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Five living generations pass on family legacy

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TALI FEINBERG

Five generations of women

Timor Lifschitz, 28, is blessed to be part of a family with five living generations of women – her great grandmother Safta Nina (90), her grandmother Safta Bracha (70), her mother Anat Broide (50), herself, and her daughter Ella (now almost three).

Her grandmother and great-grandmother live in Israel, while her mother, her daughter, and Timor live in South Africa. “My daughter met her great-great grandmother when she was six weeks old,” Lifschitz says. “I remember how we put her in Safta Nina’s arms, and the joy that radiated from her face as she held Ella. We were so pleased to have five generations of women, we took many photos to commemorate the achievement.”

Much has changed over the generations. “As a Jewish woman, Safta Nina had to work at the age of 12 in a Russian factory that made guns for the army. She didn’t have a normal childhood, and had to run from place to place to escape the German soldiers. Today, my daughter is safe, and has a normal childhood. She will go to school and be able to make choices without fear of loss of life. She is not in a war zone. It’s something we take for granted,” says Lifschitz.

The elder women in the family experienced tragedy and witnessed historical events. “Safta Nina lost her brother, who was killed by the Germans, and she had to run away due to World War II. She also lost her husband quite a few years ago. Both Safta Nina and Safta Bracha witnessed Israel’s development into [the country] it has become today.”

In terms of heirlooms and traditions, the four adult women wear the same necklace, and “one will be made for my daughter”, Lifschitz says. “I received mine on my wedding day.”

Lifschitz’s hope for her daughter as the youngest generation in the family is “to remember her roots. I want her to remember that because Safta Nina went through so many hardships and survived the war, we are all here. I hope she gets to see her many more times. I also just want Ella to be happy and healthy, and to walk the path that she chooses”.

A family ranging from 102 to 14 months

Robyn Koff, 29, is blessed to have her great grandmother, Esther Epstein, 102, in her life. She is the great granny of her little boy, Tyler, aged 14 months. In between is her father, Jonathan Koff (55) and her granny, Ethne Koff, (75).

“Having a great granny is very special. Unfortunately, she lives in Johannesburg, and I live in Cape Town,” says Koff. The oldest and youngest generations met two months ago at a family Batmitzvah. “It was a beautiful moment,” she says. “It was much harder for my grandmothers to be traditional Jews, while today, it is easy with the availability of kosher products.”

Great Granny Esther witnessed World War II and survived the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel, and the Six-Day War, while her father and grandmother witnessed the release of Nelson Mandela.

The family spends as many Shabbatot and yontavim together as possible. Esther used to crochet doilies, and all of the children have been given them as keepsakes.

Koff’s hope for her son as the youngest generation is that “he will continue to be blessed with family around him, to celebrate simchas, Shabbat and yontavim together”.

The multi-faceted family

“My mother was the second youngest of seven children,” says Sharon Klugman, who is part of a large family of five generations. Her mother, known to all as Topsy, is 94, she is 75, her daughter Shelley is 55, her granddaughter Cami is in her 20s, and Cami has two sons, Tal (6) and Dylon (4). Cami is married to an Israeli, Roei, and the young family live in Sydney. Topsy met Tal when he was five months old, and it was a very meaningful moment, says Klugman.

Topsy’s brothers all fought in World War II and survived, but all her siblings have since passed away. She has had a colourful life, including four husbands, and Judaism has not always been a priority for her. Interestingly, this contrasts with the younger generation. Cami is a kosher caterer, and Judaism is central to their lives.

“It has been wonderful to be a young granny and a young great granny,” says Klugman, in spite of the fact that the family is scattered around the world, from Dubai to Melbourne to South Africa. Though the family has faced numerous challenges, including its own internal conflicts, Klugman says it remains grateful for the blessing of five generations.

The family continuing the Rebbe’s legacy

“The Rebbe conceived of a calling and a life mission across the generations. That’s what our life is, and it describes our grandparents’ lives. It is what our children are passionate about, and we are sure it will continue with their children,” says Rebbetzin Masha (Mashi) Lipskar. She is blessed to have both her mother and mother in law still alive, meaning that there are five generations on both sides of the family.

Her mother, Chana Teleshevy Popack, was born in July 1926 in Russia. She has lived in many places, and will soon be 92. Masha is 69, her daughter Mushkie is 23, and her granddaughter Aida is five months old, making up five generations of women. Her mother in law, Rochel Duchman Lipskar, is 96, and is also the eldest of five living generations.

The two matriarchs have had fascinating lives. Chana’s father followed in the Rebbe’s footsteps in leaving Russia, and Chana was on the last transport out of Riga, Latvia, before the Nazis arrived and her entire eighth grade class was killed. She survived the rest of the war in Helsinki, Finland, where her father was sent by the Rebbe. By the time she settled in America, she knew seven languages.

Rochel was born in Russia, and she was blessed by the previous Rebbe when she was five years old. She believes this helped her survive many harrowing ordeals. She grew up and became a medical student, but during the war, her class was ordered to dig trenches at the edge of the city. One evening, she was too ill to work and was taken back to the city. That night, the entire group was wiped out by a bomb.

Rochel and her family survived three winters during the siege of Leningrad, a time in which her leg was almost amputated. The family eventually escaped together with the Rebbe’s mother in a truck driving over an icy river that threatened to crack. Mashi’s husband, Rabbi Mendel Lipskar, was born in a DP camp in Czechoslovakia, and the family eventually made it all the way to Toronto.

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Lipskar were picked by the Rebbe himself for shlichus in South Africa, building the Chabad movement from the ground up. Their children now continue this mission in Mauritius, Beijing, the United States, and South Africa.

“It’s not always easy, but it’s great,” says Rebbetzin Lipskar. “There is nothing greater than having your children as passionate about the same things as you are. We have a purpose across the generations. A legacy to receive, and to pass on.”

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