Yvonne Amato

Yvonne Amato

My father taught me the importance of staying connected to Jewish life. After emigrating from Eastern Europe he met my mother in South Africa, where she was born. He never spoke about life in Europe or his family, who were all lost in the Holocaust. At a young age I occasionally attended Shul on Shabbat by myself and my mother began lighting candles. When a shul was built in our neighborhood we attended as a family for High Holidays.

I was married in 1967 and we moved to Zambia. Eighteen months later we moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to be with his family. We became involved in the Jewish community serving on 14 different committees and adopted a daughter and son. In 1986, following complications from surgery, my husband passed away. The previous year we had spent 6 weeks traveling throughout the United States and Canada visiting relatives on both sides of the family who we had stayed connected to through letters. They had all immigrated to North America and our plan was to join them. In December of 1986, with little money, my two young children and I moved to Hartford, CT where we connected to its Jewish community.

In 1991, with my son in college, my daughter and I moved to San Diego to be closer to him. San Diego had a huge South African Jewish community and I worked for the Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Services. I also met Ivan, a recent widower, who also grew up in Johannesburg. We didn’t know each other in South Africa but we did have mutual friends. We married in 1995. I was very blessed to share my life with him, his three children and two of my own. In 1999 we joined my daughter and her family in Charlotte. In 2008 Ivan passed away after suffering from Parkinson’s.

Life provides us with challenges and enriches us with blessings. The relationships with my children and my grandchildren are truly blessings. Another is the ability to leave a legacy gift. I never thought someone like me had the ability to leave a gift to support future generations but have learned that we all can. That knowledge and the creation of my legacy gift has been a life changing experience. It has allowed me to feel like a truly connected member of our Jewish community.

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