Reports, Trees &
Toby & her grandson, Dani Goldstein, as an infant (ABT 1973).
A son in law's tributeMy mother-in-law did not have an easy life. Her father, Leib, was not a young man when she was born, almost sixty-five. He was a religious man (I believe a Gherer Hassid). He spent his time studying and not dealing with the practicalities of daily life.. When Toby was three years old, her mother passed away and she was sent to live with relatives. At the age of twelve, she lost her father.
Toby moved from her small town of Pultusk to Warsaw where she worked as a seamstress. She became involved in the political movements of the day, believing in causes that she felt would better the world. On more than one occasion she was nearly arrested for some of her social action activities. The Second World War came and after the first bombings she fled Warsaw and ended up in the labour camps of the Soviet Gulag where she spent the remaining war years chopping trees and doing other hard physical labour.
After the war Toby ended up in the displaced persons camp in Veksheit/Bindermichel, near Lindz Austria where she met and married Chaim who himself had suffered his tragedies. They married and shortly thereafter, Leah was born. The three of them moved to Canada when Leah was still an infant. Canada was not supposed to be their original destination, for Chaim was a "farbrenter Tzionist". My mother-in-law, however, took the practical approach. Tired, after a difficult childhood, nearly 10 years of war and living in DP camps, she felt that going to the not yet established State to more war and rationing of food was more than she could bear.
Her own childhood was largely without parents so Toby revolved her life around her husband, children and grandchildren, giving them the kind of parenting she so sadly lacked. She was always concerned with their well being and comfort. If one did not know from whence she came you could say that she was overly concerned. She loved them dearly and any overprotecting, smothering or seeking to ensure her love for them was an honest effort to have them achieve in life what she could not. It was her belief that it was important to be a part of a "gezelshaft" - to be a part of a social group that also had an ideological commitment and an intellectual basis that drove her to push Leah and Leon to attend Habonim.
Her grandchildren were her precious jewels. Until the last couple of years she would never forget a birthday, anniversary or other joyous occasion -- so great was her desire to make sure that the occasion was marked that her cards and gifts would often arrive well before their due date.
Having her children and grandchildren with her on Friday nights, holidays and other occasions was of paramount importance to her. Up until we left for Israel, we would have Shabbat dinner at her home at least twice a month. After we left, Leon and Honey continued the tradition. It was during those times that she converted my taste buds from liking Ukrainian gefilte fish to loving her Polish gefilte fish that was so sweet. I even abandoned my floating kneidlech for her Polish sinkers.
Her primary task, as I remember during the thirty-two years that I knew her, was taking care of Chaim. She had to prepare his meals and insisted on also being there to serve them. On the rare occasions when she went out, she became very anxious around meal times, worrying about how Chaim was "giving himself an etzeh".
Toby was interested in arts and culture and living near the Jewish Public Library was a great joy to her. She would always run to lectures. She was an avid reader of Yiddish books and newspapers.
If I have sadness about my mother-in-law it is that the path of her life prevented her from fulfilling many of her own needs and dreams. Often, if we came into the house unexpectedly, we would find her asleep on the couch, in a sitting position, reading a book. Invariably, she would not “fargin zich" this pleasure until all her chores were done and by then fatigue had set in. In the early, very difficult years in Montreal, she fought to ensure that her children received a serious Jewish education. To her this meant day school at the Peretz Shule. An afternoon school education, as was the norm in those days, was not enough of a commitment in her eyes. This meant doing without many things in the days when there was precious little to start with. She also understood that academic studies alone were not enough and continued to do without so that Leah could attend both piano and ballet lessons. Leon, being the boy, had to make do with only piano. She encouraged those around her to get enjoyment out of life and was happy if she heard the children took vacations or attended the theatre or a movie. She however was always reticent about taking these pleasures for herself.
She also worried about her friends. If there was a function she and Chaim were attending, she worried about how everyone was getting there. They were the first car owners among their friends and she made sure that anyone who needed a lift was ferried to and from home. And what is it that she often ferried them to? It was as often as not meetings and functions of the "Varshiver Society". The Lanzmanshaft of all those from Warsaw and environs who like her were rudely separated from the city of their youth, families and ancestors.
In true Toby fashion, she was not the President of the Varshiver but the hard worker who would think nothing of going out for hours and days, collecting donations for their annual bazaar. The proceeds were then donated to help rebuild the State of Israel. I admit that I sometimes ridiculed these activities and the entire notion of the Varshiver. Only recently, particularly as I got involved in family genealogy, have I come to understand, how important such groups are to people who share a past of places far away and in particular a past and location to which history has ensured that you can't return.
We cannot undo the past. We cannot even imagine how different Tobshe would have been had she not suffered both personal tragedy and the tragedy of the Holocaust. She could not and did not think of herself.. She never put her needs first and could not fully overcome her past to truly enjoy what she had. She felt her orphanhood every day of her life and spent her life trying to fill the emptiness by loving those around her unconditionally – her husband, children, grandchildren and friends and we all truly and deeply loved her.
Yehi Zichrona L'vracha.
The Rabbi's final ferwellFriends, we are gathered her today to mourn the loss, and honor the life of Toby Krolik, Toby Bajla, bat Lev and Leah z"l, a devoted wife to Haim for over 51 years, a beloved mother to Leah and Michael, to Leon and Honey, a loving Bobbie of Dan, and Ellie, and Benji, Daniel, Jesse and Loren.
Every person has many different facets to their life, but Tobje, as she was known to her friends, was a woman of many paradoxes. Though diminutive in size she was powerfully strong and had a mighty grip. And what she lacked in physical strength she made up for in sheer willpower and determination. She survived a difficult childhood and the trauma of dislocation and loss during the war. And yet she could never adjust to the ease and luxuries of Canada. She never allowed herself the better things in life, but she made sure that her children learnt to enjoy and to experience the best and the highest quality of life, and to strive to the highest standards in life. The better part of her life was spent trying to create what she was never able to experience in her life, neither in Europe or here in Canada, the feeling of a safe haven. Together with Haim she devoted herself to Leah and Leon, making sure that they had a proper Jewish education, the right cultural and social experiences. But if she created a home, a loving home, it was not so much for herself as much as for others. And I was reminded of the verse we read in shul this week regarding the creation of the mishkan of which it is said "Ve asoo lee mikdash ve shahanty betoham - let them make me a sacred space and I will dwell amongst them". G-d didn't need a place for himself as it were to dwell; G-d wanted a place for the children of Israel to gather together. And in their hearts, and in their holy deeds which they preformed, and in their memory of G-d, G-d dwelled. This in some way was the way Tobtche Krolik lived her life, concerned that others would find a place to be safe, that others would find a place to find their fulfillment, and that she would rest amongst them. It's somehow fitting for this woman who never allowed her self to be comfortable anywhere in the world, that her grandson Benji, thought of sending a jar of earth from Jerusalem for her to be buried with that piece of earth.
May she rest in peace!