: "Working with Heda was not a piece of cake. She was an accomplished translator with a long bibliography of credits to her name. She was also a woman of the Zsa Zsa Gabor generation—petite, elegant, flirtatious, and self-effacing, insisting that I drop my feminist ideas and recognize my husband for the saint she thought him to be."
Miami-area businessman shot at his tire store
Paul Barrow, whose career in auto mechanics began in the 10th grade and who was known for his generosity with family and customers, died Dec. 17 after being shot at his tire store in the Miami area. He was 46.
Barrow, a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, moved to Miami in 1973. He started working at a suburban gas station as part of a high school work experience program.
"Paul touched the lives of thousands of people through his business,” said Shelley Acoca, a cousin. "A stack of invoices on his desk is a testament to the dozens of people who Paul had told to pay what they could when they could.”
Barrow will be remembered most for his kindness, said his brother, Danny.
"Paul had an unusual philosophy in life,” his brother said. "Everything to him was handled with two words: ‘No problem.’ Whatever situation someone needed help with, he didn’t care who it was, it was always, ‘No problem.’ "
As of Dec. 20, police were still looking for the assailant.
Lifelong Moroccan dissident, anti-Zionist
Abraham Serfaty, a lifelong Moroccan dissident whose opposition to repressive governments led to exile and imprisonment, died Nov. 17 at 84, 10 years after returning to his homeland in safety.
Serfaty was born in Casablanca to a middle-class Jewish family originally from Tangier. He joined the Communist Party in 1944, returned to Morocco in 1949 after receving an engineering degree in France, and participated in the fight against French colonialism.
In 1952 he was arrested and exiled to France under house arrest by the colonial authorities for his role as a nationalist activist. He returned home in 1956, when Morocco became independent, and worked in high-level government positions until he was removed from office for showing solidarity with a miners’ strike. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he collaborated on an anti-establishment magazine, which led to his imprisonment, torture and then exile.
In 1991, following a campaign that included appeals from Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French president, Serfaty was released from prison after 17 years, but his Moroccan citizenship was revoked and he again was exiled to France.
King Mohammed VI pardoned Serfaty and reinstated his citizenship, and Serfaty returned home to a villa and a modest income in 2000. He was later appointed adviser to the Moroccan National Office for Research and Oil.
A Dubai newspaper called Serfaty "a thorn in the side of the authorities in Morocco, both during the days of the French protectorate … and, later, under the repressive reign of King Hassan II."
"Serfaty was an activist who dedicated his life first to the anti-colonial struggle and then against the anti-democratic regime of King Hassan II," Moroccan Human Rights Association vice president Amine Abdelhamid said.
Serfaty was an anti-Zionist Jew who demanded abolition of Israel’s Law of Return and supported the creation of a Palestinian state. In one of his books, "Prison Writings on Palestine," Serfaty wrote that Zionism is a racist ideology. His other books included "Anti-Zionist Struggle and Arab Revolution" and "The Insubordinate: Jew, Moroccan and Rebel."
Carmel fire claims 44th victim, firefighter, 35
Israeli firefighter Danny Hayat, 35, died Dec. 18 at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, JTA reported. He was burned over at least two-thirds of his body and had undergone two skin transplants since the fire two weeks ago. He was in an induced coma.