Remembering Dora Zaidenweber, z”l
We mourn the loss of our friend Dora Zaidenweber, z"l. Dora passed at 99 on Sept. 21, 2023.
2:00 PM, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2023
Adath Jeshurun Congregation
10500 Hillside Lane West
Minnetonka, MN 55305
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2023
Home of Rosanne Zaidenweber
4833 Dupont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55409
By Laura Zelle, JCRC Director of Holocaust Education
Last March, during the 2023 Minnesota State Legislative Session, I witnessed Dora Zaidenweber bring a room full of legislators, reporters, and members of the public to a palpable silence. At 99, Dora testified in support of our bill to mandate teaching the history of the Holocaust, genocide of Indigenous peoples, and other genocides.
Dora seized this opportunity to share her firsthand account of surviving the Radom forced labor camp, Birkenau, and Bergen-Belsen, and to champion the importance of remembrance and tolerance. Sitting in her wheelchair, and leaning into the microphone, Dora’s poignant stories — told with grace and honesty — served as a powerful reminder of past atrocities and a warning against the perils of forgetting history. She spoke about the need to live outside one’s comfort zone, and getting to know people that are different from you as a way to create bridges across our increasingly diverse society.
Dora was a force that late winter day; there is no doubt in my and my JCRC colleagues’ minds that her words, her presence, and her voice changed minds in that packed Capitol hearing room.
I’ll never forget the scene of Dora being wheeled out of the hearing room, raising her hand, and asking me if she could meet the governor. A few months later, Dora got her opportunity, when her life and advocacy were honored at the JCRC annual event. First, as they sat next to each other and later from the podium, Governor Walz thanked Dora for her tireless efforts. Dora’s wish was granted.
My heart is heavy to bid farewell to Dora, a remarkable woman whose life embodied resilience, courage, and an unwavering commitment to educating the world about the horrors of the Holocaust. I inherited the Holocaust Education and Remembrance program at the JCRC with a strong speakers’ bureau because of the countless times Dora and other Minnesota survivors found the courage to tell their stories.
Dora collaborated with museums, educational institutions, and organizations dedicated to Holocaust education, most recently via Zoom. However, Dora’s impact extended far beyond the virtual world, as she spoke at conferences, participated in documentaries, and authored books that documented her experiences and insights. It is something she did for all of us. When I told her we were working on mandating Holocaust and genocide education, Dora’s question to me was simple, “What took you so long?”
I will remember Dora not only for the darkness she endured, but for the light she brought into the world, ensuring that the lessons of history will guide us toward a more compassionate and just future.
Rest in peace, Dora. I am sorry you had to wait so long. Know that your legacy will forever shine as a beacon of hope and education in a world that sorely needs it.
Photos: (top, by Ethan Roberts) Dora testifying at the Minnesota House; (inset, by Darrell Owens Photography) Gov. Tim Walz honoring Dora at the 2023 JCRC Annual Event.