Hebrew Academy’s librarians were given a very meaningful gift today by Grade 7 student Talia Aspler: two copies of her grandmother Sylvia Goodman’s memoirs. Someone to Watch Over Me: Looking back on a life of upheaval, kindness & fortune, details Mrs. Goodman’s experiences as a hidden child of the Shoah in Belgium.
In 1942, Getty & Srul Karwaser made the difficult decision to hide their three-year-old daughter Sylvia with their landlords, Alida and Charles Pontus, who selflessly – and at tremendous personal risk – offered to pass her off as their Christian grandchild. Shortly after, Mrs. Goodman’s parents were deported to the Malines/Mechelen transit camp. While they were destined for Auschwitz, miraculously the camp was liberated before they were transferred.
The Pontus’ safeguarded Mrs. Goodman until the end of the war, when she reunited with her parents. Ultimately the family immigrated to Canada where they began a new life. Mrs. Goodman went on to marry and perpetuate her family’s legacy with children and grandchildren – including Talia, her brother Gavi in Grade 11, and sister Nediva, a recent HA graduate. Hebrew Academy Elementary and High School students have been privileged to meet and learn from Mrs. Goodman on several occasions, when she addressed their classes and underscored the imperative, “Do not be a bystander. Whether you see bullying, prejudice or racism, do not stand by and let evil happen.”
For over 35 years, Mrs. Goodman was a French teacher at Toronto’s Bnei Akiva Schools and CHAT, and regularly shared her inspiring story of survival and resilience with both student and adult audiences. Thanks to the Goodman family, Alida and Charles Pontus were designated as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Hebrew Academy librarians Zehava Cohn and Andrea Wahba were delighted to receive the books to add to the library’s non-fiction collection.
“As much as it’s important to have stories about the Holocaust, it’s even more imperative that we have first-hand accounts of the time,” said Cohn, who is head librarian. “Thank you to the Goodman-Aspler families for donating copies of the book to our library, and especially to Mrs. Sylvia Goodman for sharing your story. We will never forget.”
Talia Aspler is equally proud of her grandmother’s courage and achievements.
“My Bubbie Sylvie’s story is a huge part of my history. I am so proud that she is sharing it with the world for people to learn from and to be inspired. The messages she has always taught us based on her experiences are to stand up for others who may need help, and to be a proud Jew.”
Someone to Watch Over Me: Looking back on a life of upheaval, kindness & fortune book is available for purchase on Amazon.
-Aviva Engel, Director of Communications