While she was working as New Jersey’s deputy state attorney general, Ann Avram Huber spent a lot of hours waiting in courthouses as the processes of justice slowly advanced.
“There is a lot of down time when you are talking to other lawyers,” she told NJJN. “You start discussing where you met your spouse and where your accent is from. When I would tell people these things, they would invariably say, ‘You ought to write a book.’”
Those suggestions were well-taken; after a five-year “labor of love,” the retired attorney, who lives in Madison, has completed her memoir, “Lost and Found: Surviving Displacement, Finding Love, Uncovering Secrets” (Mishpucha Books, 2017).
Its 194 pages track Huber’s life from post-World War II Romania to Israel, Canada, and, finally, New Jersey. In a press release, she says her story is about her “complicated journey through life as the daughter of Holocaust survivors — being displaced twice and living on three different continents, learning to speak five languages, finding out a devastating secret, and finding my soul mate, also the child of survivors, in Atlantic City.”
She was born Ann Avram in Bucharest in 1950 to well-to-do parents and grandparents who were in the shoe business. During the war years, they lived in the city of Galati, where under Nazi rule they had to wear the yellow star and were forced to work in labor camps. After the war, a Soviet-friendly regime confiscated the family’s property.
Nine months after Huber was born, her family immigrated to Israel, where three generations crammed into a two-bedroom apartment in Haifa, and they had to share a bathroom with another set of tenants. “Things were very hard, and there were lots of shortages,” Huber said, “but as a kid I loved living there. There was a pioneer spirit in the air. I wanted to stay, but I didn’t have any say in the matter.”
Her parents had made up their minds to move to Canada “to run away from creditors — so we left in the middle of the night,” Huber told NJJN. In 1959, they settled in Montreal.
“Canada was a very welcoming place to immigrants, then and now,” Huber said. But for a nine-year-old, the move was traumatic. “I was very distraught to leave my grandmother behind. I was very attached to her and vice versa.”
In school, she “had a hard time at first.” She spoke neither French nor English and had to learn both languages. She attended a Protestant-run school where English was the primary language. (Schools operated by the Catholic Church gave primacy to French.) “They put me in the ‘dummy class’ because I couldn’t speak either language. But 99 percent of the kids were Jewish — all immigrants from Europe and Israel.”
Because of her peripatetic early life, Huber speaks five languages — Romanian, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, and English — “and I use them all,” she said.
In Canada her mother, Netty, worked in a grocery, a bakery, and a shopping center. Her father, Sandu, was a jobber — a middle man between wholesalers and retailers in the food business.
After he died, Huber and her mother moved to Atlantic City, where she met her husband, Herman, who was working as a waiter in a kosher hotel. (“I was raised in an Orthodox home,” Huber said.)
Huber attended McGill University in Montreal and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, then Rutgers Law School in Newark. After passing the bar she went into private practice in Randolph, were she and her husband raised three children (they have seven grandchildren). She was elected to be a township council member, then mayor in 2001.
In 2014 she retired from the state attorney general’s office after 13 years, where she worked in the area of child protection.
Huber and her husband later moved to Madison. She served as sisterhood copresident at Morristown Jewish Center Beit Yisrael. Although she is no longer a congregant, said Huber, “I still am a Conservative Jew,” and described her and her husband as “very traditionalist.”
Why did she write the book? “Because it is a story that needed to be told,” she said. “The history of our family is something I am very happy to pass on.” And her core message? “It is very important to know who you are. You have to keep striving along, and things will work out.”