Harry Sterling

by | Jul 14, 2015 | Obituaries

Virginia Beach —Harry Sterling, 99, Holocaust survivor, Jewish educator, cantor, passed away Thursday, June 18, 2015 at home with his family by his side.

Born in Serock, Poland on June 10, 1916, Harry was the son of Reb Eliyahu (who perished in the Holocaust at Treblinka) and Devorah Stelung who died in 1926.

Harry had a large family consisting of eight brothers and sisters and three step-siblings, all of whom perished in the Holocaust, with the exception of two. They all enjoyed a culturally rich life in Poland with a vibrant family life prior to the outbreak of World War II and the destruction that followed.

Following his upbringing in Serock, Harry moved to Warsaw to continue his education and begin his career until September of 1939, when Germany entered Poland and he was forced to flee. During the entirety of World War II , Harry evaded capture, traveling to Russia with his sister, and then to Central Asia, where they picked cotton, among other manual vocations, just to survive.

Following the war, they returned to Warsaw in search of family, who they then discovered had all perished in the war. Then they headed to Germany to be transported to New York. En route through Germany, Harry’s sister was killed in a truck accident.

Once he arrived in New York, Harry studied to become a cantor, and ultimately moved to Salt Lake City to become cantor for Congregation Montefiore. He loved the Utah mountains and his new-found community. Harry was introduced to Helen Katz of Portsmouth, Va., and they were married in Norfolk in 1958 before starting a family in Utah. Daughter Debbie and son David were born in Salt Lake City prior to the young family moving to Sioux City, Iowa where Harry became cantor for Shaare Zion Synagogue.

Harry retired from Shaare Zion in the mid 80’s and he and Helen moved to Virginia Beach and joined Congregation Beth El to be closer to Helen’s family. Harry and Helen considered Beth El home and became extremely active in the congregation. Harry regularly read Torah and served as the Hazzan Sheni (second cantor) and loved serving the congregation in any way possible.

Harry loved life and felt blessed to be able to enjoy so many wonderful years after so many early tragedies. He deeply loved Helen, Debbie and David along with Judaism and his countless number of students whose education and wellbeing meant the world to him.

Funeral services were conducted at Congregation Beth El with Rabbi Arthur Ruberg and Cantor Jacob Tessler officiating. Burial followed in Forest Lawn Cemetery. H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., Norfolk Chapel. The family requests that, if desired, contributions be made in his memory to Congregation Beth El.