We all want to be remembered – for having lived, created families, left treasured memories and, in some way, having made a difference in the lives of others.
This is the story of Rena Gutherz (which means “good heart”), whose passionate commitment to the Jewish people in her community and her beloved Israel will be remembered and appreciated forever. She cared – about children left orphans by war; families traumatized by terrorism; and hospitals trying to meet expanding needs of the uncertain times in which we live.
April 2004…Rena Gutherz is on a mission – to ensure no one forgets the Holocaust and everyone remembers their responsibility to the future of the Jewish people and to leave a legacy that is a testament to her life and theirs.
A "good heart" goes on
Born in Lwow, Poland, Rena grew up in a traditional Jewish home. She enjoyed a privileged life, completing university just before the war broke out. She and her husband lived through Soviet and NAZI occupation and the ensuing homelessness, violence and ghetto life. She survived while the rest of her family perished.
She and her husband lived through Soviet and NAZI occupation and the ensuing homelessness, violence and ghetto life. She stayed alive while the rest of her family perished, serving as a slave at a German hospital. When it became too dangerous to stay, she and her husband separated so that each had a better chance to hide and survive.
When the war ended, she tried to pick up her life in Poland – sick and traumatized. It would be another 20 years before she could find anyone to talk to about her pain and loneliness.
She remarried, visited Israel and, following the untimely death of her husband, moved to Canada in 1968. Shortly after her arrival, she married Leon Gutherz and found a large, instant family.
“You can’t imagine the feeling,” Rena says. “You finally feel warm; your heart changes.”
She also, at last, gave expression to some of her deepest feelings, providing testimony for the Shoah Project, directed by Stephen Spielberg.
For many years Leon ran a successful greenhouse. The couple enjoyed travel to Israel and Rena maintained her lifetime ties with Hadassah WIZO and Technion.
When Leon died in 1990 at the age of 96 Rena gave thought to her legacy and how she would like to commemorate his life and her family who perished.
She has provided in her Will for the establishment of the Rena and Leon Gutherz Foundation, which will benefit those organizations that were important to her and Leon including the Jewish General Hospital, the Montreal Memorial Holocaust Centre and, in particular, Israeli institutions such as the Diaspora Museum and healthcare institutions which are continually battling the effects of terrorism.
“I feel confident for the next generation,” she says.
“Whatever I can do –
whatever we can do-
to support Israel
makes a big difference.”
Rena passed away in April 2006. True to her name, her caring "good heart" goes on.