In Memoriam: Miriam Kercer, Child Survivor of Hebron Massacre

The fascinating story of a strong-willed woman who lived through Hebron's darkest hour.

24.12.18, 20:26
The family of Miriam Kercer announced her passing at the age of 97-years-old. Miriam survived the 1929 Hebron massacre when she was 7 years old. 
Her niece, Malka Epstein, in whose home she lived toward the end of her life, announced her passing and gave some biographical information.
Miriam was born in Riga, Latvia in 1922 to Noah Imerman, a student from the Slutsk Yeshiva in what is today Belarus,  a city that later became infamous in 1941 during World War II as the site of a massive massacre perpetrated by the Nazis. Rabbi Imerman served in the army for 3 years during World War I, and later married Risa (nee Slifkin), a daughter of a wood merchant.
Four children were born in Riga: Tema, born in 1920, Miriam, born 1922, Rivka, born 1924 and Nachum born 1925.
The family emigrated to the land of Israel in 1925, the same year the Slabodka yeshiva relocated to Hebron, revitalizing the backwater town with new growth and economy. Imerman opened one of the first modern bakeries in Hebron and studied at the Slabodka yeshiva in the evenings. 
In 1927, their daughter Rivka passed away after a short sickness. Another child, Shoshanna, was born in 1928.
The family lived in Hebron until the massacre in the summer of 1929. Instigated by Haj Amin Husseini, mobs attacked their Jewish neighbors. Rabbi Imerman was killed by his co-worker, an Arab man named Issa, who burned him to death in one of the bakery ovens.
Nine-year-old Tema was injured, and seven-year-old Miriam succeeded in escaping with her baby sister Shoshana. She hid, together with her siblings and other Jewish residents in the house of a sympathetic Arab neighbor.
After the riots ended, the British authorities rounded up all Jewish residents of Hebron and deported them to Jerusalem. 
Miriam's wounded mother and sister were hospitalized for several months while she and her younger brother and sister stayed in an orphanage in Jerusalem. Their father was buried in the mass grave for the riot victims in Hebron's ancient cemetery. The memorial was later vandalized and razed by the Jordanians. 
Miriam grew up in Jerusalem. Her mother, 28-years-old when widowed, never re-married. Miriam studied at the Mizrachi seminary and became a kindergarten teacher. She lived with her mother until she met her future husband, Ze'ev Wolf Kercer.
Ze'ev Wolf Kercer was born in Eastern Poland, and studied in the Baranowitz Yeshiva. A soldier at the start of World War II, he was captured by the Soviets and sent as a war prisoner to a labor camp in Siberia. After the war ended in 1945, he returned to Poland to find out that his entire family was murdered by the Nazis. 
In 1949 he arrived to New York and was trained as a kosher butcher. In 1960 he came to visit relatives and friends in Israel and was introduced to Miriam. After a short period they got married in Jerusalem. 
Miriam and Ze'ev gave birth to a baby girl named Chana Chaya, after her father's mother. Unfortunately, she passed away from an illness when she was four months old. Miriam and Ze'ev did not have any other children. 
The mourning parents decided to move to New York, where Ze'ev continued his profession in a kosher butcher shop. In 1989, after Ze'ev retired, they came back to Jerusalem, where Miriam maintained close relationships with her two sisters, nieces and nephews.
In 2006 Ze'ev passed away, and she lived independently until 2012 when her sister and best friend Tema passed away. At this point, she moved in with her nephew's family.
Malka Epstein writes, "My aunt Miriam was a very sensitive person. She used to talk a lot about her childhood in Hebron and about her father, but it was too difficult for her to talk about the massacre. All her life she felt she was an orphan, a victim of the massacre. She carried the trauma with her. For this reason, she was afraid to come back to the place where her father was murdered.  
Her eldest sister Tema (my late mother-in-law), who was wounded in the massacre, came to visit Hebron with us, also when she was over 80 years old, and was very excited to show her children and grandchildren the places she knew in her childhood. Every person faces his memories in a different way... but when Miriam was asked where she came from she used to reply: I am from Hebron. Although she was not born there, Hebron was the place she considered as her place of origin."
The photographs in the gallery below have been provided by the Epstein family. They show Noah Imerman with two co-workers in his bakery, the street in Hebron where the bakery once stood, Mrs. Imerman with mangled hands, an injury suffered during the riots (photo by Gershon Gera) , and the Imerman family in Jerusalem, with Miriam second from the right. The documents are from the hospital report and testimony of Risa Imerman.
United States contact info:
1760 Ocean Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230

Noah Imerman, massacre victim. Wife and family, survivors, Hebron 1929. | 9 Images
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