Sipora Groen, who survived four years of Nazi occupation of Holland and lost her father, brother, fiancé, and nearly all of her extended family to Nazi atrocities, and subsequently built a life based on service, dedication, love and family, died April 19 at her home in Delray Beach, FL after a short illness. She was 95.
Mrs. Groen is the mother of Marcel Groen, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee.
A life is composed of many chapters, but as her son, David, wrote in an International Women’s Day tribute to his mother in March of this year, Mrs. Groen lived five lives.
David wrote that the first life was the one she lived till the age of 13 when her mother died. The second was the next five pre-war years when, as a young girl, she had to take on many of the responsibilities of raising her younger brother, Bram. The third life, and unquestionably the most difficult, was the five years of the war when her father, brother, and fiancé, Hans, died at the hands of the Nazis, and she labored as a nursing student at the Jewish hospital in Amsterdam.It was during this time, however, that she met and fell in love with her future husband, Nardus Groen, a member of the Dutch underground resistance. During the war, Sipora was forced to keep running, hiding and at times huddled in a cellar for 17 hours a day. In the end, she was one of only 30,000 Dutch Jews, one in four, to survive the Nazis.
David described her fourth life as relatively normal, but still often very difficult years following the war, where she and Nardus, now a rabbi, worked hard and sacrificed to raise five children, experiencing all the trials and tribulations any family would during decades of normal life. This lasted over 60 years until her beloved Nardus died in 2007. Her final life were those final 10 years until her death when this slight, lively woman continued to drive, shop, host Mahjong games, travel alone, be an active member of her synagogue, have her own Facebook account and, just four months ago, throw her own 95th birthday party for family and friends.
One of the most satisfying activities during the last 10 years of her life was lecturing to schools, civic groups and other organizations about her life and the Holocaust, in general. In May, 2015, while she was visiting family in the Philadelphia area, the Philadelphia Inquirer, detailed a visit she made to Bala Cynwyd Middle School where she mesmerized a class of seventh graders, who had recently completed studying the Holocaust. “I still myself sometimes think, ‘How did I go through it?’ But I was young, and you have the courage to live. You wanted to live,” she told Inquirer reporter Jessica Parks during that visit.
Sipora and Nardus moved to the United States in 1955 settling first in Cincinnati and subsequently moved to Lansdale, PA and Atlantic City before moving back to Holland where Nardus would head a synagogue and take on a leadership role in Jewish communities in six provinces, while Sipora became director of a Jewish home for the aged in Arnhem, Holland. After years of service there, the Groens retired to the Dutch seaside town of Zandvoort, and subsequently to Boynton Beach, FL.
Sipora Rodrigues-Lopes was born in Amsterdam on January 1, 1922. She and her husband had five children: Marcel (Bernice) of Jenkintown, PA; Leo (Maureen) of Ventnor, NJ; Ruben of Boca Raton, FL; Deborah Groen of Cherry Hill, NJ; and, David of Oceanside, NY.
She had 12 grandchildren: Marlon (Amanda); Jennifer (Ami Dolev); Rachel Yagur (Elad); Justin (Kim); Daniel; Natan; Bram; Kati; Jan; Rebecca; Jackson; and, Joshua. She also had 10 great-grandchildren.
Services are scheduled for Friday, April 21 at 1 p.m. at Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael Sack’s, 6410 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA.