Dr. Renate Justin surmounts tragedy to share her story In ‘What I Have To Tell: A Memoir’

By Scott Skillman

From time to time, the Temple receives unsolicited books for review, consideration or for no reason at all. One such book, What I Have to Tell: A Memoir by Renate G. Justin, M.D. (Crystal Publishing, Fort Collins, CO, 2019), caught my eye, as it was credited to a former member of the Terre Haute Jewish community.

In 163 pages, we are informed of a world of pain and how one person chose to rise above it. Our narrator makes clear a person can rise above her circumstances, but that does not necessarily mean she can escape them.

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Dr. Renate Justin met antisemitism with compassion, commitment to ease others’ pain

By Ken Turetzky

Following an early life of hardship, on the run from Nazis and then facing antisemitism in her adopted home of the United States, Dr. Renate Gabriele Lieberg Justin determined that she would heretofore treat others only with respect and compassion.

While Justin eventually rejected religious faith as insufficient to relieve the burden of tragic experience, she embodied Hillel’s Golden Rule: That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.

Justin wrote, “It is the pain I have experienced because of antisemitism that makes me wary of prejudging other people’s belief, of being intolerant, and thereby inflicting pain.”

Throughout her long career as a family medical practitioner and essayist — including a period from 1959-87 in Terre Haute — Justin observed, considered and wrote thoughtfully about her childhood, her family, her patients and life passages that ranged from gentle to nearly unbearable.

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UHC community agrees: Terry Fear helped forge an extended family in the congregation

On the first Shabbat following Terry Fear’s passing — one week after Terry had lit candles to begin the Temple’s virtual service — UHC members shared remembrances of their friend and colleague, who died suddenly Dec. 13 at age 66.

Among her many contributions to the congregation and community, Terry served as UHC vice president and secretary, led the Temple’s restoration efforts, coordinated special events in the sanctuary, served on the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center board and worked widely for social justice.

Most satisfying of all for Terry, friends agreed, were her efforts to introduce people she admired and appreciated to each other, to foster knowledge, understanding and personal growth.

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Terry Fear brought people together — this time, to honor her memory

Terry Fear brought people together to share friendship and perspective on faith. She worked diligently to improve her community and the wider world around her, and to preserve life. She softly sang Shabbat prayers to a close friend facing a quiet and peaceful death, only days before Terry herself passed away suddenly. She made her best effort to repair the world.

We learned these things as family, friends, fellow congregants and colleagues shared their remembrances of Terry during an Inter-Faith Council of the Wabash Valley virtual memorial and following United Hebrew Congregation’s regular Friday night Shabbat service. Only a week before, Terry had lit the Shabbat candles to begin this same event.

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