There is a theme that comes up often when talking with Olga Thein: Independence! Time and again, Olga recalls her desire to guide her own destiny and to live life on her terms.
Olga was born in the rural town of Kralovsky in the former Czechoslovakia in 1920. At the age of 10, she and her family moved to Chicago where they had relatives. As so often happened, Olga’s father came first with older siblings and then Olga came later with her brother and mother.
As she grew into her teens and twenties, she knew that she wanted to break away from the strict, Orthodox life her parents led. She looked up to her two aunts, her father’s sisters, who had moved to LA and had become, in her words, “very American.” She followed them and then moved to the Bay Area, setting the course for her own life.
But still, Olga stresses, “I wanted even more independence from my family.” Always wishing to travel, Olga moved to Israel at a time when many refugees from Europe were still finding their way to Israel. She lived there for 10 years, before returning to the Bay Area.
While Olga was drawn to a more progressive form of Judaism, she still felt most at home among Jews. She worked as a bookkeeper for Sinai Memorial Chapel and she belonged to a small San Francisco synagogue.
Once she married and had her own family, she moved to Marin and was an early member of Rodef Sholom, always looking to connect with other Jews. She recalls that she joined the temple as our first president, Sydney Braverman, was elected to the Board. She volunteered in the temple office and made Rodef Sholom an important part of her life.
Today, at 98, Olga remains in her own home. Though she does not attend synagogue as often as she used to, she has always felt a part of our community. We are lucky to have her!