Zigmund “Ted” Hersh, Holocaust survivor and U.S. Army veteran.
Beloved husband of Judy (nee Lefkovitz) for almost 63 years. Loving father of
Michael (Maureen), Ken (Michelle), Allan Hersh (Ruth Silver) (former daughter-in-law, Elissa Klein) and Mindy (Ian) Walters.
Devoted grandfather of Jeremy (Jackie) Hersh and Laura (Ari) Labowitz, Cory and Darien Hersh, Naomi Collins, Rose and Haley Hersh and Aiden, Dustin and Julia Walters.
Great-grandfather of Violet Hersh, Sloan and Dresden Labowitz. Dear brother of Al (Pearl) Hersh and the late Phillip Hersh, Morris Hersh, Rose Pollak, and Malka, Faye and Leah Hershkovic.
Ted was born in 1927 in Tibava, Czechoslovakia, to a family of 10 children.
Two sisters and his father died before the Nazis invaded their town and took his family to Auschwitz. He lost his mother and three sisters to the gas chambers as they were separated upon arrival.
Ted survived several concentration camps and a death march before he was liberated from Buchenwald along with his younger brother, Al, and Elie Wiesel, whose tattoo was only 100 numbers apart from the Hersh brothers (meaning they were processed at Auschwitz on the same day).
After the war, Ted and Al bumped into their older brother, Morris, on the street in Prague.
Two years later, the three brothers got their visas and reunited with their older siblings, Rose and Phil, in Cleveland, who had gone to the U.S. before the war.
Shortly after immigrating, Ted was drafted into the army and served in Korea.
Although he was originally trained as a tailor in Europe, after coming to the U.S., he learned the craft of custom cabinet making and started East Woodworking Co.
Ted was always creative and crafted many innovative things. He made his own toys and skis out of wood as a boy. He also loved music and was self-taught on the harmonica, piano and accordion.
After retiring, he took art classes at Tri-C and stayed active bowling.
Following the death of his sister in 1999, Ted joined his brothers at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation’s morning minyan and attended daily for the past 20 years. Also, his wife started a Torah fund at B’nai Jeshurun, where Ted was a beloved member of their daily minyan and Elul shofar blower. He was also a member of Green Road Synagogue since 1972.
Ted was active in the Jewish War Veterans Post 14, Kol Israel Foundation and a participant in its Face to Face Holocaust educational program for middle and high school students in Northeast Ohio
He didn’t enjoy describing his Auschwitz experience, but considered it his responsibility to help others bear witness. Those who listened to him talk always came away so grateful to have met him.
He began telling his story in 1987 at Miami University (by invitation from his daughter) and went on to share his story over a hundred times since then to varied audiences spanning from California to Massachusetts.
In 1994, he took his first trip back to Europe with his daughter and then again in 2007 with his sons to show them his hometown and Auschwitz to say kaddish for the family he lost.
Ted was selfless and incredibly generous – if you liked his hat (that he made for himself), he would make you one. If you needed furniture fixed, he would do that and do it well.
When anyone in the family needed something sewed, or assistance with a school project he would do it.
When his V.A. Doctor noticed the Auschwitz tattoo on his arm and asked him to speak at her children’s school, he did.
If you needed help in the kitchen, he was there. He could peel a grapefruit professionally as he had the patience to do each task just right.
He cut an onion with perfection, and was an amazing sous chef for his wife, Judy. They brought together their family for Shabbat dinners and all of the holidays – in fact they had just finished preparing Passover seders for 40-plus people when he suddenly got sick.
Ted loved hosting these family dinners. His biggest smiles came from spending time with his children, grandchildren and especially his great-grandchildren. He took great pleasure in their activities and accomplishments and loved “showing up” for family simchas even when they were far away.
He traveled to Israel in 2015 for a bar mitzvah and just went to New York for a wedding in March.
We hoped that Ted could go on being his generous, independent self for many more years and it certainly looked like he was on track to do that – unfortunately his physical health got in the way.
In the last several weeks of his life, he endured several surgeries and the doctors were so impressed with his “fight” to bounce back that one asked if he was really 62 instead of 92?
Ted always celebrated April 11, the day he was liberated from Buchenwald, as his “2nd birthday” but if you considered the year, 1945, it meant that he had just turned 74 in April. That age seemed more fitting.
A nurse asked him what his secret was and he pointed his finger up and said “G-d.” He certainly had faith and fought so hard to stay with us.
We lost a truly great one on May 26th, but so many lives were enriched from knowing him, loving him, hearing him, and watching him master the art of acceptance, patience, kindness, faith and generosity.
Services were held May 28 at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel in Cleveland Heights. Interment was at Zion Memorial Park.
Friends who wish may contribute to the Kol Israel Foundation or any Holocaust education program.