Liora Utitz (60), the director of nursing of the Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, completed her nursing studies 40 years ago. Liora is the third generation in a family of nurses. Now, her daughter Maayan (24), is a second-year student who is also pursuing a nursing career.
Liora recounts, “During the Second World War, at the age of 37, my grandmother, Margalit Fairman, was placed in a makeshift hospital in Westerbork, a Nazi transit camp in the Northeastern Netherlands. She worked at the camp hospital for a long time, doing whatever she could to help. Later, she, with the other Jews, was deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She continued to help as many people as possible and was assigned the task of helping orphans before then entered the camp orphanage. After surviving the war, my grandmother returned to Amsterdam, where she worked in a hospital until she married.”
Shoshana Schneider explains (Fairman’s daughter, Liora’s mother, and a second-generation nurse), “We have a photo of my mother in her nurse’s uniform. She drove a moped every day to get to work. Her job kept her going.”
The story gets more interesting. In the 1950’s – just a short while after Israel’s independence in 1948 – Fairman moved to Israel with her family – and her moped. Liesel Oppenheimer, Fairman’s sister, who had immigrated to Israel before the war, was a midwife.
Oppenheimer welcomed her sister and helped the family settle into their new home. Fairman, now well-known in her new community, was nicknamed ‘the grandma on wheels.’ “It was in the ‘60s. Elderly women riding two-wheelers were uncommon, but that’s what she did and how she was known,” Liora continues.
With both her mother and her aunt being nurses, Shoshana shares, “It was clear to me that I too, would become a nurse.” Schneider became the first in her family to become a fully certified Israeli nurse. She remembers her graduation like it was yesterday: “After studying for three years, my graduation day was very emotional. The graduation ceremony at Haifa’s ‘Bnei-Zion’ hospital was attended by the mayor of Haifa, the deputy mayor, and everyone who was anyone in local society. Nursing is a difficult profession. Not everyone is suited to the job, but I wouldn’t have chosen otherwise. I am proud of my daughter Liora and my granddaughter, Maayan, who are also dedicated to this profession.”
For Liora, the choice was less obvious, “I couldn’t decide on a profession; kindergarten teacher, florist, or nurse. I truly love and believe in nursing, and that is what I finally chose.”
At Rambam, Liora has worked in many departments and gained much experience including pediatrics and emergency medicine. Now she is the director of nursing at Rambam’s Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital.
“I presented a lecture at a conference on emergency medicine in Amsterdam. I took my mother with me and dedicated the lecture to my grandmother – Margalit. The story moved the audience, and I felt like I had closed a circle,” Liora goes on to say. She then recalls a touching incident, “I was treating a Dutch woman at Rambam, and after chatting a while, it transpired that she knew my grandmother from the camps. She told me that Margalit had saved her life. It’s amazing how things come together.”
Following in her family’s noble footsteps, granddaughter Maayan Utitz is in her second year of nursing studies. “I was interested in a profession that combines working with people and interpersonal communication. Medicine, biology, and the human body interest me very much. My mother is always supportive and said the choice was mine. There was no escaping it – nursing it would be! I want to make them proud,” Maayan shares happily.
Holding a treasured black-and-while family photo, grandmother Shoshana Schneider shares a suiting conclusion to this story about an outstanding family: “My mother was a nurse; my daughter, Liora, followed in my footsteps; and my granddaughter Maayan is studying to become a nurse. We are four generations of nurses, and I think my mother was the best of us all.”