it is with deep sadness that I advise of the passing of Renata Zajdman on November
27th in Montreal. Our good friend and colleague Renata was a holocaust survivor,
one of the children saved by Irena Sendler in Warsaw. Renata was part of the group
that made certain that Irena was well taken care of in her later years and acted as
a consultant in the making of the movie The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.
Renata devoted a great deal of her time ensuring that the horrors of the holocaust
are not forgotten, but of equal importance, she shared her knowledge and skills
with others to help fellow survivors in their quest to learn the fate of friends
Renata chose Montreal as her post-war home. In the mid 1990s, as a founding member
of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal, she became quickly immersed in and
played a pivotal role helping the dream of accessing the records in Poland.
Renata was on one of her frequent visits to Poland in May 1995 when she accompanied
my cousin Gary Widlitz (CT) on his visit to Ostrow Mazowiecka. It was their
meetings with, and warm reception >from town officials that inspired Michael
Richman and I to make our first visit to Poland six months later with the goal
of arranging for the indexing of all the records of Ostrow Mazowiecka that had not
been filmed by the LDS.
As for Renata, she had only just begun. One month before Michael and I left for
Poland, Jerzy Skowronek, the late former Polish State Archives General Director was
in Montreal for am historical conference. Renata was not only the translator when
we entertained Director Skowronek, but passionately transmitted the importance of
the mission that Michael and I were about to undertake. I will always look back at
that evening as one of the important steps in building the foundation of what
ultimately became Jewish Records Indexing - Poland.
For Renata, helping JRI-Poland was just one of her interests. Her crusade was to
spread knowledge of the Holocaust to everyone. She was an active member of
Children of the Holocaust and the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the
Holocaust organizations. She was a tireless advocate in fostering positive
Polish-Jewish relations and was a founding member of the Montreal chapter of the
Polish-Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada. And she frequently traveled around
North America sharing her testimony.
Three weeks ago Renata somehow brought to the surface once again that inner
strength that has been so characteristic of her in recent years. She journeyed to
Halifax to speak at a special presentation of the Irena Sendler movie. A most
appropriate final public appearance.
Renata has been my dear friend and sounding board, providing invaluable insights
and help whenever needed. I shall miss her. May her soul be bound in the bond of
Stanley Diamond, Montreal
Executive Director, Jewish Records indexing - Poland
President, Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal