Pearl Sapoznik Memorial Fund

Pearl Sapoznik

Pearl Sapoznik Memorial Fund

The Pearl Sapoznik Memorial Fund was created in honor and in memory of the late Pearl Sapoznik, of blessed memory, a distinguished member of Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island’s (JCCGCI’s) Board of Directors and of its Holocaust Survivor Services Advisory Committee, who passed away on March 17th, 2016, at age 95. Pearl Sapoznik, herself a survivor of Nazi persecution, championed the needs of indigent Holocaust survivors and was involved in advocacy discussions regarding the need for expanded supportive services for Nazi victims with the senior management of the Claims Conference and with representatives of the German government (both of which visited her in her home). She earned both the respect and affection of all who knew her. This Fund was created to enable JCCGCI to better respond to the unmet needs of this vulnerable, at-risk client population, which endured unimaginable suffering during the years of WWII.

Following is a brief biography of Pearl Sapoznik (for a Yiddish language biography, published in the April 29th, 2016 edition of The Jewish Daily Forward, please see the following link: http://yiddish.forward.com/articles/195987/yiddish-foksinger-pearl-sapoznik-has-died):

The late Pearl Sapoznik (1920-2016) was beloved and revered by her family and friends because of her dignity, heart, generosity and passion were an inspiration to all those who knew her.

Early Life

Born in the Volhynian Polish city of Rovne on June 12, 1920, Pearl Sapoznik was the oldest of three girls (Rukhl, b. 1926, Pesya, 1928) Her father Izak Steinberg, was a house painter and her mother, Rivke Git, a housewife.

A poor family, Pearl (called “Pirl” by her family”) enjoyed an education in both traditional Jewish subjects (chumesh, rashi, davening) while also attending a Polish public school and a state sponsored Jewish school.

She was active in the Zionist group, Gordonia and in Yiddish singing and sewing circles. She loved the Yiddish theater and Polish popular music even recalling late in her life all the lyrics to Polish tangos she’d heard on the radio. .

Wartime

In 1939, Rovne fell under the control of the Soviets where the family survived in a reduced but livable manner.   When the Nazis attacked in 1941 her father saved them all because he had read an early German edition of  “Mein Kampf” and understood the threat of Nazis. Pearl, her father, mother and younger sister Pesye followed the Red Army south to the city of Derbent on the Caspian Sea.  There, the family lived in a horse stall while working sewing uniforms, canning food and painting hospitals and clinics for the Red Army. Her middle sister Rukhl, who was away when the war broke out, returned home after the Germans had taken control of the city and later died in the Rovne Ghetto. The Steinberg/Git families also lost eight uncles and aunts 17 cousins who were among the 17,500  Rovner murdered in the nearby woods, Di Sosnikes.

Post-War

The family returned to the ruined Rovne where Pearl married fellow Rovner, khazn Zindel Sapoznik, and, with her family, left for the West. They were in the Bindermichl/Wegscheid  DP camps in Linz, Austria from 1946 until coming to the U.S. and settling in Brooklyn in 1949.

Pearl Sapoznik was an active member of the The First Rovner Benevolent Society landsmanshaft  and became its long time Recording Secretary, the last to take minutes in Yiddish.  In her later years Pearl did voter registration for the Democratic Party and was an election poll worker.

Yiddish Music and Culture

It was with through events like KlezKamp: The Yiddish FolkArts Program (which her younger son Henry founded in 1985) that the world learned about Pearl Sapoznik’s rare gifts as a singer. Possessed of a clear and sure alto and perfect intonation, Pearl Sapoznik sang a rich repertoire of traditional and popular Yiddish songs from traditional old ballads, Zionist recruiting songs and Yiddish theater hits and a parallel repertoire of Polish ballads, epic patriotic poems and radio tangos.

Intelligent and extremely well spoken, in 2000, Pearl co-hosted with renowned Yiddish actor David Rogow z”l, the “Yiddish Word of the Day” for the Peabody Award winning National Public Radio series, “The Yiddish Radio Project” which attracted over 16 million listeners. Pearl Sapoznik was also a featured interview in the 2002 Emmy award winning documentary “A Yiddish World Remembered” talking about her beloved Rovne.

Last Years

Settling in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn in 1983, Pearl’s small, comfortable apartment blocks from the boardwalk became a magnetic mecca for visitors from around the world who came to bask in her gentle and powerful Yiddishkayt and sing songs with her.  She was a great believer in tzedoke and was a contributor to her shul, The New Brighton Jewish Center, to Bikkur Cholom and to Disabled American Veterans. For over 25 years, Pearl Sapoznik served on the board of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island and did fundraising for, and represented the needs of, indigent Holocaust survivors.

Pearl Sapoznik is survived by two sons, Henry, an internationally renowned musician and scholar of Yiddish culture and language and Norman, a retired schoolteacher, plus three grandchildren, 5 great grandchildren, and untold numbers of lovers of Yiddish song and culture who knew and loved her.

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