Oral Histories: Jewish identity

Denise Rootenberg

FROM: Harare, Zimbabwe

Denise Rootenberg (née Abrahamson) was born in Harare, Zimbabwe (then Salisbury, Rhodesia). One of four sisters, she grew up in a warm Jewish community that was able to sustain an Ashkenazi synagogue, a Sephardic synagogue, and a small Reform synagogue. One of her aunts ran the local chapter of the Women’s International Zionist Organization with her sister. The aunt’s sister, meanwhile, made costumes for the repertory theatre company. Denise’s aunts also did kosher catering for simchas.

"Someone said to me, ‘You were actually traditional Jews. You weren’t Orthodox Jews.’"