“Tolerance is what keeps humanity together, I believe.”

—Anne Willem Meijer, Member of the Dutch Resistance

Roma Kaltman Z”L

On Saturday, March 24, Holocaust Survivor and long-time CHHE board member, Roma Kaltman passed away. She was devoted to the work of CHHE and her testimony in Mapping Our Tears will continue to educate thousands of students each year. The Roma and Sam Kaltman Holocaust Studies for Educators, named in honor of Roma and her husband Sam, ensures that teachers throughout our community are trained to teach the Holocaust and its lessons to thousands of students each year.

Roma Kaltman was born in Lodz, Poland in 1926. She had a happy childhood until the Nazis invaded her hometown. She, along with her mother and brother and sisters were sent to the Lodz Ghetto. After several years of life in the ghetto, Roma was shipped to Auschwitz, then on to Stutthof and later survived a death march during which she escaped and was liberated by the Soviet Army. She focused on the future and found her former boyfriend, Sam Kaltman, alive in Feldafing Displaced Persons Camp. They married and eventually made their home in Cincinnati.

From the moment Roma came to Cincinnati she was involved with the Survivors of Nazism group, trying to build a community. Roma also focused her attention on raising her two children. After losing her entire family in the Holocaust, rebuilding her own was of utmost importance. Throughout her children’s early years, Roma continued her involvement in the survivors group, the Golf Manor synagogue, and the parent-teacher association of her children’s school.

The Roma and Sam Kaltman Holocaust Studies for Educators, June 2010

Roma was always committed to education. She spoke of going to school in secret in the ghetto, risking her life to learn, and trading ration cards for books. She credited this with her meeting Sam, who was also devoted to education. Additionally, one of the few good memories she shared from the camps is the teachers from Riga who were in her work detail. While they did hard labor they taught Roma about geography, history, and her favorite subject, Eretz Yisrael. This commitment to education stayed with Roma, who immediately after the war pursued her studies at the University of Lodz and later in London, England. After her children were out of the nest, she resumed her education in her 50s, graduated from the University of Cincinnati at the age of 53, and became a licensed nursing home administrator. She also participated in the Melton School of Jewish Studies.

Roma also held leadership roles in Na’Amat, an International Movement of Zionist Women which supports the women and children of Israel, the Combined Generations of the Holocaust, Jewish Family Services, and The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education (CHHE) during her life.

Roma and Sam with their children Sandy and Jerry.

An ardent supporter of CHHE’s creation and an important inspiration for the project since its founding, she was a member of the board of trustees, the Speaker’s Bureau, and spoke to numerous school groups about her experiences. For many years, she spoke to Cincinnati teens headed to Poland for the March of the Living and the Federation’s Poland-Israel trips, sharing her perspectives on Jewish life in Poland before and during the war. Additionally, Roma was an active participant in the creation of the Center’s permanent exhibit, Mapping Our Tears, and her video testimony is featured in the attic. Roma recognized the importance of preserving her story, and recorded it for the archives created by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. She contributed further to Holocaust education by giving numerous interviews over the years to the Cincinnati Enquirer and community newspapers. Roma said during her life “I demand that everyone understand the vulnerability of humans. To help us remember that vulnerability, we must never forget the Shoah.”

In addition to all of her accomplishments, Roma was an incredibly kind, warm, caring and passionate person. She was an extremely positive and people-oriented person as well. She has left a mark on everyone she touched and her ability to overcome such loss, tragedy, and cruelty during her life and to still give back to her community gives us an inspiration to live by. She will be missed both by the Center and all those she touched throughout the community.