Suzan Thalheimer, the face of ORT in the Netherlands for nearly a quarter of a century, has died, aged 86.
Ms Thalheimer had been bravely battling illness but her passing still came as a shock to her many friends within the ORT family.
“I spoke to her on her mobile phone yesterday and she said that it was going to be the last call she was going to make,”? said ORT Netherlands Chairman Jacques Noach on Tuesday. “It was quite a shock. We’re all very sad that we’ve lost her. She was the personification of ORT Netherlands.”?
As a long-time member of the ORT Netherlands Board, Ms Thalheimer’s constancy was a reassuring presence during some relatively lean years for the 65-year-old organisation. And she was delighted to see a new generation of lay leaders installed ahead of the World ORT Board of Trustees meeting in Amsterdam in January.
“Suzan wrote to us saying how glad she was that the organisation was on the move again and that we were becoming more active,”? Mr Noach said.
It was at the January meeting that Ms Thalheimer was made Honorary President of ORT Netherlands. Three years earlier, at the World ORT General Assembly in Warsaw, she had been honoured for her lifetime achievements by World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg.
“If there is still an ORT in the Netherlands, it is in great part thanks to her, and we should pay her a great tribute. Because she did not give up, and put all her energy in making certain that something would happen at a very important time to change things for good,”? Dr de Gunzburg said on hearing of Ms Thalheimer’s death.
ORT Netherlands Board member Ruben Vis, who knew Ms Thalheimer for 22 years, mourned the passing of a “charming person, a real lady”?.
“She deserved all the honours she received. Without any doubt she has been the backbone of ORT here,”? Mr Vis said.
His sentiments were echoed by former ORT Netherlands Chairman Robbert Baruch.
“Her loyalty to ORT and her commitment to education were tremendous,”? Mr Baruch said. “Even though it became physically harder for her she kept pushing everyone to give as much as she did. No matter what you did it wasn’t enough; it was good how she challenged you. She was incredibly friendly, tolerant, modern and very, very independent.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer paid tribute to a “devoted ORTist”?.
“Suzan was an outstanding personality who would have been an asset to any organisation; that she chose ORT was a tribute to our organisation and validation of its mission to which she was so deeply committed.”?
World ORT Chief Operating Officer Sonia Gomes de Mesquita added: “Suzan was synonymous with ORT in The Netherlands and passionately devoted to our mission, particularly in the Former Soviet Union and Israel. Not Jewish herself, she was also a bridge between communities. We will miss her.”?
The funeral will take place on Monday, 11 July at 1.30pm at the Yarden Crematorium Ockenburgh, Ockenburghstraat 21, 2553 AA Den Haag. Flowers welcome, to be sent to Monuta Van der Togt funeral home – Rodelaan 60 – 2272 BB Voorburg.
Condolences may be sent to Ms Thalheimer’s stepdaughter Heleen Sittig at [email protected].