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in fond memory...The Schaalmans: Part 2 of 4

Rabbi Schaalman’s coming to the United States was really like a bolt from the blue, and once he arrived, he felt completely out of his element. Everything was in English. No one covered his head. Traditional prayers were not uttered, and when he and his fellow students tried to introduce some of their customs, they were admonished or belittled.

One of Herman’s fellow students was Gunther Plaut, author of the chumash used in many congregations today. They were known as “the gang of five”, since they stuck together, partly just because of the language barrier. All five achieved distinguished careers in the USA.

Lotte’s family decided to leave Germany about the same time. Lotte and her sister, Ilse, were determined to make good lives for themselves. Ilse emigrated to Israel in 1935. In 1936, after several appeals to an uncle in the USA, Lotte was able to emigrate, and she first lived with relatives in Danville, IL. Not till 1939 could Lotte arrange for her parents to leave Germany, and her father died in England, on the way to the USA. Soon after arriving in Danville, Lotte’s mother decided they had to go elsewhere to find suitable society and a suitable husband for Lotte. They then moved to Cincinnati, and again the hand of fate enters the story.

Once Herman met Lotte, he knew she was the one for him. Lotte, on the other hand, didn’t want to be the wife of a rabbi. In perhaps the first test of his powers of persuasion, Herman kept Lotte up till 2 in the morning after a date, telling her why they should marry and how their life would be. Lotte was a very dutiful daughter, and Herman’s winning words were that her mother could always live with them. They were married on May 25, 1941, the day after Herman’s ordination from HUC.

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