Most languages and cultures have a phrase for “God willing.” In Yiddish, we say “Halevai”, meaning, “It should only be.” In Hebrew, we say “Bizrat HaShem”, or “With God’s help.” Vivian Rain-Zukor says, “Si quiere el Dios”, Spanish for “If God wants it.”
Vivian is the daughter of Turkish immigrants and her parents’ language was a kind of Ladino, a mix of Spanish and Turkish. Born in Seattle on December 8, 1925, Vivian grew up in a very close-knit Sephardic community, one of the largest in the US, that still exists today. They belonged to one of the two thriving Sephardic synagogues, Bikur Holim, founded by Jews who arrived as early as 1907. That community was instrumental in founding Seattle’s booming seafood industry, including the well-known tourist spot, Pike Place Market.
Vivian’s family moved to San Francisco when she was a young girl, settling in a flat in the Richmond District. They joined the first Sephardic temple in San Francisco, Magain David, which continues to serve that community. They knew the upstairs landlords and both families were frequently in each other’s homes, including the landlord’s son, Albert, who Vivian describes as “the sweetest guy in the world.” They took their own time getting to know each other and eventually fell in love. When asked by a cousin if they were “fixed up”, Vivian exclaimed, “Do you really think I would allow myself to be fixed up?” As sheltered as she may have been, she was independent at an early age.
They were married when Vivian was 19, and after Albert served in the Air Force, they settled in the Sunset District and belonged to Temple Beth Shalom and Temple Judea. They raised a son and 2 daughters, all of whom attended religious school. Although Albert was offered a good job at PG & E, he insisted that he only wanted to open a grocery store and he did so with Vivian’s father. Vivian and Albert were married for 50 years when sadly, Albert died suddenly.
Vivian worked for Bank of America, first as a teller, then as a customer service rep. She eventually moved to Marin where she joined Rodef Sholom. Though she had little interest in dating, at the urging of her daughter, Vivian agreed to meet a friend of her optometrist. Marvin Zukor took the brave step of showing up unannounced at her door one day and Vivian says it was yet another blessing. Marvin was a sergeant on the San Francisco police force, a “Jewish cop” as Vivian says, and they were married for 24 years. He passed away 2 years ago.
Today Vivian remains in her lovely home. She feels utterly blessed that her own family continues to remain as close as ever.