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  • Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia

Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Articles about Sonia are also contained in the section on Belgium.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

In the 2000-2001 time period, the following seven-part article about Sonia and her memoir appeared in the Judaism section of about.com.  It is no longer online in that section or in about.com.

The Making of a Jewish American Feminist: Sonia Pressman Fuentes

By Lisa Katz

Part 1: Book Synopsis - "Let it be" 

Sonia Pressman Fuentes, Jewish feminist, author, public speaker, and lawyer, was awarded the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor for her contributions to the Second Wave of the women's rights movement in the United States. 

Her memoirs are written with a Jewish/Yiddish flavor and are called Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter. The book is written with a light touch and is suffused with humor. In the following pages, however, only those parts of the book that detail the main elements of Sonia's life are summarized.  One needs to read the book to learn the whole story.

Parts 1-5 of this article are a synopsis of her book. Part 6 is an interview with Sonia that focuses on her Jewish identity. Part 7 contains more information about her book. 

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Hinda Leah

Sonia's mother, Hinda Leah, lost her own mother when she was ten years old. Hinda Leah's father remarried so "Hinda Leah would have a mother." As it turned out, Hinda Leah's stepmother had a daughter of her own, and therefore had little use for her husband's daughter from his first marriage.

Hinda Leah was a studious child who liked to recite the Chumish out loud. One day when her stepmother complained that this recitation was giving her a headache, her father seized Hinda Leah by the hair and threw her across the room. Hinda Leah ran outside crying. Just then, her rich uncle from Warsaw was passing by. When he learned why the girl was crying, he was outraged and arranged to take Hinda Leah back with him to Warsaw.

So Hinda Leah left her father and stepmother's home in the shtetl ofPiltzfor her wealthy uncle's home in the city of Warsaw. There she grew up, partly as a member of the family and partly as a household retainer. 

Zysia

Sonia's father, Zysia, lost his father when he was young. His mother, having  survived three husbands, owned and operated a bakery and raised Zysia by herself. Zysia never had the opportunity or inclination to attend school.

Zysia decided to leave Piltz when he was fourteen years old. He ran across the Polish-German border and found work in a shop located in a suburb of Frankfurt am Main that manufactured cloth for military uniforms. In time he was promoted to tailor's apprentice and then to shop foreman. When he was eighteen years old, he went back to Piltz to visit his mother.

Sonia

While Zysia was visiting his mother, Hinda Leah returned to Piltz to visit her father. One of Hinda Leah's cousins, anxious to earn a shadkhn's fee, arranged for Hinda Leah and Zysia to meet. They took a 15-minute walk together. Then Hinda Leah returned to Warsaw, and Zysia returned to work in Germany. They exchanged letters; since Zysia was illiterate, his letters were written by a friend. The couple decided to get married. They were married in Piltz in 1913 and moved to Germany.

In 1914, they had a son, and, over the years, they prospered. In 1927, the family had a flourishing business and maids at home. Since it was not fashionable for well-to-do couples in pre-World War II Berlin society to have large families, Hinda Leah had had seven abortions.  At the age of thirty-six, she discovered she was pregnant again.                 

When she went to the doctor to get an abortion, she found he had left the country for a ski vacation. Hinda Leah went home, disappointed. When Zysia came home that evening, she told him what had happened and that she would now go to see another doctor the next day. Zysia said, "No, let it be already." 

That's why Sonia was born.

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