By Andrea Nicolls
Member, Diversity & Inclusion Committee
When Riderwood residents Teddi and Bert Kaplan were married in Germany in 1955, it was the beginning of a fruitful bond for more than 60 years. Neither one could have foreseen the happy circumstances that would bring them together. Each came from different, but related, backgrounds.
Teddi was born in the 1930’s into a Jewish family in Willemstad, the capital city of the Caribbean island of Curacao. Her father was a merchant who sold products throughout Central and South America. Jewish people had a long and distinguished presence on the island since at least the mid-17th century. When Teddi’s family returned to Europe in 1938, the Nazis were in power and her father decided that they should leave while they still could. They boarded a train from Vienna, Austria and traveled to the Netherlands. At the port of Rotterdam, they sailed on the ship Simón Bolivar to their new home in Panama, a country with a sizable Jewish population. During the voyage, Teddi’s brother was born. Her sister was later born in Panama. The family remained there for 10 years until they came to the United States in 1948. By that time Teddi had developed a talent for playing the piano. Little did she know that it was this talent that would bring her together with her future husband five years later.
Bert was born in the U.S., but his parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They lived in the borough of Queens, in New York City where many of their neighbors were Jewish refugees. He describes his family as poor. Despite his family’s limited circumstances, Bert went to college and was a senior when a chance meeting changed his life. In 1953 at a summer camp, he heard someone playing a piano in the recreation hall. He went to investigate and saw Teddi. He complimented her on her beautiful playing and the rest is history. Bert was soon drafted into the army because the Korean War was still on. However, Bert and several other army recruits were sent to Europe because they spoke German. Bert worked as a clerk for a Battalion Commander. Six months later, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Now engaged to be married, Teddi’s parents gave her permission to join him in Germany. They married in a civil ceremony and then in a Jewish ceremony in Nuremberg, a city associated with the famous postwar trials.
When they returned to the States, Bert worked until he retired at 60 and they decided to live in Florida. They were happy there until their friends died or left the area. Their youngest of their three daughters, a clinical psychologist who lives in Potomac, Maryland, suggested they should move to her location so that if anything happened to them, they would have an advocate. Bert started collecting information on the various retirement communities in Maryland. He eventually found Riderwood and sent for marketing brochures. He and Teddi visited Riderwood and eventually decided to move here. They liked the great variety of apartment types and price ranges. They also liked the fact that there was an active Jewish community. Teddi considers Riderwood a microcosm of the world, both educationally and culturally. Now Riderwood residents for almost five years, Teddi was until recently, the Chair of the Performing Arts Council. Bert is the President of the Riderwood Jewish Community and us an accomplished photographer. He helps residents with their computer problems.
Please watch the upcoming interview with the Kaplans on Riderwood TV as part of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Tapestry of Tales Program. Learn more about the life of this very active and involved couple.