On May 2, 2021, a beautiful neshamah was returned to Hashem. That neshamah was Mollie Vancier, our Ima and Savta.
Ima was born on New York’s Lower East Side during the Depression. Her parents were immigrants from northern Turkey. Ima’s maiden name was Hasday (Chasdai). Their name epitomized their approach to life. Many guests crossing Turkey’s border, fleeing Russia’s pogroms, found their way to Ima’s paternal and maternal grandparents’ homes. All people with the name Hasday are related.
There were many brushes with danger. When Ima was four years old, her Ima (my Nona Allegre) was in her room with a high fever. Little Mollie was playing with matches. Her dress caught fire. Her father, going off to work, had fortunately forgotten something and came back to see his daughter in flames! He quickly wrapped and rolled Ima, saving her, unhurt. This incident made them realize that Ima needed to be looked after. She was enrolled in Hebrew school. Ima’s gift of recall, sweet voice, and appearance made her top choice to star in Hebrew plays. Many parents enrolled their children in that Hebrew school after seeing these plays.
Ima had an older brother, Chaim, with whom she was very close. They both excelled in school. Although Ima could have gone to high school around the block with her friends, she chose Washington Irving, which was then a fashion and design school. It was a double curriculum, but Ima was glad to do it. Ima would also help out after school, at her parents’ candy store/fountain in Bushwick.
In 1949, a few days before his 20th birthday, her brother Chaim was killed in a tragic car accident. Ima, then 16, with only six months to go to complete high school, couldn’t continue. They had been so close. Ima would never be able to discuss the accident.
When she was 22, Ima married Dad. When expecting my older brother Chaim, company was coming. Ima was hanging curtains and fell, going into premature labor. It was X-mas and the awful hospital was short on staff, who were not thrilled to be there. A cruel nurse slapped my Ima while she was in labor. Ima promptly clocked the nurse, Lower East Side style! The doctors made Dad choose who would be saved, but Baruch Hashem, they both pulled through.
My brother Chaim, in his fight for Soviet Jewry, was imprisoned several times. Ima was a powerhouse of strength and courage. Chaim and several fellow freedom fighters were ultimately freed from long prison sentences, in large part due to Ima’s tireless efforts.
In 1992, when I got married, backless wedding gowns were in style. After seeing our limited choices, Ima sewed my wedding gown. Ima also sewed gold sleeve extensions on a gown I’d told her to throw away. I wore that gown for our son Avraham’s Bar Mitzvah. She always made us proud! We would go to fabric stores, where we’d pick out fabrics that Ima would sew into dresses - one for Ima, one for me!
One of the biggest highlights in both Dad’s and Ima’s life was their grandson, our son, Avraham. Dad left the world when Avraham was 14 months old, but was always thrilled to be with him.
After a time, when Dad passed away in 2000, Ima found comfort and friendship in the “Ladino Club” at the Y on Little Neck Parkway. Ima actually reconnected with several people she had not seen for up to fifty years! This made her very happy.
Ima, Avraham, and I had many wonderful day and overnight trips. Her grandson Avraham was the light of her life!
We shared wonderful times at library events and senior centers. In later years, Ima would fly to Miami Beach for the winter with my brother. Those were idyllic days. The senior center in Miami Beach was a two-block walk from the condo they eventually bought. Ima made many new friends. She would cheer up anyone going through a rough patch and would light the place up. My brother recounted times when he would walk Ima to the Miami Beach Senior Center, and they would cheer and applaud as she walked in!
In New York, the senior centers closed (because of COVID.) We had Fort Totten Park.It was our “happy place.” We never got tired of going there.
Ima loved Hebrew. She would say Modei ani every day. Ima would say to us, “I thank Hashem every day for giving me another day of life!” We would sing “HaTikvah” together every day.
It is impossible to encapsulate a life, especially one so varied with both tragedy and blessing. But the connecting thread in our Ima/Savta’s life was giving, kindness, and faith. Ima brought positivity and hope to the most challenging obstacles we faced.
May we continue to emulate those midos and make our Ima proud in Shamayim!
By Sharon Marcus