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.
How comfortable could, could I have been? At this point I was already seven and a half years old. Think of it, I was seven and a half years old. So I missed first grade, I missed second grade, and I just started first grade. That was the first time that I remember going to school and starting to learn how to read and write. On top of it, I arrived to a kibbutz that nobody spoke Hungarian. I spoke very little German, and I definitely did not speak Hebrew. So the communication was very difficult, but, uh, like all children, you quickly learn...you quickly learn a new language when you are forced to learn it. But, uh, again, the communication with my mother and brother was very difficult because I didn't know how to read and write. I just started to learn how to read and write in Hebrew. My language skills could not have been great at that time. And like all first graders, you can imagine how well I wrote and how many spelling mistakes. My mother did not know how to read Hebrew, and I didn't... I couldn't read her Hungarian letters to me, and nobody could read them to me either. So, uh, it was very difficult. My brother wrote to me in Hebrew, which I couldn't read either. But that could... at least somebody could read it. So it's a little bit comical, but it was a quite difficult communication.