Germany had just invaded, and her husband, Israel, had been detained along with other men deemed “enemy nationals” at an old fort outside of Paris.
Daniel, her son born in 1937, was only two years old when the German occupation began, but because Judith and Israel had resided in Palestine and possessed British identification papers, Kochavi family members were deemed British subjects and faced less restrictions at first.
Unlike most Jews, they were not required to wear a yellow star. Judith utilized her exceptional status to collaborate with the resistance, concealing other Jews in their apartment until smugglers could be contacted.
“Yes, I survived, but my mother was the lead survivor of the story,” said Daniel Kochavi, who now lives in Philadelphia. “Our parents lived under dangerous circumstances, but we survived due to Judith’s courage, bravery and resourcefulness. She decided to do what she could do to help other Jewish refugees and help them escape.”
It’s an honor to be here with you today in this space that speaks to the importance of history and the importance of remembering at a time when there are fewer and fewer survivors of the Holocaust.” – Stockton President Joe Bertolino
Daniel and his sister, Monique Richardson, realized it was time to remember their parents. As a result, they made a donation to the Stockton University Foundation to establish the Judith and Israel Kochavi Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund.
The foundation will grant an annual scholarship to Stockton University Holocaust and Genocide Studies students.
“It’s an honor to be here with you today in this space that speaks to the importance of history and the importance of remembering at a time when there are fewer and fewer survivors of the Holocaust,” said Stockton President Joe Bertolino during a gift-signing ceremony on Sept. 29 at the university’s Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center. “The support that you provide matters in that we are able to keep the story alive for generations to come.”
As the Germans began gathering up all Jews, Judith fled into hiding in early 1944 and arranged for Daniel to be hidden separately in a Catholic boarding school for girls. They remained in hiding until August 1944, when they were reunited with Israel after the liberation of Paris.
However, the narrative remained largely inside the family for many years until Daniel’s son, Jonathan, relocated to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, next door to Michael Hayse, an associate professor of History at Stockton. The neighbors became friends, and Hayse began to discuss his experience with Jonathan’s father.
Daniel and Jonathan accompanied a Stockton faculty-led research travel with students back to France in 2017 to visit numerous places, including Judith’s flat. Hayse also collaborated with many Stockton students and the Kochavis on a book manuscript titled “Through the Tempests of War and Genocide: One Extended Jewish Family’s Experiences in the Twentieth Century.”
That encounter inspired Daniel and his sister, who was born after WWII, to establish the scholarship.
“That’s when I decided that we should do something to mark that period and the fight to survive,” Daniel Kochavi said.
Stockton Executive Director of Development Susan Werner thanked the Kochavis for sharing their family’s story.
“The ability to tell this story and the ability to combine it with your generosity and your philanthropy is going to be felt for generations,” she said. “This is an extraordinary place telling extraordinary stories, and it wouldn’t be possible without people like you.”