A Woman’s Search for Meaning

“Caring is what matters most,” asserts 92-year old Edith Carter. Every day this tenacious nonagenarian walks from her apartment to the rehab wing of her suburban Cincinnati retirement community to spend an hour or so visiting residents to show them that somebody has concern for them. Before she stopped driving she would visit people in nursing homes when they fell ill. “It’s as good for me as it is for them,” she explains.

Edith’s insistence that “we shouldn’t be bystanders and wait for someone else to help” is shaped by the tragedy of her having been a victim of the Holocaust. She survived unspeakable horrors, not the least of which was losing her husband and every other member of her family. After going through complete despair, she created a new life for herself in America. In her sixty years of living in Cincinnati, she has taken every opportunity to speak out about the hellish events of the Holocaust and against ongoing global atrocities.

In 2005, at the age of 90, Edith decided to move to an apartment at Cedar Village, a Jewish retirement community. Edith has always delighted in her offspring, but she didn’t want to interfere with her children’s and grandchildren’s lives. She speaks twice a day with her daughter, Debbie, who married a rabbi and works as a social worker in Milwaukee.

Soon after she moved to Cedar Village, she broke her right hip and needed a replacement. She decided to quit driving. Until recently she swam three times a week for several hours at a time at a public pool. Edith used to go to Israel every year, where her mother’s cousin and friends live, though she has not been back for four years.

Despite the starvation, hard work, and deprivation of the war years, Edith says she is never sick and is generally “allergic to doctors.” She admits after all she went through in her early life, she is “only sick at heart and mind.”

Edith is content in her apartment at Cedar Village. Friends matter most to her, and she has companions of all ages. She lives a life of simplicity: a window in her bedroom through which light streams, meaningful photos and artwork on the walls, being able to watch world news, listening to NPR, and a steady diet of reading – including the Jerusalem Post and books on current events – these means of connecting and keeping informed are all she needs. She cares nothing about materialism. “Possessions are all just lifeless things,” she comments.

She suffers terribly each time she remembers the losses of her past, but she will delve into her personal history if it can help new generations understand that hatred and bigotry must never be allowed to scourge the earth again.

Edith has spoken publicly about her hellish war experiences; recorded her memories for Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial; videotaped a remembrance of the events through which she lived for Project Eternity; filmed a testimony for the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation; emblazoned her story in the Holocaust collection of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of Cincinnati’s American Jewish Archives; and confided her past to Patricia J. Hruby, so that her granddaughter-in-law/author could chronicle her experiences in Two Worlds: A Family Memoir about the Holocaust, Intermarriage, and Love – all to bear witness to the evil of this time in history and to work against repeating it.

“I try to emphasize that we all have to be part of it – we can’t sit and wait for others to take action,” Edith says. “We need to try and support those far out on the branch.”

[Sadly, Edith died in May of 2010.]

Edith Carter