- Maya Nurnberg Fisher '53
Maya's friends and Hunter classmates did not learn that she was a Holocaust surviver until the last years of her life. Three of them have collaborated in writing Maya's story as a tribute to an extraordinary woman.
Maya’s early childhood in France during World War II was shadowed by fear and danger. While her father, who had served in the French Army, fought with the resistance movement during the German occupation, Maya and her mother hid out with various families who were willing to shelter Jews. However, they were constantly on the move, unable to stay more than a short time in any one place. At one point, while in a small town in France in front of a group of adults and children, a French girl called her a dirty Jew. Her response was "I am not a dirty Jew, I bet you my panties are clean and yours are dirty. Take yours off; I will show you mine if you show me yours."
Towards the end of the war, Maya and her mother were discovered and arrested by the Gestapo. All she said of this period was that it was “horrible.” When the Allied victory came, she was rescued and sent to a rehabilitation center in Switzerland.
Eventually, Maya’s mother returned to Germany, while she and her father came to the United States. She lived with an aunt in Brooklyn.
At Hunter High, Maya made friends and sang in the Glee Club. The Annals of June 1953 captioned her class photo with the quote, “The hand that hath made you fair hath made you good.” At the class’s 50th reunion, she recalled her years at high school as among the happiest of her life, because she no longer had to run and hide. At last she felt safe and among friends.
Her father died, and although she said her aunt was always very good to her, they had very little money. After graduating from Hunter, Maya went to work and attended Brooklyn College at night.
In the following years, she changed her name to Monique, studied in France, married Zalman Fisher, who was also a Holocaust survivor, taught college French, and had two children. Monique was married to her husband for 20 years. They were deeply committed to each other and they created a safe and loving environment for each other. Sadly, her husband died, leaving her a young widow, and not long afterwards, her daughter died.
Although Maya had enjoyed teaching, because of the need to support herself and her family, she took over her husband’s real estate business. In addition she taught ESL in the evenings as she loved teaching. Always resilient, she learned quickly and found the real estate business satisfying also. She made a tremendous success of the business as many people learned to trust her and value her business acumen.
She was proud of her son Julian, who became a professional dancer, performing with various troupes and establishing the American Jewish Ballet, which lasted from 1996- 2000. In addition, he completed his degree in Computer Science at N.Y.U. and went on to work for Johnson and Johnson.
Monique also became a member of NACHOS, the National Association of Child Holocaust Survivors. The organization helped and inspired many people. She made a number of trips to Germany to visit her mother as well as numerous trips to France to visit family and lifelong friends. Monique traveled all over the world and the United States, often to see her son perform. She was even in Las Vegas and won $50 at the slot machines; she took her winnings and left the casino.
In the last years of her life, Maya fought valiantly against cancer. She survived the cancer for six years and even managed to travel to Europe during this period. She was rarely alone, as her family and friends stood by her side. Despite all the tragedies she endured, she maintained a hopeful attitude, and was devoted to her son and warm and caring towards her friends.
Maya / Monique died on April 2, 2004. She is survived by her son, daughter-in-law,
grandson, niece, nephew and lifelong friends. She is painfully missed everyday.
- Marilyn Roane Cayce '53
- Trudy Neuman Levine '53
- Fran Weiss '53
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