Ruth Robbins, a Holocaust survivor and Manhattan resident who survived a diagnosis of COVID-19, has found The New Jewish Home to be a safe and welcoming place to recover. “I’m lucky to be here,” she said.
Ruth’s journey began in Salzburg, Austria in 1932. Her family was affluent and philanthropic—when she and her children visited Salzburg about 10 years ago with a group of survivors, she learned from distant relatives who still live there about her father’s generosity to the Jewish community’s needy members.
In 1938, in the early days of World War II, Ruth’s parents sent her and her brother to live with an aunt and uncle in England, while they themselves fled to France. When her father was sent to an internment camp in Paris, Ruth and her brother reunited with their mother and began a terrifying odyssey that took them across France on foot and in cargo trains. They slept on the floor in schools, were hidden on a farm by a gypsy family, and finally made it to Portugal where they managed to get on the last ship leaving for the United States.
Here in New York, they were placed in an apartment on the Upper West Side, across the street from the Museum of Natural History. Ruth’s family not only survived, they thrived. Her parents had been businesspeople in Salzburg; in New York they started out with pushcarts and turned them into a successful business. Ruth grew up in the city and became an occupational therapist.
She married and moved to Queens where she raised three children, of whom she is extremely proud. Her face lit up as she spoke about them: “An orthopedist, an attorney, and a teacher of theater arts to the deaf and hearing impaired. One lives in Seattle, one in Portland, Maine, and one in Phoenix. They have given me five wonderful grandchildren.”
Divorced for many years, Ruth lived alone in Queens once her children were grown, and worked as an occupational therapist in a nursing home. Despite suffering from cancer and other illnesses over the years, she worked until age 79. A lover of museums, dance, and all kinds of culture, she frequently drove into Manhattan to attend exhibits and performances with a gentleman friend who lived in Chelsea, but once she retired, she decided it was time to relocate to Manhattan.
Four years ago, Ruth moved to an independent living facility in Battery Park City, where she could do her own grocery shopping but take advantage of communal meals (“I hate to cook,” she said). It was a perfect situation for her—until she became ill with COVID-19.
She was successfully treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, but when they were ready to discharge her it was clear that she was not ready to return to the independent life that she loved. Her children researched all skilled nursing options in Manhattan and found The New Jewish Home to be the best fit for their mother. They felt confident that The New Jewish Home would provide their mother with everything she would need during this critical time: excellence in clinical care, stellar rehabilitation therapies, and pastoral support to meet her spiritual and emotional needs.
“There was a point when I was so dependent I couldn’t even get out of bed without assistance,” she said. “Every day I’m getting stronger.” She was hoping to be discharged soon, but wants to make sure she really feels ready to be independent again before she leaves. As a therapist herself, she’s realistic about her needs. She’s concerned about going home too soon—the facility she lives in is in lockdown because of the virus, so she won’t be able to have an aide to assist her.
“Every day is good.” Ruth said. “There are wonderful nurses and caring aides.
I’m lucky to be here. I’m lucky my kids found this place.”