By Gita Leben
I came to the U.S at the age of ten. I went to Bais Yaakov of Boro Park, which was then a very small school. I joined the sixth grade, since I already spoke English. Having lived in England for eight years, the language was no problem. I lived in Boro Park, on the same street on which I am currently living. I literally watched a budding Boro Park grow into the neighborhood that we know so well. Whenever I opened my mouth to speak, everyone laughed because of my British accent. I got rid of it post haste!
After graduating from elementary school with eighteen girls in my class, I went on to Bais Yaakov in Williamsburg. There was no high school in Boro Park at that time. We traveled by train for almost an hour, including the waiting time for the next train. We very often came late, to Rebbetzin Kaplan’s, A”H, chagrin. Three and a half years later we were high school graduates. I took a course at the Speedwriting school and got a certificate. I was now ready to get gainfully employed.
Since I was the eldest child of my family it was Shidduchim time at our home. Unfortunately for me, my parents decided to move to Antwerp in Belgium. I joined them a short while later. Now was the time for Shidduchim. We were looking for a suitable mate for me. I found Antwerp extremely boring – to me it was “a klein Shtetl”. I had no friends, job or language to feel comfortable in. Being quite miserable was an understatement! The dates were few and far between, and not very promising. Europe had been decimated by Hitler and the pickings were very lean.
My father, A”H, had an acquaintance, a Bobover chasid, who suggested a shidduch for me. The time was shortly before Rosh Hashanah, and the young man in question was currently in Antwerp. The shidduch was redt, and we had our first date right after Yom Tov. Until this time I had never had such a good time on a date. We had everything in common – language, perspective, mutual friends and acquaintances, etc. It still took many dates and correspondence till we were married in June.
Now that we have been married for so many years, with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the rest is history!