Yacob Basner Yakob Basner ….
Yakob Basner (93), a Holocaust survivor and dedicated teacher seeking to preserve the Yiddish language, passed away peacefully on Sept. 8 with his beloved family at his side.
Although he mastered English, Russian, Latvian, Hebrew and German, Yiddish was closest to his heart. It was his mission to connect new generations of Jews to their past by teaching Yiddish language and literature at the Workmen’s Circle; University of Judaism; California Institute for Jewish Culture and Languages; as well as many other community centers and teaching facilities around the world.
He was the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Award of Merit from Long Beach City College and the Judge Murray I. Gurfein Memorial Award from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). He served as an advisory board member at Museum of Tolerance, where he worked as a volunteer sharing his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. He was also an active member of the Claims Conference Advisory Board of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Long Beach and West Orange County.
Born in Riga, Latvia, he attended a Hebrew elementary school and, following the Soviet Union’s occupation of Latvia in 1940, a Yiddish high school. The last celebration at the Basner family home was his bar mitzvah in December 1940. By June 1941, Germany had attacked the Soviet Union, and Riga fell under Nazi occupation within days. Yakob and his family were forced into a ghetto where his mother, sister and 7-year-old twin brother and sister, were all murdered, along with 40 other members of his extended family. Having survived two years in the Riga Ghetto, Yakob spent the remainder of World War II being transported between five different concentration camps, including Kaiserwald, Stutthoff, Buchenwald, Leitmeritz and Theresienstadt.
On May 9, 1945, Yakob was liberated from Theresienstadt, where he had been suffering from epidemic typhus. After receiving medical treatment, he returned to his home in Riga in hopes of finding his father, whom Yakob believed had been successfully liberated from the Stutthoff concentration camp in the months before his own liberation. Tragically, he learned that his father was killed just one day before Stutthoff had been freed. At age 17, young Yakob was totally alone in the world.
Determined to persevere and build a new life for himself, Yakob found work in the leather cutting trade and began taking linguistic classes in the evening. Several years, later he married his wife, Dora, whom he knew from early childhood, and they quickly started their own family, beginning with the births of two daughters.
The Basners reached California in 1980 and found a new home in Long Beach. Both Yakob and Dora got jobs at Surfas Furriers shop in Long Beach.
Yakob is predeceased by Dora and survived by his two daughters, Guta Basner and Elizabeth Karpukh and husband, Ilya; three grandchildren, Leon Fleyshman and wife Ellen, Lia Grippo and husband, James and Dan Fleyshman and his wife Casey; and four great-grandsons, Sasha and Sam Fleyshman and Rafael and Ariel Grippo.
A graveside service was held on Friday, Sept. 10, at noon at Harbor Lawn-Mt. Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in his memory be made to Survivor Mitzvah Project or Yiddish Farm Education Center in New Hampton, New York.