Last Thursday, Potomac resident Flora Singer whispered her gratitude on an afternoon when she was honored for the publication of her memoir about surviving Holocaust-era Belgium.
The Montgomery County Board of Education honored Singer for the publication “Flora: I was but a Child,” and her service as a foreign language teacher at county schools including Cabin John Middle School and Walt Whitman and Winston Churchill high schools. The School Board also honored Donald McComb, a retired science teacher at Springbrook and Gaithersburg high schools, who provided copies of “Flora” to all School Board members and high school principals at the county.
Singer suffered a stroke in April 2006, and on Thursday she could only whisper her thanks to the School Board. But Jack Singer, Flora's husband of 57 years, said her book continues to speak for her.
“Since Flora had her stroke, it has been her desire to teach through the book," said Jack Singer at their home in the Inverness Forest neighborhood last week.
“FLORA: I was but a Child” was published by Yad Yashem and the Holocaust Survivorsí Memorial Project in June 2007. It chronicles her survival in Nazi-occupied Belgium. Her father left for Canada just before the war. Flora, her sisters and their mother were not able to join him, but survived the following five years, much of that time in a Catholic convent.
Flora's family moved to New York in 1946, and it was there that she met Jack Singer. They moved to Pennsylvania and Long Island before settling in Potomac. Flora Singer began teaching as a second career in the mid-1970s, both at the University of Maryland and in Montgomery County schools. In addition to teaching foreign language, Singer prepared a Holocaust history course for the county's teachers.
When she saw literature several years ago by an organization that denied the Holocaust ever happened, she felt compelled to testify about what she'd experienced.
“Thank God she was able to finish it before she got the stroke,” Jack Singer said.
COUNTY SCHOOLS last month approved Singer's book for inclusion in materials for high school students. Principals will receive a copy of the book in the upcoming year, with a request that they share it with the schoolís librarian and social studies department head.
“The image on the book [cover] could just as well have been any of my classmates,” said Ben Moskowitz, a senior at Walter Johnson and the School Boardís student member, at the School Board ceremony last Thursday.
School Board member Steve Abrams was born in 1943, and grew up in Harrisburg, Pa. Some of his earliest recollections were of seeing Holocaust survivors come to town and adjusting to life in the United States. “Too many of the survivors kept their stories inside. … My exposure to survivors was very real and very personal, yet they never shared with me their experiences,” Abrams said.
Abrams thanked Singer for sharing her recollections through her book. “Flora, what youíve done is provide for us here a very personal connection and touch,” Abrams said.
“This is very personal for me as well. Both of my parents were Holocaust survivors,” said School Board member Shirley Brandman.
Brandman thanked Singer for writing the book, despite the painful memories that the process must have recalled. “It is such a gift you have given to all of us,” Brandman said.