Jewish Life

Bonds of Life: Memorializing those we lost to COVID-19

Race care driver Cyril Wick dressed British, thought Yiddish

(JTA) – There was something exotic and debonair about Cyril Wick in the 1950s.

Wick had just completed his service in Britain’s Royal Air Force and was studying engineering when he decided that he wanted to become a race car driver. In the years that followed, he would take part in prestigious races like that at Le Mans, France, making a name for himself in the world of motorsports until an accident forced his retirement in 1955.

“He was a knight in a shining sports car,” recalled his third wife Roberta “Robbie” Wick. Wick, who died from COVID-19 on April 10, was born in 1929 in London to Jewish immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. He was educated at the prestigious Harrow School, where he faced antisemitic taunts during sporting matches.

“He was like James Bond,” Balaban said. “He raced cars and wore cool suits and did cool things and yet was passionately Jewish.” Wick was a supporter of numerous Jewish organizations, Balaban said.

His approach was very much “dress British, think Yiddish,” she said. “He spoke like an old Harrovian, but also sang songs in Yiddish and dirty Russian. He taught his children an English drinking song and we sang sea shanties at my wedding in his honor.”

As the founder of engineering firm Diffusion Alloys, he developed a number of techniques for coating metals in chrome and titanium, working with such corporate giants as General Electric and Lufthansa. He also created a diverse workforce including women and people of color. Wick continued to run the firm until selling it at age 82.

Holocaust survivor Felicia Friedman refused to relinquish her faith

(JTA) – In 1939, 13-year-old Felicia Friedman was ripped from her family and sent to the Płaszow concentration camp outside Krakow, Poland, where she saw the infamous Nazi war criminal Amon Göth kill her six-year-old cousin.

After later hearing another teenaged inmate declare that after all she had witnessed she no longer believed in God, Deutscher responded that God did exist but that humans had chosen the path of evil.

“My father – her husband to be – overheard the conversation and was very impressed by the remarks of this young girl,” Friedman’s son, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, told JTA. “They agreed to meet again if they were both able to survive the war.”

After the war, Friedman discovered that her entire family had been wiped out by the Nazis, but she managed to reconnect with the young man from Płaszow. The pair married and attempted to make their way to pre-state Israel. Turned away at the Italian border, they ended up in a displaced persons camp in Germany before moving to the United States in 1947.

Friedman, who died of COVID-19 in New York on May 19 at the age of 94, wound up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where she began taking night classes to improve her English while working as a bookkeeper and raising a family. While lacking a formal Jewish education beyond age 13, Friedman was a proud and committed Jew. In Auschwitz, declined to beg for mercy from a guard who was beating her, even though the guard promised he would stop if she did. In America, she chose to raise her children with joy despite all she had endured, telling one of her grandchildren that the number tattooed on her arm was her phone.

“You moved to Florida,” the child said in response. “Didn’t you have to change your number?”

Friedman is survived by two children and 20 grandchildren.

Painter Sylvia Glenn befriended Margaret Mead

(JTA) – As a young girl, Sylvia Glenn enjoyed making chalk drawings on the sidewalk outside her family’s Brooklyn apartment. As an adult, that creative impulse led to a degree in art, professional work at national magazines (including Life) and a lifelong passion for the arts that she pursued well into her 90s.

Glenn explored a range of styles in her paintings, including abstraction, fashion illustration and Japanese Sumie ink painting, according to her daughter Laura Glenn. Many of her paintings now hang in the homes of her four children. Several of them also surrounded Glenn at the assisted living facility in Nashua, New Hampshire, where she died on March 31 of COVID-19. She was 98.

Sylvia Grauer Glenn was born in Brooklyn in 1921. After college, she married Jules Glenn, who she first met in elementary school. While raising four children, Glenn found time to garden, cultivating plants and flowers that were often the subject of her still life paintings. Their home became a regular hangout for their friends, including the rock bands of her sons Mel and Russ.

“There was a lively, creative atmosphere and plenty to eat and drink,” Laura wrote in an email.

When her kids were teens, Glenn returned to school and earned a master’s degree in anthropology at New York University. She studied with the prominent cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead and the two became friends.

In her 90s, Glenn published The Twisted Tree, a novel set in Bali that she originally wrote decades earlier. With Laura’s assistance, they published copies for family, friends and residents and staff of the retirement community to which Glenn had moved to be nearer to two of her children.

Glenn is survived by her four children: Russell, Mel, Laura and Janet; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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