Survivor Makes Meaningful Gifts to Museum
If you ever visit Holocaust Museum Houston on a Monday morning, Joann Greenbaum is one of the first friendly faces you'll see, greeting you from her perch at the front desk. A native of Manheim, Germany, she has been working at the museum for over four years, "after someone at a Hadassah meeting learned I was from Germany and had escaped the Nazi occupation. They asked me if I'd consider volunteering, and I've been working here weekly, ever since."
"I was asked to attend a survivor's meeting even though I was not in a camp," Joann recalls. "I am considered a survivor, because I came here in 1938 with my parents and sisters. I was only two, and we sailed on the Queen Mary and settled in New York, where my father was a grocer. After a time, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where I earned my B.S. and my teaching certificate and taught third through fifth grade students for over 20 years. In my spare time, I taught English to refugees."
Joann's mother was very entrepreneurial and rented out part of their duplex. This gave Joanne an early insight into real estate and working on her own. She interviewed for a teaching post in Houston and moved here in 1961, where she again taught at the elementary school level. She took real estate classes in the summer and before long became a broker, selling houses and rental properties for Century 21 and eventually on her own. She worked in the field for almost 30 years, and "was fairly successful, if I do say so myself."
In her free time, she taught Sunday school at Congregation Emanu El, was an active member of Congregation Beth Yeshurun and a local leader with Hadassah, traveling to conventions around the country and Israel.
"I have been to Israel many times, and I go to family events around the country for Bar Mitzvahs and weddings," adds Joann. "Our family lives throughout the world, and now that I'm retired, it gives me many opportunities to travel, even back to Germany."
In her early 20s, Joann took her first trip back to Manheim, where she saw her old home and spent several weeks enjoying her native country. Years later, she and one of her sisters traveled to Germany at the invitation of the German government, which hosted a group of survivors from across the U.S.
"We were treated like royalty, and I was able to see the Jewish cemetery where my grandmother is buried," she recalls. "I'm grateful my family escaped Germany when we did, so we didn't have to witness the Holocaust. It was a miracle."
In response to her unique life, Joann, who has already established a gift annuity at HMH, decided to include a provision in her estate plan to give her home to the Museum since her family "already has plenty of possessions."
"I am an active supporter of Hadassah and St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, but this is the gift that is most meaningful to me," she claims.
Ultimately, Joann's name will be prominently displayed outside the HMH store, right near the spot she sits every Monday morning.
"I am very fortunate to be able to do this, and it feels very good. It means everything to give back," she says.