Legacy Giving

Meet NIF’s Legacy Society Members:

Nina Zarel (z”l)

two photos of Nina ZarelNina Bernstein Gerner Zarel (1919-2022), whose Hebrew name was Nechama, which means “comfort” and “solace,” was born in 1919 in a town in what was then part of Northeastern Poland (now Belarus) called Nieśwież. Nina had a keen intelligence, a facility for languages—which led to a lifelong love of Russian poetry, some of which she could recite by heart well into her 90s—and a strong sense of social justice. Had life’s circumstances been different, she would have loved to study medicine, yet her educational and professional accomplishments were no less impressive, given the ravages of the war.

In an effort to save her bourgeois family from being deported to Siberia, when the Soviets occupied Nieśwież between 1939 and 1941, Nina obtained her teaching certification. She was on the cusp of starting her new career when the Nazis invaded. Nina survived the war in hiding: for the longest period of the Nazi occupation, she hid with her brother-in-law, Otto, in an attic of the home of Maria Szawlowska, who with the aid of her brother, Jakub Pyzik—Righteous of the Nations—cared for Nina and Otto until liberation. For the next seventy-five years, Nina would send care packages as small tokens of her gratitude to Jakub’s descendants in Poland.

Given that entire Jewish families were wiped out across generations during the Holocaust, Nina was relatively lucky. While her parents, siblings, nephews, and most of her extended family died, she along with a brother, sister, and niece survived. After the war, Nina emigrated to the States with her husband, Eddie, who was also a survivor. By the early 1960s, when she aced her English language proficiency exams and got a Social Work degree at NYU, she was fluent in Polish, Yiddish, Russian, and English. She had a successful career for many decades as a geriatric social worker at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home in the Bronx. While Nina and Eddie had a daughter named Teddi, both Eddie and Teddi predeceased her, as did her second husband, Frank.

Nina was, then, a survivor in many ways. She died in 2022, two weeks shy of her 103rd birthday. Her keen intellect, interest in politics and other current events, and her love of people endured, and those who knew her remember her generosity and talents as a storyteller.

She was first introduced to the New Israel Fund in the 1990s by a niece and nephew in Canada and was deeply impressed by NIF’s work, which inspired her to include NIF among her beneficiaries. While NIF was among five charities named in her Will, the importance of tzedakah was a high value throughout her lifetime. Her surviving niece served as her Power of Attorney from 2019 until her death and was amazed to learn that that, in any given year, Nina donated to more than two hundred non-profits! Her generosity and support of social justice and human rights is a legacy that NIF continues. May her memory be a blessing.

– Composed by her niece, Rhona Berens

Disclaimer: New Israel Fund is not engaged in legal or tax advisory services. Please consult with your professional advisor as to which giving vehicle is right for you, and when creating bequests, seek drafting and counsel from an attorney.