Fela SamelApril 15, 1936 - July 19, 2019
Feyge ‘Fela’ Samel, née Sadek, was born April 15,1936 in Dlugosiodlo, Poland, the fifth of eight brothers and sisters. They all escaped on a train which was bombed, and miraculously survived. During The War, her father Leib fought first for the Polish then the Russian Armies, was wounded and died as the result of his injuries. The family was in hiding with no food, no education, no access to medicine, no basic human rights during The War.
After WWII ended, they settled in Wroclaw, a suburb of Warsaw with the hopes of rebuilding a new life. Instead, they faced tremendous anti-semitism and persecution from the local Polish people. Throughout this time, they secretly maintained a Jewish life.
In 1956, the Sadek family immigrated to Israel along with hundreds of thousands of Jews. They first settled in the ancient city of Jaffa, surviving in shipping containers. Again, Fela had to struggle in a new land and learn a new language while caring for her ill mother and grandmother. But living in Israel allowed her to finally build a life. She loved to work, meet new people, and developed a unique style that would continue the rest of her life.
It was her dream to move to the United States to join her siblings who were already there. In 1964, after saving enough money for the boat ride to America, she arrived in NY during the Worlds Fair, and moved down the block from her brothers and sisters.
In April of 1970, she met Mordecai Samel, who was on leave from the Israeli Army. After four whole days of dating, they were married at a lavish affair at the Marquis Room on Nostrand Avenue. Mordecai complains about the cost to this day. They moved to 1434 Coney Island Ave, where Marvin was born less than a year later, and Hava was born a year and a day after that.
Life was challenging for the Samel’s, but they worked hard, and they raised two children, and seven grandchildren. Fela worked as a roller of Matzoh for over 40 years, taking three buses from Canarsie to Williamsburg, rolling from dawn to dusk until her fingers bled.
In 2004, Fela and Mordecai moved to Aventura to enjoy their retirement. And enjoy they did! Their favorite hobby was yelling at each other, and they were hall of famers at that. Fela loved to walk the Aventura Mall daily, where all the shopkeepers would wave to her as she passed them by. She was always on the move. Despite all the hardships she went though, Fela could speak five languages: Polish, Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, and English with zero formal education. She would engage with any person who would care to have a conversation with her, and befriended all that she met.
Sadly, Alzheimer’s and Dementia robbed her of her final years of her life. She was unable to comprehend what was happening to her, and was bedridden for the last two years. Later this year, Marvin will begin filming the story of Mordecai and Fela. Academy Award Nominated, Emmy and Tony Award Winning actress Carol Kane will portray the role of Fela, opposite Judd Hirsch playing the role of Mordecai. The world will all see the amazing person Fela was and her spirit will live on forever.
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