by: Daniel Lifshitz
On June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand, Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist. A few months later, Europe had plunged into the war we now know as World War One.
Shmuel Anshil Ingber, an Austro-Hungarian citizen from the small village of Ternovo, in the foothills of the Carpathians, was drafted into the army. He was grievously injured in the fighting and one of his legs was amputated at the knee. Unable to continue his service, he returned home to his wife, Sara, and his two daughters, Miriam Shleima and Faige. As a wounded veteran, Shmuel Anshil received a pension from the Austro-Hungarian government.
In early 1918, the Ingbers were blessed with a third daughter. They named her Bracha, which means blessing in Hebrew.
Shmuel Anshil's health never truly recovered from his war injuries and he passed away in December, 1924. He left his three daughters, as well as two young sons, Yechezkel and Avraham Chaim. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had been dissolved by the Treaty of Versailles and now Ternovo was part of the new state of Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakian government had continued paying Shmuel Anshil's military pension, and upon his death gave a lump sum payment to Sara for the continued support of her family.
In 1924, Ternovo did not yet have its own bank or ATM machine, so Sara had no obvious options for investing this money. She shared this dilemma with several other war widows. One of the respected residents of the town, Reb Sruel, offered to help. He promised to invest their capital, to be returned, with profits, when needed.
Several years later, Miriam Shleima met a young man and they were engaged to be married. Sara Ingber approached Reb Sruel to withdraw some funds from her account. "She's so young. Why don't you wait a few years?" was Reb Sruel's reply.
Sara was no dummy and realized why Reb Sruel was trying to push her off. She was persistent in trying to get her money back from him. He was just as persistent in avoiding her.
One day, Sara intercepted Reb Sruel on his way to synagogue. He ignored her as usual. This time, Bracha was with her mother and had had enough. "You listen to my mother when she talks to you!" Reb Sruel quickly ran into the synagogue, where he expected to be safe in the men's section.
Undaunted, Bracha followed the con man into the building, grabbed him by the beard and continued to berate him. The family never did get its money back, but the whole community had learned that Bracha Ingber was a fighter. As she walked out, Reb Sruel, feeling a bit tougher now that he wasn't being manhandled by a preteen girl, shouted an insult: "You ruffian! You'll never amount to anything!"
Despite this financial setback, Sara still made a wedding for her daughter. Miriam Shleima had two sons over the years. Sadly, neither of them survived World War Two. Sara was also murdered during the Holocaust, along with Miriam Shleima and Faige.
Bracha was more fortunate than the rest of her family. She left Ternovo in 1938 to find work in Antwerp and was stranded there when WWII began. Through a stroke of luck, she made contact with an uncle who lived in Geneva and spent several years there until being hounded out by the Swiss authorities.
She traveled through France and Spain (unclear how, but must not have been easy) and eventually reached Lisbon, where she boarded a ship to the United States. The ship, named the Serpa Pinto, is rather famous. On an earlier voyage, it brought Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, to the United States.
Bracha had apparently changed her name to the more French-sounding "Berthe." After a six week long journey, weaving through the Atlantic to avoid U-boats, she arrived in Baltimore in October, 1942.
After arriving in Baltimore, Bette (she liked this better than Berthe) traveled to New York where she moved in with her Uncle Shloima. Around this time, she met up with Isaac Einhorn, a young man from Ternovo who had also come to the United States and was serving in the U.S. Army. They fell in love and got married after the war ended.
With the end of the war, the young lady who would "never amount to anything" got to work reuniting her family. She tracked down her two surviving brothers, Chaim (Hy) and Chazkel (Harry), and arranged for their immigration to the United States. (Perhaps I will tell their stories in the future.) She accomplished this at the same time she was becoming a mother. Her daughter, Susan, was born in 1946. Her Hebrew name was Sara, named after Bette's mother who had been killed during the war, as well as Isaac's mother, who was also named Sara and also killed by the Nazis.
After Susan, Bette had three more children, Marilyn, Steven and Carol. They all married and started families of their own. Today, Bette is the matriarch of a large family, including 18 great grandchildren. Her determination, love of family and positive attitude continue to inspire the entire clan. Reb Sruel was very wrong: Bracha/Bette amounted to quite a lot.