During the rise of the fascists in Italy, Elena, had to move from her and her father's native Pisa to the Ghetto of Rome, her mom's home neighborhood. Things got progressively worse. Elena and her younger sister could no longer attend school. They worked as seamstresses in a dress shop and once served on Mussolini's famous girlfriend.
Elena was only 18 when the Nazis invaded Rome. Her family dispersed to various hiding places, including a convent that provided shelter to her two youngest siblings. Elena remained on the outside during the most dangerous months, sleeping wherever people were still unafraid to provide shelter to a Jew. She, her parents and siblings lived. Both sets of grandparents and her two uncles, World War I heroes, perished.
Like many Holocaust survivors, Elena is resilient and intuitive. The ability to put the two and two together helped her in many situations and, in a way, groomed her for the ultimate experience of becoming the idea generator and, together with her Marco Island beach buddy, Marjorie Seltzer, chief organizer of the Jewish congregation on the then developing island.
She modestly underscores her efforts, but in fact, all pioneers do, sort of the same humble way. "It wasn't there. I noticed it was needed. I called. I wrote. Now it's there."
There were other Jewish people living on the island, some for a decade or longer at the time. None of them made that important common sense connection to secure a plot that had been already designated as a potential church by the developer and reassign it to the Jewish house of worship.
It took a woman, who lived through the bombings in Rome and knew the terrible outcome of religious persecution first hand to get off her comfortable beach chair and just do it.
Join us on Sunday, February 21 on Zoom to watch the film together (https://www.jhsswf.org/events/swfl-jewish-pioneers-film-when-destiny-called-the-story-of-elena-rosner) or watch on The Jewish Historical Society of SWFL home page https://www.jhsswf.org/ any time during our fundraising months.