Rarely do people who move from Terre Haute and leave United Hebrew Congregation as long ago as 1943 return for a visit. Eleanor Loeb Merar, now 92, came back to her adopted home Saturday, May 19 — almost the 76th anniversary of her confirmation service in Temple Israel.
Ellie, who now lives in Skokie, Ill., and is a member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center Speakers’ Bureau, came to Terre Haute to speak at CANDLES Holocaust Museum & Education Center. Her trip was made possible by Danny Spungen and the Florence and Laurence Spungen Family Foundation.
Before World War II, Emma and Albert Loeb owned a store in the small town of Lauterecken, Germany. Eleanor was born there in 1926, followed by a younger sister, Stella, in 1928.
Once the Nazis came to power, life became increasingly difficult for the Loebs. Their store was a frequent target of anti-Semitic acts, And the two girls found school impossible. Walter Sommers recalls many Jewish people initially escaping harsh treatment in the small German towns by fleeing to nearby Frankfurt.
Wolf family sponsored the Loebs in Terre Haute
The Loebs were fortunate. American relatives, Blanche and Carl Wolf, owners of the Wolf Store on Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute, sponsored them, allowing the Loebs to obtain U.S. visas.
Ellie and her sister flourished in Terre Haute. They attended both Sarah Scott and Fairbanks schools, where they found the teachers to be supportive and nurturing.
Following her talk at CANDLES, Ellie rode a few blocks north to United Hebrew Congregation, where Betsy and Dick Frank led a tour of the synagogue in which Ellie had spent many hours attending Shabbat services and religious school.
Albert Loeb served as Temple Israel’s shamash and the family helped him “build” the classrooms by moving the wooden partitions into place.
The Loeb family found safety and security in Terre Haute. Ellie and Stella were able to recover from their hardships as Jewish children in Nazi Germany. Terre Haute, particularly Temple Israel, helped them begin their American journey.