NEW YORK - Mrs. Goldie Steinberg, who was recorded as the world’s oldest living Jew and the sixth-oldest living person in the world, passed away in a Long Island nursing home this past Sunday evening, only a few months short of what would have been her 115th birthday. A living piece of history, Mrs. Steinberg retained her selfless regard for others and her clarity of mind until her last days.
“She had her family around her and said her goodbyes,” Moshe Heller, the corporate administrator of Grandell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Long Beach, New York, where Mrs. Steinberg resided, told Hamodia. “She was thinking of others until the end. An hour before she passed away, she called over her roommate’s grandchildren who were visiting to say hello to them.”
He said that her petirah was peaceful; she was in the same bed she had occupied for the last seven years since coming to the facility.
To put Mrs. Steinberg’s age in perspective: When Mrs. Steinberg reached the age of bas mitzvah in 1912, Hagaon Harav Chaim Soloveitchik, zt”l, was serving as Rav of Brisk; World War I was still two years in the future; and radio waves could not yet carry voices.
Mrs. Steinberg was born in the city of Kishinev, in what was then part of the Tsarist Russian Empire and is today the capital of Moldova, on 7 Cheshvan 5661/1900. She was likely the last living survivor of the two infamous Kishinev pogroms of 1903 and 1905, the result of a blood libel and general anti-Jewish sentiment in Russia at the time.
Although Mrs. Steinberg did not remember the pogroms, she recalled being told by family members that she, together with her parents and siblings, were saved by a non-Jewish neighbor who hid them in his house.
“My father’s name was Chatzkel,” said Mrs. Steinberg, in an interview for Hamodia on the occasion of her 113th birthday. “Everybody knew him as an honest person. He worked in iron and would send it to a factory in Tula.” Reb Chatzkel, she said, was so trusted in the community that lenders would dispense of asking for his signature on loans he guaranteed. Mrs. Steinberg recalled that her father would often give beyond his means to tzedakah appeals as a way of putting pressure on wealthier Jews in the community to at least match his donations.
A living record of the past, when asked what she recalled of World War I, Mrs. Steinberg said that a lot of Jews came to Kishinev fleeing the fighting, and that the largest of the town’s three shuls opened its upper level for refugees to sleep in. She added that she remembered water being delivered to her home with a horse and buggy.
In 1923, Mrs. Steinberg’s uncle Max, a successful businessman residing in America, brought her and two of her sisters, Sarah and Raizel, to the United States. She recalled that during the Great Depression, Max served meals in his factory to anyone who was in need during that trying time. Mrs. Steinberg used her needlework skills working in a factory that produced girls’ dresses. She worked professionally as a seamstress until turning 80.
She married Philip Steinberg, a fellow Kishinev native, in 1932. Mr. Steinberg, who passed away in 1967, worked as a jeweler on Fulton Street. The couple lived in Bensonhurst in an apartment that Mrs. Steinberg inhabited for 72 years, before moving to Grandell at age 104.
The Steinbergs had two children, Don Sargent and Anne Teicher. She is survived by both of them, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Steinberg’s more recent birthday celebrations at Grandell garnered ever-wider attention with each passing year. The momentous occasions were attended not only by friends and family, but were joined by groups from local Jewish schools and politicians.
“You should know that Grandell is one of the few nursing homes around that is under hashgachah and employs a mashgiach temidi,” said Mr. Heller. “You never know; maybe it was part of the secret to her arichus yamim.”
Until her last days, Mrs. Steinberg kept up with world events, regularly reading the newspaper. She spent much of her day knitting scarves, sweaters and the like for family, friends and even Grandell staff. Above all, she remained a person who was focused on the needs of others.
“That she was raised in a family dedicated to chessed was obvious. She was always looking out for other people,” said Mr. Heller. “If another resident didn’t get their meal tray yet or anything else that they needed, Goldie spoke up for them. She was totally not self-centered; that’s the essence of who she was.”