Active Jewish community leader dies

By Chris Nichols, Daily Planet Staff
Saturday June 29, 2002

Emmie Vida, an active leader in the Berkeley Jewish community died Monday of natural causes at the age of 93. Vida, who along with her husband Rabbi George Vida and their two children fled Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation of World War II, dedicated much of her life to helping and sharing history with others.  

After moving to Berkeley more than 20 years ago, Vida assumed a number of leadership roles at Congregation Beth El. She became a facilitator of the congregation’s popular Torah Study and also a member of the Sisterhood of the Synagogue. In addition, Vida was an active member of the local Jewish Community Center and helped support Hadassa, an international social service organization. 

Local community members describe Vida as a cheerful, welcoming and loving person. “She really was a saint to her community,” said Marian Magid, former president of Beth El. Vida always encouraged new members at the congregation and participated in a number of workshops and youth programs says Rabbi Ferenc Arj of Beth El. 

“She would always encourage people to speak up by saying that there were no silly questions only silly answers,” Arj said. 

With a love for history and learning, Vida became a short story writer and storyteller, chronicling the life of her family as survivors of the Holocaust. She was the subject of an interview for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Project, a series of videotaped testimonials from survivors of the Holocaust. 

According to Arj, Vida was a very studious individual and continued learning throughout her life. Arj also says that Vida participated in congregation activities up until the very end of her life. 

Vida is survived by her daughter, Ruth Meltsner of El Cerrito, her son, Henry Vida of Gum Spring, her brother Leo Koppel and sister Karola Loeb. She is also survived by five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. 

Memorial contributions can be made to Hadassah or Congregation Beth El. Vida will be buried in Paramus, New Jersey with her husband, who died in 1989. A gathering to celebrate her life is scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m. at Congregation Beth El.