Beba Epstein Leventhal, a Holocaust survivor and longtime resident of Pacific Palisades, died on July 17 at the age of 88.
Born on December 19, 1923 in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania), Beba attended Real Gymnasia. Her parents, Semyon Epstein and Manya Senitzky Epstein, and siblings Mottel, Esther and Chaim, perished in Lithuania around 1941.
Beba survived a harrowing period in her young life, first living in a ghetto for two years, working many jobs and striving every day for enough to eat. When the ghetto was disbanded, she was forced onto a crowded freight train and taken to a concentration camp. She spent the next two years of her life in three camps, much of the time digging ditches, which she and her friends joked were graves for themselves.
In the spring of 1945, the Germans put Beba on a mined barge in the Baltic. She managed to get to shore and was rescued from the forest near Schleswig-Holstein. She recuperated in Helsingborg, Stockholm and Saltsjobaden in Sweden prior to reconnecting with her uncle, Lasar Epstein who brought her to New York.
After recovering from typhus as a result of malnutrition, Beba reconnected with her father's older brother, who lived in Brooklyn and who helped her immigrate to the United States. It was through him that she met her husband, Elias Lee Leventhal, who was born in Mlawa, Poland, but emigrated to Mexico City in 1932.
They married in San Antonio in 1948 and the following year moved to Los Angeles, so that Lee could earn his master's degree in chemical engineering at USC. The couple was married for almost 64 years.
When Lee's job moved from JPL to TRW, he and Beba moved to the Westside. Finding excellent schools and a Jewish community, they settled in Pacific Palisades in 1964, making their home on Enchanted Way in Marquez Knolls.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Antioch University in Los Angeles in 1982, Beba worked as a translator and social worker for the Jewish Family Services for 17 years, facilitating the immigration of Russian Jews.
Active in the community, Beba was a member at Kehillat Israel, Palisades League of Women Voters, the Pacific Palisades Library Association and the Yiddish Culture Club.
She was also passionate about Vilna, the Yiddish language, surviving the Holocaust, music, literature, education, her family and the roses in her beautiful backyard.
Beba enjoyed the Coffee Klatch at Mort's Deli on Saturday mornings and looked forward to the Fourth of July and the fireworks. For recreation, she took walks along the Via de las Olas bluffs and swam in the YMCA pool in Temescal Canyon.
She is survived by her husband, her children, Mary of Santa Monica and Michael (wife Sharon) of West Los Angeles, and grandchildren Noah and Ariel.
A funeral service was held on July 20 at Hillside Memorial Park.