After nearly a century of an extraordinary life, Ray (Chaya) Porus Palevsky died peacefully on September 20, 2021, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, surrounded by the loving care of River Garden staff and family. In the last three years of her life, Chaya was a Member at The Coves on the River Garden campus in Jacksonville, Florida. She moved from New York City where she and husband Simon (Shimke) had lived since arriving in 1946 as refugee survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. They met as Partisans fighting the Nazis in a Jewish unit based in the Narotsh woods near Vilna in Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania). Chayele was the last surviving member of that unit called “Nikome,” (Revenge). Her story is recorded in films, books, journals, and archives.
In New York, Chaya worked in the family jewelry business; Shimke was the goldsmith and dealt with the trade. Chaya handled the retail end of the business for which Shimke had no patience. Together they helped establish Nusakh Vilna (now part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research), Workmen’s Circle branch 349, and Camp Hemshekh, that started with the children of Holocaust survivors. They were active in numerous organizations devoted to living Yiddish culture and projects of social justice. Chaya was a life-long avid reader of the Forward, and was named one of the Forward 50 in 2019. Young and old knew Chaya for her warm, gracious hospitality in which she took great pride.
When the exhbition Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. was on view at the Museum, one of the exhibition curators discussed the blouse she made for her sister—and later wore in memory of her sister—which was included in the exhibition.
In addition to the embroidered blouse, Chaya also donated several other objects to the Museum’s Permanent Collection. Her video testimony is also in the Museum’s Permanent Collection; the photo of her above is a still from that testimony.
May her memory be a blessing.