Marriage

His wife Fajga Estera, known as Félicie or Fela Liwer-Perelman [Bedzin (Poland), 20.7.1909-Salt Lake City (United States), 17.9.1991], who he married in 1935, was an outstanding student, also of Polish origin, a historian, the author of a doctoral thesis on the Belgian Revolution and Poland in 1830 (Brussels, 1948) that the Office de Publicité published in 1948. Fela Perelman also graduated in educational psychology, a qualification which she put to good use during the war when she lent a hand in the kindergartens where Jewish children who had been excluded from the public schools following German orders were welcome. Fela Perelman was born into a large Jewish family from Lodz (Poland). Educated in a Hebrew secondary school where she perfected her knowledge of Judaism and the language of Moses, at the age of 19 she enrolled at the Université libre de Bruxelles, where she studied History. She was an outstanding student, but the subject was too conventional for someone like her who wanted to be part of the action. As a historian, she always demonstrated a very strong interest in the past and present of the Jewish people. As a teacher, her main preoccupation was education, whether it be in the schools that she created during the occupation or at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to which she demonstrated her commitment as of 1946. Her fervent attachment to Judaism primarily took the form of a strong commitment to Zionism which she defended within the Association of Jewish students of the ULB where she was a member of the executive committee. Her Zionism went hand in hand with socialism, an ideal she remained faithful to all her life, always expressing her aversion to Communism and Stalinism. It was only logical that, at the end of her studies, she got involved with Léon Kubowitzki at the Secretariat General of the Conseil des Associations juives de Bruxelles [Brussels Council of Jewish Associations].

At the start of the occupation, after her return from exodus, she was responsible for the parcels for the prisoners in Breendonk (Belgium). It was in her house in Uccle, purchased in 1940, that the Comité de Défense des Juifs [Committee for the Protection of Jews] was founded in the summer of 1942. At the end of that same year Fela confided the children that she had brought together in the Nos Petits schools to the CDJ, which had opened in the spring of 1942 to meet the demands of daily life, before turning clandestine when raids and deportations hit Belgium’s Jewish community. Also during the occupation, at the request of Abusz Werber, president of the Jewish Mutual Aid Society, she was the main product of Linke Poale Zion. As soon as the hostilities were over Fela Perelman set about offering a home and a future to hundreds of war orphans, amongst others as part of the Alyat Hanoar. The project of creating the Jewish Refugees Welfare Society also took shape at number 32 rue de la Pêcherie. It was a screen association which partially masked the activities of the aliya bet in Belgium. In Brussels, Fela Perelman was an important figure in clandestine immigration towards Palestine between 1946 and 1948. In a way she was the unofficial representative of the Haganah, the Jewish army of Palestine, in Belgium. Thanks to the contacts that she made during the hostilities and immediately after the war, Fela Perelman organised for two boats full of Jewish immigrants to set sail for Palestine, the doors of which were still closed by the mandatory power: the Hachayal Haïvri, which left Antwerp on 14 July 1947, and the Tel Chai, which left from Sète. A third boat, the Theodor Herzl, which also left from Sète, carrying over two thousand passengers, was in part filled with displaced persons that Fela brought from Belgium to the point of embarkation. Just after the war her house in the rue de la Pêcherie was turned into a kind of unofficial Israeli embassy. And even if the creation of the State of Israel meant it no longer fulfilled that role, it remained a mandatory transit point for diplomats, politicians, intellectuals and Israeli artists who were staying in Belgium. It is largely thanks to the energy expended by Fela Perelman that the Association of Belgian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, of which she was the secretary general for a long time, remained the favoured stopover for relations between Belgium and Israel for many years.

In June 1967, the surge of solidarity surrounding the State of Israel, which people initially thought was seriously threatened by the attack of the Arab countries, was immense, and this in all the Jewish communities. The needs of Israel were enormous at the time. The Keren Hayessod - the Magbit -, the body which collected funds for Israel, no longer met the requirements of the day. The emergency led to the birth of Solidarity with Israel, at the behest of Fela Perelman and Léon Maiersdorf. In the face of danger, political divides became less marked. Unity was required in order to ensure the survival of Israel and in financial terms, the result exceeded expectations. In June 1967 numerous members of the Jewish community gave part of their salary to Israel, and this was often due to Fela Perelman's excellent powers of persuasion.

Fela Perelman was also a talented writer, as she demonstrated in Dans le ventre de la baleine [In the Belly of the Whale] (Brussels, 1947): she had an ironic style, at times acerbic, but always vivacious. It is more than likely that she would have persevered in this career if the panic of the exodus of May 1940 hadn't resulted in the loss of a manuscript that she was taking to Charles Plisnier, in Paris (France). She was so desperate that she spent years looking for the text of this first novel, which had disappeared forever in the torment, taking with it the hope of a promising literary career.

Source : Schreiber Jean-Philippe, Fajga Estera dite Félicie ou Fela Liwer-Perelman, in Dictionnaire biographique des juifs de Belgique : Figures du judaïsme belge XIXe – XXe siècle, Brussels, De Boeck et Larcier s.a., 2002, p. 274-275. Translated from the French by Catherine Hall.

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