Ida Meyerson Ringel, 97, the last surviving founder of Hawaii’s first synagogue, died Friday in Charlottesville, Va.
Ringel was active at Temple Emanu-El for 50 years until she moved to the mainland in 1999.
When she and her late husband arrived in the islands in 1946, they were determined to raise their two small children in the Jewish faith, she said in a 1998 newspaper interview. A nucleus of about two dozen people organized as the Congregation of the Honolulu Jewish Community, holding services in a YWCA, a Young Street church, the Fort DeRussy chapel and a large Manoa house before building the Nuuanu synagogue.
"Probably the first thing that anyone will remember about her was her incredible hospitality and warmth," said her friend Trudy Wong. "She never knew anyone who was a stranger, everyone was a friend."
Ringel told of a massive hospitality effort that put Hawaii residents in a heart-rending brush with Jewish history. Thousands of European Jews who fled Hitler’s genocide migrated to China and were later forced into the infamous Shanghai ghetto by Hitler’s ally, Japan. After the war, relief organizations helped bring the refugees to the United States.
Their first port of call was Honolulu and, in a Honolulu Star-Bulletin interview, Ringel recalled, "We hired buses and took them around the island. We served them lunch, always tuna salad and fruit and milk for the children. It was exciting for us, a labor of love."
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Temple Emanu-El. A graveside service will be held at 12:45 p.m. at Mililani Memorial Park.
The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to Temple Emanu-El, 2550 Pali Highway, Honolulu, HI 96817.
She is survived by son Harvey Meyerson; five grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.
Williams Funeral Services handled arrangements.