9 Beth Sholom couples celebrate 50th anniversaries

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Henriette Reichenberg of Castro Valley probably forgives her husband for forgetting the exact day of their wedding. She doesn't remember it herself.

"It's some date in September," said her spouse Simon. One of these days he'll get the ketubah out of the safety deposit box and look it up.

The Reichenbergs — joining eight other couples from San Leandro's Congregation Beth Sholom celebrating golden anniversaries this year — have more important things to remember: like how they survived World War II.

"You remember Anne Frank?" asked the former Henriette Vorst, who was born in the Netherlands. "My story is similar." A Christian family named Kuyper hid her for three years in their home in Oenkerk.

At war's end, discovering that she alone had survived the Holocaust, Henriette joined an exodus en route to what was then Palestine, and met her husband-to-be at a camp in Marseilles, France.

Till then Simon Reichenberg had been busy dodging the Nazis. He put in five years at a hard labor camp for Hungarian Jews, then sneaked away from a death march that was making its way to Austria. He had numerous close calls before he finally arrived in France and met the woman of his dreams.

The couple married four months later under a chuppah in Cyprus, before moving to their new home in what would become the state of Israel.

The bride borrowed a dress from a friend because she had been allowed to take only a backpack on the Turkish fishing boat when it departed from Marseilles.

"A hospital nurse brought a big piece of gauze and made a veil for me," she said.

At a recent service, the synagogue honored the Reichenbergs and other couples who wed in similar postwar haste.

"All the men came home" in 1946, said Charlotte Seideman of San Lorenzo. "It was a good year to get married." She wed her husband Arthur in Chicago two weeks after he came back from serving in the U.S. Air Force.

"In those days you did things fast," added Mimi Zinn of Castro Valley who met her mate Marvin on Rosh Hashanah, accepted his proposal the next day and married him three months later. He had just finished serving as a navy medic for the Marine Corps on Guadalcanal.

Lila Shansky had joined the war effort by dancing with sailors at the old Oakland Jewish Community Center on 14th Street. One night, Navy man Harry Kluger cut in and waltzed her all the way to the altar.

Four months after their first foxtrot, they were wed.

Making even swifter progress were Gloria and Alex Bruder, who met on a blind date in June 1946, got engaged a week later and married on July 28. "It just happened," Gloria Bruder said. "It just was right."

A feeling that lasts for half a century must be grounded in something more than a flight of fancy. Ruth Schwartz affirms this, reflecting on her partnership with husband Burnhardt. "I think respect for each other is the secret," she mused.

Her sister-in-law Pearl Schwartz checked with husband Maurice before giving a similar answer: "What would you say, dear, a lot of give and take?"

Ann Moster of Oakland agreed. Before retiring, she and husband Jerry were business as well as marital partners. They owned Polk Bargain Center in San Francisco till the 1960s.

They met in Cleveland before the Army drafted Jerry, then waited four years for him to return from the war. "A lot of people were in the same boat," Ann said.

He finally came home a changed man, having helped liberate Nazi concentration camps.

Courtship lasted three years for Thelma and Zel Barson of Alameda. They met at Penn State University's Hillel in 1943. He studied engineering for 2-1/2 years before he was shipped off to Oak Ridge, Tenn. There he calibrated the instruments that purified fuel for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When he returned three years later, he married his bride on March 10 while wearing his uniform.

Discussing the profusion of golden anniversaries at the synagogue, Zel noted that 1946 was the first year after the end of the war. "All the returning soldiers were getting married," he said. "That's why we have baby boomers."