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Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter, Holocaust survivor and bridal empire builder, dies at 99



(JTA) — Before “Say Yes to the Dress” brought Kleinfeld Bridal to the attention of more than 1.5 million households across America every week, a Holocaust survivor named Hedda Kleinfeld revolutionized the bridal industry, bringing it to life with European designer gowns.

The iconic bridal store, which today boasts about 200 employees, began as an offshoot of Kleinfeld’s father Isidor’s Viennese fur business. Starting in the late 1960s and for the next several decades, Hedda ran Kleinfeld Bridal with her husband Jack Schachter, a talented fur cutter employed by her father.

Nicknamed “Miss Hedda,” Kleinfeld’s foresight to shift the family business away from fur and simple special occasion wear to exclusively carrying wedding gowns transformed the small Bay Ridge, Brooklyn storefront into a multi-million dollar empire.

“She really built Kleinfeld not only as an iconic name but she left an incredible mark on the whole industry with her vision,” Mara Urshel, one of the current co-owners of Kleinfeld, told WWD.

Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter died in Manhattan on March 29. She was 99.

Hedda Kleinfeld was born in Vienna in 1924 to an upper-middle class secular Jewish family. She had a younger sister, Liane. After her father was released from the Dachau concentration camp, where he had been imprisoned for trying to cross the border into Belgium with his brother, the family decided to emigrate, initially with fake visas meant to secure passage to Shanghai. But those papers came in too late, so the family headed to Havana, Cuba, where Hedda and Liane spent their teenage years.

Family photos of the Kleinfeld family in Vienna. In the group photo, Hedda is seen in front at right, with, from left, her mother Regina, her father Isidor, her sister Liane and their nanny. (Courtesy United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Design by Jackie Hajdenberg)

That’s where the teenage boys of her youth flirted with her and taught her how to dance — a skill she brought with her all the way to Central Park in 2018 when, on the way to a Park Conservancy gala as her granddaughter’s guest, she danced to a local band playing under the shade of the iconic Wisteria Walk, her granddaughter Ilana Schachter recalled.

Though those early memories of Vienna and her escape to Havana shaped much of her life, she never spoke about them much, even with her family.

“She really tried to suppress those memories and box them up and say that was a past life,” Schachter told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “She did not share a lot of experiences from that time period, but she did have happy memories of being a teenager in Havana, which I can only imagine was quite a trip.”

About 10 years ago, Schachter and her grandmother visited Havana and the places of Kleinfeld’s teenage years, including the home she once lived in and the town square where she used to dance.

Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter and granddaughter Ilana Schachter visit Hedda’s teenage home in Havana, Cuba. (Courtesy Ilana Schachter)

It’s fitting, then, that her grandmother chose a career centered on weddings.

“I think she appreciated being a part of an industry that was about celebration,” Schachter said.

Beginning in the 1990s, the Kleinfeld company changed hands a few times, according to a company history, and in 2004 construction began on a 35,000-square-foot store on West 20th St. That’s the location frequently featured in the popular TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress” — in which experts help brides find their perfect gown. The show brought the store’s name into millions of homes. But one home that it never made its way into was that of Hedda Kleinfeld.

“She never saw one episode,” Schachter recalled while laughing. “She had no interest. But she wasn’t bothered by it.”

Another “never” that Schachter says her grandmother couldn’t quite get into, despite being quite computer savvy (she was an early adopter of AOL Instant Messenger), was online shopping.

Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter dances under the shade of the Wisteria Walk in New York’s Central Park in 2018. (Courtesy Ilana Schachter)

“Online shopping was never going to happen for her,” she explained. “You bought things in the store, you felt them in your hands, you assessed the quality and you had to see what it looked like on your body. And then imagine buying something and not putting it on your body.”

Clothing was “sacred” to Kleinfeld.

“There was a sacred act in designing clothing and wearing clothing and honoring the clothing as you wore it,” Schachter said. “And she brought that into her work but also that’s just the way she saw the world.”

Kleinfeld’s husband Jack died in 2008. She is survived by their sons, Ronald and Robert.

The post Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter, Holocaust survivor and bridal empire builder, dies at 99 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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