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  • The only existing photo of Sheva, my great-grandmother, fits in your palm. About fifteen years ago while I was doing family research, I asked my mother for every detail she knew about Sheva. That was when I saw this photo, and I was smitten.

    My mother knew a few things:

    1. Sheva's mother had six miscarriages before giving birth to Sheva, whose name means Seven.

    2. Sheva's father and grandfather were Rabbis, part of the Babad lineage in L'viv.

    3. Sheva married Moshe and had three children. The family lived in a large home at 40 Novaragasse in Leopoldstadt, Vienna's Jewish district.

    4. In Vienna, Sheva studied Talmud, unusual for a woman in her time.

    5. In 1934 when Sheva was in her 50s, her eldest child, my grandfather Wilhelm, decided to leave Europe in order to avoid the growing anti-Semitism. Wilhelm urged Sheva to join him, but she refused, saying, "You can't move an old tree."

    6. Very likely she spoke German, not Yiddish.

    7. After a visit to a Viennese archive in 2007, my mother and I learned that in 1943 Sheva was deported with her youngest son Ludwig to Westerbork in the Netherlands and from there transported to Auschwitz. Sheva died within the month. We learned that her given name was actually Severina. Sheva was her Hebrew name.

    My mom changed my Hebrew name from Zipporah to Sheva. Now, I'm Seven.

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