Johanna Zurndorfer, a member of the Riverdale Y’s Senior Center, has become a centenarian. Born in Rexingen, Germany, before the rise of Hitler’s regime, she enjoyed the pursuits of her Jewish observance, attending a Jewish day school. As a high schooler, she bicycled 2.5 miles each way to attend school in a neighboring town. When she was 16, Zurndorfer served as a bookkeeping apprentice.
Her parents sensed the imminent danger to come, and in 1936, Zurndorfer alone left Germany and settled in New York City with her sister. Two years later, her mother followed and lived in America until her death at age 101. Her husband-to-be, Fred, also made his way to New York from Rexingen by way of Chicago. They got engaged after one date.
In NYC, Zurndorfer initially became a housekeeper and then a dental assistant, attending night classes to learn English. After her marriage, she and Fred moved to Inwood, where they raised two children. Both Zurndorfer and her husband co-founded Ohav Shalom, a synagogue with mostly German Jewish immigrants that served as the center of their Jewish life for many years.
In 1979, Zurndorfer moved north to Riverdale and built deep roots in Synagogue Adath Israel. She served on the sisterhood and then the board of trustees. She joined the Riverdale Y Senior Center’s Europa program, a monthly gathering for Holocaust survivors, and celebrated her 100th birthday with them last month.
New York 81st district Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and 11th district New York City Councilman Andrew Cohen were in attendance.
by Tamar Weinberg