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Vida Doris Gutstein (Schwartz) 1935 – 2023

President George H.W Bush once said that "There could be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others." My mother, Vida Gutstein, always selflessly gave of herself to others who benefited from her talent, dedication, and sterling character. Throughout her amazing career as an educator, her warmth and kindness as a family member and friend, and her charity work on behalf of Jewish organizations in South Africa, she excelled.

My mother lived in Raanana for 20 years and often attended ESRA functions and activities. She really enjoyed them and spoke highly about the organization. Through ESRA activities she made many friends in Israel. She often popped into the ESRA shop in Raanana where my late father volunteered with Mottie Wiener from Pretoria.

Teacher

Vida Doris Schwartz was born to Emile and Jessie Schwartz on June 23, 1935 in Waterfall Boven, in the Eastern Transvaal of South Africa, where her father served as the railway doctor of the region. Vida was born to be an educator. In her youth, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood, with loving parents and beautiful surroundings, she would regularly line up her dolls and instruct them as if she was their teacher. There was no high school in the area and therefore she moved to Pretoria where she became the youngest ever boarder at Pretoria Girls High School at age 11. Vida finished high school in 1951, at the age of 16, and proceeded to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Pretoria, and a Higher Diploma in teaching.

After qualifying, she took up a post at Hillview High School, teaching history and geography. Such was her expertise that three years later she was Head of the History Department at Northview High School.

Vida joined the staff of Pretoria Girls High School on a part-time basis in 1973. Inevitably part time became full time, and Vida returned to her Alma Mater to become one of its most valued members. She then went on to become the head of the History Department at Pretoria Girls High in 1984, Deputy Principal in 1985 and the Senior Deputy Principal in 1990.

Vida received the great honor of an award from the Department of Education and Culture for being an outstanding educator. She also became the chief examiner and marker of the Transvaal History examination panel. Vida's passion for teaching never died and when she migrated to Israel after retirement, she taught English to Israeli adults on a one-on-one basis, including teaching the chief political editor of Ha'aretz, a leading Israeli newspaper. Her contribution to education was outstanding for many years and she inspired many students.

Family

Vida was an amazing wife, mother, and grandmother. She was devoted to her husband Isaac and her three children, Jacqui, Denise, and Paul. She showered her grandchildren with lots of love, always sending them beautifully hand-knitted jumpers in the winter with their favorite childhood television characters on the front.

She made a tremendous effort to keep in touch with us from overseas, always calling us to find out how we were and sending gifts. It was this love and warmth that fostered strong familial ties in our family despite the miles of distance between us.

Zionism

My mother had a strong passion for Israel and Judaism. Her colleagues at Pretoria Girls High remarked at how she enriched the school with the wisdom and values of Judaism. Kashrut was also very important to Vida; she kept a strictly kosher home and when the kosher butchery closed in Pretoria, she drove one hour to Johannesburg to buy kosher meat.

She always felt strongly about supporting Israel, and this was evident in her over 30-year tenure as secretary of Magen David Adom in Pretoria.

Vida was a talented baker. For Israel's 25th birthday in 1973, upon the request of the Pretoria Jewish community, she baked a blue and white cake with a Magen David on it, to mark this milestone occasion at the community event.

After she retired, Vida and her husband fulfilled a lifelong ambition and made aliyah, where they lived very happily in Raanana for 20 years. At age 60 she attended Ulpan to study Hebrew and achieved a reasonable level of competence.

She was very interested in Israeli affairs, and unfailingly watched the 6 o'clock news to find out the most recent updates. When her health deteriorated, she returned to South Africa where she received exceptional care by her son Paul and his wife Chantal.

Conclusion

Vida, we are all so sad that you are no longer with us and that you will no longer be able to provide your shining example of dignity, courteousness, and integrity. In your tireless service toward others, as a teacher, family member, friend and community member, you have imbued these values into all of us who were lucky enough to come into your orbit, and have ensured that your legacy will continue for generations to come. 

 

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Wednesday, 28 February 2024

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