Gelia (Gila) Altshuler Einstein, 80, died peacefully on February 23 in
Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Gelia was born in Harbin, Manchuria, China, in
1937. Her parents, Isaak and Zhenya Altshuler, had escaped from
violent antisemitism in Russia by heading east on the Trans-Siberian
Railroad to Harbin, home to a thriving Russian Jewish community.
After the death of her father in 1940, Gelia and her mother moved to
Shanghai to be near her mother's sisters. In 1949, in the aftermath of
the Chinese Communist Revolution, they left China, joining the throngs
of refugees from across the globe in the new State of Israel. They
lived in tents in a refugee absorption center near Haifa for a year
before being relocated to Nahariya. After Gelia finished high school,
she served in the Israel Defense Force as a social worker, attaining
the rank of sergeant.
While visiting relatives in New York for a summer, Gelia joined the
staff of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. She met her future
husband, J. Ralph Einstein, on a blind date. Ralph, taking a break
from preparing for his doctoral exams, had gone to a beach, and
hearing people speaking Russian, had stopped to chat, since his
parents had escaped from the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and many
Russians in New York at that time were Jewish.
The inevitable "Do we have a girl for you" subject came up, and the
next time Gelia visited New York, Ralph was invited to take her on a
date. An accomplished pianist in addition to being a scientist, Ralph
took her to a performance by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, hoping to make a good impression. He did.
After their marriage in 1960, Ralph and Gelia lived in the Bronx while
Ralph completed his post-doc at Columbia. An offer for a position in
the Biology Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory brought the
couple and their two adorable children, Ruth and David, to Oak Ridge
in 1965. Daughter Miriam (also adorable) was the native Tennesseean of the family.
The Einstein family were long-time members of the Jewish Congregation
of Oak Ridge. Gelia was a member of the Sisterhood for many years, and
was also a lifetime member of Hadassah.
Gelia spoke five languages fluently: Russian, Hebrew, French, Yiddish,
and English, though she had some sort of accent in all of them. She
was a creative, endlessly inventive cook, coming up with delicious
low-fat, vegan dishes for Ralph after he endured heart bypass surgery.
He often credited her cooking with saving his life. Gelia loved opera,
especially Placido Domingo, and she and Ralph went to just about every
Oak Ridge Symphony concert and chamber music concert until his death
Gelia spent her final years at Patriot Hills Assisted Living facility,
and the family wishes to extend their deep thanks to the staff for the
love and care shown to her.
Gelia is survived by her daughter Ruth Einstein and her wife Marian
Broida, son David Einstein and his wife Laura, daughter Miriam
Einstein, and granddaughter Ava Einstein. Donations in Gelia's memory
may be made to the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge or to a charity of
your choice. Online messages may be left for the family at
. Services entrusted to Martin Oak Ridge Funeral home. 864 483-4341