Elegant and soft-spoken, nonagenarian Hilda Namm journeyed from halfway around the world to reach her Marin home. In 1938 she left Berlin with her parents and brother to take refuge in Shanghai, China. “The Chinese,” she says, “were the only people to open the gates for all people.” During her nine-year stay in Shanghai, she lived the war years in the Jewish ghetto attending a Jewish school in the British section. After the war, she moved out of the ghetto and worked at an American army post office, redirecting mail. In 1949, a year after immigrating by herself to San Francisco, Hilda married Manfred Namm, also a survivor who had left Berlin and Shanghai. Together they raised their children in a conservative congregation while working at their family convenience store.
Now Hilda's Jewish nourishment can be found in one convenient location: Rodef Sholom and the JCC. So many parts of the congregation speak to her social, spiritual, and physical well-being. Right away she says, “The people are so friendly. If I need a ride, Moji arranges it.” She tells of a woman who approached her because she reminded her of her mother. Hilda was invited to her home and shared dinner with eight people. She takes part in Sisterhood functions and shops at the Sisterhood gift shop at Chanukah because she knows the money is going to a good cause. On the observant side, Hilda enjoys the choir at the High Holy Day Civic Center services, and often attends synagogue services twice a month. The monthly Wednesday lunches with the clergy as speakers are a favorite activity as are the Friday senior lunches downstairs at the JCC. Hilda works out to keep fit and wishes she could walk better. She'd like to go to Israel again, but getting around is not as easy as before.
Hilda could be bitter about the wartime hardships she endured, but she's not. Instead she readily admits she enjoys life, and she often gives back to the Jewish community for the causes dear to her heart. She makes sure that the senior bus trips that “make so many seniors happy” keep taking place, and she supports several Israel foundations. Past 90, Hilda is an inspiration to all of us. Her journey has made Rodef Sholom, the JCC and her larger Jewish community her home for more than thirty years and counting.