Rifka was raised in a religious family in Debrecen. In the early 1940s, her family moved to Cluj (Kolozsvar) in Northern Transylvania, annexed to Hungary from Romania in 1940. In 1944, she and her family were forced to leave their house in Cluj. They were rounded up by Hungarian troops helping the Nazis and taken to a brick factory where they stayed for a month. In June 1944, Rifka was transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Eight months later she was transported to Switzerland. She sailed to Palestine in September 1945. She was sent to a kibbutz upon arrival, rejoining her mother in Haifa three years later. Her brother joined the navy. Rifka immigrated to the United States in 1958.
I remember when Israel was declared a free state. We were sleeping. I must have been...1948, I was 11 years old. And, uh, we were awakened -- we were sleeping -- and we were awakened all to come out and dance, and everybody was very happy. And they, they announced at the same time that Haifa was conquered, and I was...became hysterical because I did not understand that it was conquered by the Israelis. I was positive that my mother is finished with because that's where she lived. I was positive that if Haifa was conquered, my mother must be dead. So that happy occasion where everybody came out and they were dancing, and, and they brought out from their, from the freezers the little apples that they were saving for a special occasion, I don't know, and everybody was really in such a joyous mood -- it took me time from being awakened in the middle of the night to understand the consequences and the ramifications of this news.