A Pesach story

April 18, 2016 by Henry Benjamin
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A 91-yr-old Christian woman will hold her own version of a Seder for the first time in the remote NSW town of Jindabyne nestling at the foot of the Snowy Mountains.

Tina Hacker was just 14 years old when war broke up. Her mother’s mother had been an orthodox Jew in Poland who had renounced her Judaism and converted to Christianity which she followed devotedly.


Tina Hacker and her family

Tina Hacker and her family

Tina’s grandmother was shunned by those she had spent her early years with and Tina felt alone in the world when her mother died. She had been fostered out to a family following Communist ideals.

She had spent a great deal of time as a child in the family home in the mountains close to the Austrian/Yugoslav border and was drafted into the Resistance where she was active in guiding refugees across the border including over 50 Jews to the safety of Yugoslavia and Italy. She had a clear memory of Jews on the run taking time out in the cave in which they were hiding to light a small menorah to commemorate Chanukah.

After an altercation with a German officer, Tina was forced to flee Austria herself.

Tina  arrived in Sydney in 1955 having married a Jew but he kept his religion secret and she continued to be a devout Christian in honour of her grandmother.

Robbi Rodal and Tina's son

Robbi Rodal and Tina’s son Freddy

Tina left Sydney in 1979 settling in Jindabyne and felt the need to connect with her Jewish background at Chanukah last year.

She contacted RARA, Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, requesting a visit during Chanukah.

She told Rabbi Yossi Rodal who travelled the 600kms from Melbourne to Jindabyne that she had lived all her life as a devout Christian…but always knew that she was in fact Jewish. She explained that her grandmother her suffered for her Christianity and it would be “an affront to her memory to discard it”. She knew she was Jewish but Tina refused to accept it.


A sketch of Tina when she turned 87, sporting a Magen David on a necklace

Rabbi Rodal told J-Wire: “When we lit the Menorah, her eyes were welled with tears.  And she remembered the melody of Maoh Tzur from all those years ago when the fleeing Jews sung it in the cave.”

Tina told Rabbi Rodal: “I can’t explain why I have been feeling this connection to Judaism when my whole life I have had none of it.”

Rabbi Rodal spent the next day affixing a mezuzah to Tina’s door, helping to make plans for a Jewish burial for her…and putting tefillin on her 72-yr-old son Freddy effectively celebrating his Barmitzvah.

Tina said: “I know my grandmother would be so happy with what I am doing. She is in a place of truth now and know my Jewish-ism is the right thing for me.”

And for  Tina matzo is on the way to her from Melbourne for her first Peach celebration. Rabbi Yossi Rodal told J-Wire: “We have sent her matza and I will call her soon to direct her in how to run a small seder or get her invited to the only other Jewish family in Jindabyne.




One Response to “A Pesach story”
  1. Liat Kirby-Nagar says:

    What an extraordinary story. Please, all those who think you must grow up in an Orthodox Jewish environment, or practise Orthodoxy exclusively, reflect on it (that includes Isi Leibler, with his sometimes panicky writing about assimilated Jews). To be Jewish requires only the spark within you to ignite.

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