We mourn, with profound sadness, the passing of Martha Rich.
Those who had the pleasure of knowing Martha knew what a force she was for Holocaust education and remembrance. She served on the board of the Holocaust Council of MetroWest with great energy and commitment. She initiated and fostered our close connection to Linda Hooper of the Paper Clips Project fame. Martha made two visits to the school in Whitwell, the second at the invitation of Ms. Hooper, to be a special speaker at the opening of the Boxcar Museum in November 2001.
Although she was an excellent and extremely engaging speaker, speaking of her own experience was never easy for Martha. Those who have undergone traumas relive the traumas when they relate them. As many Holocaust survivors do, Martha considered it her obligation and was willing to suffer for it. As she told me, “I don’t sleep the night before or after the talk.” The day she spoke in Whitwell was particularly arduous. She hadn’t expected to be in the boxcar with other speakers, as she waited her turn to speak. The intense heat and crowdedness were far too reminiscent of the days she had spent in just such a car as she traveled from the comforts of her home in Hungary to the horrors of Auschwitz.
When the Paper Clips film was released to immense popularity, Linda Hooper returned to our community to be present at the showing, a benefit to establish the Martha Rich Scholarship Fund for Educators. It was a glorious event. The theatre at the JCC in West Orange was full, and Martha, in her last public appearance was absolutely radiant.
Thanks to that fund, we have been able to send seven educators to Holocaust sites in Europe. One can never truly understand the Holocaust unless one has personally witnessed it. Educators come away with a total commitment to teaching about it. Our Martha Rich scholars have been enormously inspired to create presentations and programs. Their lessons continue to reach thousands, students, and parishioners.
I am pleased to learn that the family intends to continue to support the Martha Rich Scholarship Fund, and donations made in her name to the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ will be directed to that fund. Given the escalation of Holocaust denial along with the pernicious efforts to delegitimize Israel and the new anti-Semitism, the need for education is greater than ever.
Martha’s beauty, charm, intelligence, and generosity were legendary. Had she done nothing but exist, she would be remembered with love and admiration. Through all the good she did for others, including the Holocaust scholarship fund that bears her name, she will continue to be remembered for a blessing.
Holocaust Council of MetroWest