Stories & Voices
Holocaust Survivor, Helped by Washington Heights Y, Keeps Her Perspective During Coronavirus Outbreak
Now that Minna can’t go to the Washington Heights Y for meals, the Y is making sure meals get to Minna.
March 31st, 2020

Minna Stern, 97, was born in Germany, an only child whose parents were killed by the Nazis during World War II. She met her husband, also a Holocaust survivor, after the war and they ultimately settled and raised their children in Washington Heights, a home to many German Jewish refugees.

After her husband died, Minna turned to the YM&YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood, a UJA partner. She rarely misses a day at the senior center, where she enjoys a daily hot meal for lunch and her Friday afternoon Shabbat group.

On her 96th birthday last year, Minna told the group, “My parents always wanted me to learn Hebrew, and even hired a tutor for me as a young girl. I learned the Aleph Bet, but didn’t have the opportunity to fully learn the language because my tutor was killed during the war.”

For Minna’s sake, the Shabbat group decided to learn a “Hebrew word of the day.”

Since the coronavirus outbreak led to the Washington Y’s decision to temporarily close its doors, Minna has lost her daily visit to the Y and her lunch shared with friends.

But the Washington Heights Y staff is making sure Minna still gets the care she needs.

Staff there has helped ensure Minna receives a hot kosher meal daily, thanks to volunteers. They’ve also scheduled phone calls with her each day to check on her well-being, and her Shabbat group continues weekly by phone with the group leader.

Throughout this difficult time, Minna maintains her perspective.

“Hard times can really bring out the kindness in people,” she says. “And perhaps this can be a lesson learned from the crisis and help make the world better.”