The Boulder JCC is honored to announce the establishment of the Ilona Irene Rosenschein Holocaust Education Fund (IIRHEF), an endowed fund housed at Rose Community Foundation on behalf of the Boulder JCC.
“Irene’s story connected with so many people in Boulder. The ability to both honor her memory and teach about the Holocaust will have a lasting impact,” shared Jonathan Lev, Boulder JCC Executive Director.
The IIRHEF will provide annual support to create programs, educational opportunities, and experiences that teach the Boulder County Jewish community and beyond about the Holocaust. The fund was seeded with an initial gift and bequest from Larry Cohn, a dear friend of Irene’s for many years, with the goal of ensuring that present and future generations learn about and reflect on the Holocaust. Larry shared,
“I was honored to call Irene a close friend. She gave me a transformed perspective on faith, determination, and resiliency, even in the face of the most horrific circumstances. With the ranks of survivors shrinking, and ignorance of the Holocaust rising, it is critical that the Holocaust be understood as more than a historical event; it is part of our larger human story. Through a thoughtful study of the Holocaust, all of us, from students to seniors, can grow as responsible citizens in a democratic society and develop critical thinking, empathy, and social justice skills for the future.”
Ilona Irene Rosenschein (Sicherman) was born in the small town of Kralovo, Czechoslovakia, and was the fifth of 12 children. Her father ran the local kosher butcher shop until his death. In March 1944, Irene and the rest of her family were forcibly taken to labor and concentration camps, along with millions of other Jewish citizens from throughout Europe. Irene, her mother, and four sisters were taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz. There, her mother, her youngest sister, and many other relatives were murdered.
Through luck and a fierce will to live, she and three of her sisters survived to be liberated by the Polish partisans in 1945. They emigrated to the U.S. in 1947, after spending 18 months in a displaced persons camp. In New York City, Irene met Felix Rosenschein, a recent immigrant from a town near Kralovo who had lost his entire family in the war. They married in 1949 and settled in Vancouver, Canada. They later moved to Chicago, Illinois, where they raised three daughters. Irene worked in a Jewish nursery school, as well as in several small retail businesses she and Felix owned.
Felix died in 1988, and Irene decided to join her daughters and their families in Colorado in 1996. She settled in Boulder, instantly becoming a beloved member of the Bonai Shalom community. In Boulder, she blossomed in many ways, enjoying the outdoors, learning to use a computer, and becoming active in Holocaust remembrance activities and in the lives of her family and friends.
Irene’s daughters, Bev, Gail and Karen shared:
“Our mother would be so incredibly proud that her stories have inspired this fund. She was committed to telling her story to anyone who was interested so the world would never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. Despite the many tragedies she experienced and witnessed, our mother was a resilient, loving, and optimistic person. As a family, we are grateful for the love and respect our mother received from her beloved Boulder community.”
Irene was a strong voice for the millions of people who did not survive the Shoah. She also represented the survivors who were not as strong, articulate, and committed to tell their story. She would not let anyone forget this dark time in our history. But as our Boulder Community knows, Irene was also a conduit between the young and old, regardless of race or religion. She loved everyone and with her love, she changed the way people came to understand the enduring impact of the Holocaust.