Home Community Halina Zimm: 2023 Sofie Stahl Memorial Award recipient

Halina Zimm: 2023 Sofie Stahl Memorial Award recipient

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Halina Zimm

Jewish Women International proudly announces Halina Zimm as the 2023 recipient of the Sofie Stahl Memorial Award.

Originally created by The Day chapter of JWI (then B’nai B’rith Women) and the Stahl Family, the award honors a Jewish woman whose volunteerism demonstrates a life-long commitment to helping those in the Richmond metropolitan area. Winners of this highly coveted honor (with few exceptions, given annually since 1963) are chosen by previous years’ recipients.

Honored on May 7

This year Mrs. Zimm will be honored at a brunch on Sunday, May 7, at the Weinstein JCC.

A well-respected Holocaust Survivor turned educator, Halina experienced the horrors of the Nazi era close up.

Born in Lodz, Poland, Halina’s parents raised her and her sisters, Helen and Nana, where all enjoyed a pleasant life.

Her father was among the few who believed the “rumors” of what was happening to the Jews of Poland, and so he obtained forged birth certificates for Halina and Helen.

Two weeks before the Nazis invaded, the girls said goodbye to their family. Halina escaped to Warsaw, where there were courageous people willing to help her – and many more who made her life terrifying.

At the train station, when Halina needed help, one woman came to her aid and took her in. Unfortunately, neighbors began asking so many questions that Halina knew she needed to leave.

She found work as a housekeeper for a young couple who lived directly across the street from the Warsaw Ghetto!

One of the chilling moments occurred after she saw a woman, whom she knew from Lodz, at the market. The woman denounced Halina and shortly thereafter, two Nazis came to the apartment and accused Halina of being a Jew.

Also, during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising she was so close that she could hear people in the Ghetto wailing while the Nazis dynamited the buildings where Jews were hiding.

Following liberation by the Russians, Halina met her husband Alan and together they immigrated to the United States, settling in Richmond.

While raising a family, Halina nonetheless became active in the Richmond community. Closest to her heart, has been her belief that she must share her experiences during the Holocaust.

Hearing her Story

Over many years, Halina’s hope that after hearing her story, people will be inspired to make a difference in the world.

Therefore, she has told as much as she could to countless different groups: students, teachers, community, military, and religious organizations. She and her family have donated many items to the Virginia Holocaust Museum (VHM) in order to educate others about their lives and experiences during the Holocaust.

The highlight of the VHM annual teacher education class each summer has been her impactful narration about her life – that of an actual Survivor.

Speaking about her experiences has admittedly been difficult, but because so few did not survive, she has persevered with hers. This has led to a proud Halina being invited by several Holocaust museums and organizations including Yad Vashem, Yale University archives, the VHM as well as the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum (USMHM, this past May, through the USC Shoah Foundation for their Dimensions in Testimony project), to bear witness.

Her interview at the VHM, available to the public, is in the archives and can be accessed through their online collection.

At the USMHM for their pioneering project, currently in the editing stage, Halina was interviewed over five days (as were a few other Survivors). The project, in which Halina will be a hologram, “integrates advanced filming techniques, specialized display technologies and next generation natural language processing to create an interactive biography… Now and far into the future, museumgoers, students, and others can have conversational interactions with these eyewitnesses to history to learn from those who were there.”

Halina believes that bearing witness by sharing her experience is an important responsibility. According to her nomination, “Halina has a passion for teaching and is thankful to have the opportunity to share her message with thousands.

Making a Difference

And what a difference she has made! In fact, besides the Sofie Stahl Memorial Award, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities bestowed its 2022 Diversity Award upon Halina.

Halina has contributed in other ways, whether paid or volunteering or fun. In business and while raising her children, Halina managed two apartment buildings owned by her and Alan. She has collected rents and solved problems (her daughter Ruth calls her “the original problem solver!”).

Volunteerism

Her volunteer work has been with the Richmond Chapter of Hadassah (vice president of education, 1983-1985 and membership V.P. 1991-1993) for which she has brought in numerous speakers and many new members.

She has been an active member of the Jewish Women’s Club (1982 – present). In the 1990s she was a Temple Beth- El board member.

Halina has helped to fundraise monies for the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond including working Super Sunday for at least 10 years as well as for other Federation projects.

For fun, she is an avid mahjong player.

 RSVP for Brunch

On Sunday, May 7 (10:30 a.m.), Mrs. Zimm will be honored at a brunch at the Weinstein JCC. The public is encouraged to join JWI, the Stahl family, previous Sofie Stahl recipients as well as Halina’s family and friends for the presentation of this richly deserved award.

Per person couvert for the brunch is $50. Pledge levels are Gold $75 and Platinum $125.

To RSVP, checks (payable to JWI) should be mailed by April 21 to JWI, c/o Arlene Slutzah, 4907 Daffodil Circle, Glen Allen, VA 23060.

For more information contact Arlene at 747-0765 or arlene4907@gmail.com.

About JWI

Founded in 1897, JWI is the leading Jewish organization championing women and girls (i.e., everyone who experiences the world as female) – of every race, culture, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation – by protecting their rights and safety, strengthening access to long-term eco-nomic security, and lifting and mentoring women leaders.

JWI envisions a world, free of violence and inequity, where all women and girls thrive.

As in past years, proceeds from the Sofie Stahl event support JWI’s National Library Initiative. This program provides for a woman fleeing an abusive relationship, when the immediacy of danger often means leaving home with only her children and the clothes on their backs, and where JWI helps ease this traumatic upheaval by creating children’s libraries in domestic violence shelters – transforming basic spaces into comforting havens with colorful furniture and rugs, computers and toys, and hundreds of new books that represent the diversity of the women and children served.

For kids whose lives have been upended by violence, JWI libraries provide a safe place to relax, escape into a book, and keep up with homework when they’re most at risk of falling behind in school.

    JWI’s goal is to complete 100 fully-furnished new libraries in shelters across the country, and continually restock the shelves of existing ones so that each child leaves the shelter with a favorite book in hand, ready to start a new life.