Mira Ryczke Kimmelman, 95, of 969 West Outer Drive, died peacefully at home at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.
Mira’s long and purposeful life was dotted with tragic events and redeeming joys. She was born on September 17, 1923, in the seaside resort of Zoppot, a suburb of the free City of Danzig. Her father Moritz was a grain merchant and her mother Eugenia dedicated herself to raising Mira and her younger brother Benno.
This happy life came to an abrupt end in 1939 when the Nazis invaded Danzig and drove Mira and her family from their home, first to ghettos in Warsaw and Tomaszow Mazowiecki, then to concentration camps Blizyn-Majdanek and Auschwitz, and thereafter on a horrific death march to Bergen-Belsen, where Mira was liberated and reunited with her father. Sadly, her mother and brother did not survive the Holocaust.
In 1946, she met another survivor, Max Kimmelman, who had lost his wife and daughter in the Holocaust. They married on May 19, 1946, in Germany. With the assistance of family in Cincinnati, Ohio, they were able to immigrate to the United States and arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 2, 1948.
Mira’s father arrived in 1949. Both Mira and Max worked in Cincinnati, and both their children, Benno and Gene, were born there.
In 1964, Max’s employer relocated to Rockwood, Tennessee. Mira, Max, and the boys moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in August of that year. It is in Oak Ridge that Mira blossomed into the Woman of Valor we all knew her to be. While raising their sons, Mira volunteered in various capacities in their school. She also began her many volunteer activities in the Jewish community, many of which she continued until recently, for 50 years—teaching in and directing the religious school of the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge, teaching Hebrew, as well as tutoring children for Bar and Bat Mitzvah. She joined the Zionist Women’s Group Hadassah, where she served as president of the local chapter from 1969-72 and 1990-92; as president of the Southern Region from 1981-84; and as a member of the National Board from 1981-86. She also served on the Chevra Kadisha since 1972, and served as president of her congregation from 1994-97.
Mira was also active in the larger Oak Ridge community by serving as president of the American Field Service from 1977-79 and as president of the United Nations Committee of Oak Ridge from 1979-82 and 1984-93. Mira lectured widely, both locally and nationally, in schools and to other groups, on her experiences in the Holocaust.
Mira’s dedication was rewarded with numerous honors, among them the Sertoma Annual Heritage and Freedom Award (1983), the Knoxville Women’s Club Annie Selwyn Award for Teaching and Lecturing on the Holocaust (1987), the Oak Ridge Chapter of Hadassah National Leadership Award (1987), the Women’s League Light of Torah Award (1992), the National Conference for Community and Justice Award for Religious Services (1997), National Hadassah’s Deborah Award for Hebrew Teaching (2000), the YWCA of Oak Ridge 2001 Women of Distinction Award in the category of religion, and the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge Recognition Award for 40 forty years of teaching (2003).
In 1997, Mira became an author and published “Echoes from the Holocaust: A Memoir,” and in 2005 her second book, “Life Beyond the Holocaust: Memories and Realities,” both by the University of Tennessee Press. She recounted the story of her survival with the fervent hope that remembering the horrors of the past would help ensure that no one would ever suffer such atrocities again.
Mira’s life has been an immeasurable blessing for not only her family and friends, but for the Oak Ridge and Knoxville communities and beyond. She is survived by her sons Benno and Gene, her daughters-in law Joy and Caroline, and her grandchildren Melanie, Michael, Max, and Ellie.
The funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, April 19, at the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge (101 West Madison Lane) with Rabbi Victor Rashkovsky officiating. Burial will follow at the Oak Ridge Jewish Cemetery at the Oak Ridge Memorial Park.
The family requests that any memorials be in the form of donations to the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge (P.O. Box 5434, Oak Ridge, TN 37831), Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Online messages may be left for the family at www.martinfuneralhomeoakridge.com.
Martin Oak Ridge Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. See the obituary here.