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Holocaust Studies Scholarship Established in Memory of Kochavi Family

by Carolyn Thomas
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In the tumultuous years of the 1940s, as Germany invaded France and the Holocaust unfolded, Judith Kochavi and her family faced perilous circumstances. Judith’s husband, Israel, was taken away as an “enemy national,” but due to their British identity papers from their time in Palestine, the Kochavi family, including their son Daniel, initially faced fewer restrictions than most Jews.

Despite their advantageous status, the family lived under constant danger, with Judith taking on a courageous role in assisting the resistance. Using their unique position, the Kochavi family helped other Jews escape the Nazis by hiding them in their apartment until contacts with smugglers could be established.

Daniel Kochavi, now residing in Philadelphia, reflects on his mother’s heroism: “Yes, I survived, but my mother was the lead survivor of the story. Our parents lived under dangerous circumstances, but we survived due to Judith’s courage, bravery, and resourcefulness. She decided to do what she could to help other Jewish refugees and help them escape.”

In a heartfelt tribute to his parents, Daniel and his sister, Monique Richardson, have chosen to memorialize Judith and Israel Kochavi by establishing the Judith and Israel Kochavi Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund at Stockton University. This scholarship fund, initiated with a donation to the Stockton University Foundation, is dedicated to supporting students in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton.

During a gift-signing ceremony at the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center on September 29, Stockton President Joe Bertolino expressed gratitude for the generous contribution. He emphasized the importance of preserving history and memory, especially as fewer Holocaust survivors remain to share their experiences. “The support that you provide matters in that we are able to keep the story alive for generations to come,” President Bertolino noted.

As the Germans intensified their efforts to round up Jews, Judith went into hiding in early 1944, arranging a separate refuge for Daniel in a Catholic boarding school for girls. The family remained in hiding until the liberation of Paris in August 1944, reuniting with Israel at that time.

The Kochavi family’s story remained largely within the family until Daniel’s son, Jonathan, moved to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and became neighbors with Michael Hayse, an associate professor of History at Stockton. Through their connection, the family’s experiences began to unfold, culminating in a faculty-led study tour with Stockton students to France in 2017.

This journey, along with collaborative efforts with Stockton students and Professor Hayse, resulted in a book manuscript titled “Through the Tempests of War and Genocide: One Extended Jewish Family’s Experiences in the Twentieth Century.”

The profound impact of this experience led Daniel and Monique to establish the scholarship fund, ensuring that the stories of survival and resilience will be passed down to future generations. Stockton Executive Director of Development Susan Werner expressed gratitude to the Kochavi family for sharing their remarkable story: “The ability to tell this story and the ability to combine it with your generosity and philanthropy is going to be felt for generations.” She underscored the extraordinary role that individuals like the Kochavis play in preserving and sharing such vital narratives.

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