Posted on December 11, 2012
Susanne “Sue” Wolff, a temple member since 1982, had quite a unique childhood. At 10 months old,right after Kristallnacht in 1938, her family fled from Berlin, Germany to Shanghai, China where they lived for nearly a
decade. Her dad worked for a Portuguese import/export firm and her mother for a clothing manufacturer. After Pearl Harbor, she recalls their being forced by the Japanese to move into a tiny home with many other Jews within a 12 block ghetto surrounded by barbed wire. While Sue’s mom was Jewish, her father was only half Jewish and as such was raised a Protestant. To shield Sue from anti-Semitism, her father had her converted to Protestant. Sadly, her paternal grandmother was a casualty of the horrific Holocaust adding to her father’s fear of religious expression. Her parents divorced when she was three. Ironically, on Adolf Hitler’s birthday in 1948, Sue and her father moved to San Francisco where her mom had moved years earlier.
Childhood wasn’t the only unique aspect of Sue’s life. So, too, was her love life. She and the man she ultimately married were born in the same hospital in Germany, yet three years apart. They both migrated to China as infants and first met when Sue was 3½ years old. He was memorable, Sue recalls with a chuckle. “At school during recess, this ‘short runt’ would shoot raw potato pellets at girls wearing shorts…me included.” Her divorced mother and Fred’s parents were even on the same boat when immigrating to San Francisco. And, Sue also went to the same high school he had just graduated from. But they didn’t meet face-to-face again until 10 years after first meeting in elementary school. By then she was 14 and the short runt was 6 feet tall and wearing an ROTC uniform!
Eventually, Fred and Sue began dating. When he was deployed overseas for three years, they communicated by mail. Upon his return he proposed, they married the next month, and over the years lovingly raised three boys. One is now an auto mechanic, father of two girls, and lives here in Orange County. Another son lives in Seattle, Washington, works in computers like his own father did, and is married with a boy and a girl. And, their third resides in Wisconsin with his wife and two children and works as an orthopedic surgeon. Sue and Fred enjoyed a wonderful life with their children and grandchildren until Fred’s passing just shy of their 43 year wedding anniversary. During his vibrant life, Fred worked in the aerospace and computer industries. Yet it was earlier, during Fred’s deployment in Europe, Sue stayed behind to earn a teaching degree. She went on to teach 7th and 8th grade Math and Physical Science for 32 years. In 1982,
Sue was named Westminster’s Teacher of the Year.
It was actually Fred who inspired Sue to convert back to Judaism and get involved in the synagogue – first at Temple Israel of Long Beach and then Temple Beth David. At both synagogues, they devoted whole summers to organizing and enhancing the libraries. Fred had a great system for cataloging the books. A fond memory for Sue was Fred’s second Bar Mitzvah at TBD. Sue is now serving a second year as co-vice president of membership for the Sisterhood, helps with onegs and the gift shop, and is a greeter on Shabbat. You can find her nearly every Friday evening in the same pew at the back of the sanctuary. She sits there purposely to help newcomers. Sue has great respect for the Rabbi and Cantor and cherishes the many friends she’s made at temple. She also has an unwavering faith in G-d.
Hobbies abound for Sue. She loves bowling and is in two leagues, one named Pin Queens and the other, which competes in Las Vegas (thus its name), is Lucky Strikes. Her highest game is 218. She also likes to cook, swim, read, play cards and dominos, and travel. Cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean have been favorites, as have trips to Ireland, Britain, Scotland, Wales, France, and Spain. Visiting her children/grandchildren, however, is her favorite destination! Sue has been there, in person, for every one of her grandchildren’s birthdays each year except one time that fell during the week of the High Holy Days. She also finds time to volunteer at the Westminster Senior Center, call bingo twice a month, preside over the senior center advisory team, and visit her 91 year old step mom once a week. Her favorite motto is “Live, Love, Laugh.” THAT she definitely does daily at home, in the community, and at Temple Beth David!