Fabulous Finds & Stories

Volunteer Spotlight: Mimi Stein

  • Caroline’s volunteer since 2023. 
  • Also volunteers at Friends of Hospice
  • Her skills include great cooking and she speaks English, French, and Hebrew
  • Mimi enjoys volunteering at Caroline’s because she loves being involved in the community and really enjoys the care that goes into the displays
  • She gets to play Mahjong every Tuesday
  • She exercises first thing in the morning with barre, YouTube videos, power walks, or using weights
  • Favorite books historical fiction by Daniel Silva, Rose Code, by Kate Quinn
  • She feels her greatest attribute is her strong independence and ability to make the best of situations.

Mimi is a new volunteer at Caroline’s. She started last month and is “working the floor” helping people find what they need, having a good chat, and making the shop look tidy and put together.

Her story is one of great interest and the unimaginable. She was born in Morocco and grew up in tight quarters in Casablanca with her parents and three siblings. She had three more siblings but they had married young and moved out, leaving more room for the six remaining family members in a one-bedroom apartment!

Her father was a shoemaker. He had his cobbler’s shop in the Muslim part of the city. At one point during the war it was blown up with molotav cocktails and he had to rebuild. She remembers how they would walk together through the streets of her neighborhood and when he needed to rest she would play hopscotch. She still remembers bringing home warm donuts on a string from the shop in her neighborhood to share with her brothers and sisters. She even found that shop on a return to Casablanca several years ago and it was very heartwarming for her. She also grew up dancing ballet and continued dancing when she moved to Israel. And this is where it gets very intriguing!

When Mimi was twelve years old (1961) she was one of 530 children who were invited to “go on vacation” to Switzerland. The families of these children were approached by a covert, nonprofit organization, in collaboration with the Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, as they were tasked with getting Jewish children out of Morocco and back to Israel. The country had recently halted all emigration to Israel after winning independence from France in 1956. It would have been impossible to move adults or entire families without notice- but one child could lead the way. The children were all flown to Switzerland, in five groups, for a brief stay then moved onward to Israel where they were housed in kibbutzes. The Israeli government arranged for these communes to ensure the children were safe and had communities since they were on their own, without their families.

Her time in Israel without her mom and siblings (her father had passed away the year before she left) lasted almost a year and was spent at a boarding school. She has fond memories of learning, and great independence, and of being well cared for by the school staff. This experience was formative in her developing personality and sense of self.

There is a documentary about the effort called “Operation Mural” done in 2007 for further information. There is also a Wikipedia description of the events under the same name.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mural 

The story continues as she received her nursing education and trained and was a sergeant in the Israeli army before eventually meeting her future husband. They met in London and he followed her to a kibbutz in Israel where she was a nurse. Gil had just finished law school in the U.S. and wanted to travel and live with younger people and meet women. And it worked!

Mimi has been married to Gil for 46 years. They have two sons, an older one who moved from L.A. to Israel and has been traveling/exploring the world for four years, and a younger one who is married and has two boys, 4 and 2 1/2. Both sons are living in Israel where they were born and lived until they were 6 years old and 4 months old. Mimi and Gil enjoy taking vacations to Israel (they are there now) and traveling with their extended family.

After marrying and living together in Israel for eight years, the family moved to the U.S. (directly to Santa Cruz!). Mimi worked for 27 years at Shorenstein private practice. It was a rewarding and caring place for her to be a nurse. She had a great friendship with Ros and Michael Shorenstein and happily retired seven years ago.

She is famous for her Moroccan olive chicken recipe, silk salad, harira (chick pea/tomato soup), Moroccan donuts for Hannukah, and many other delicious dishes. Check out the attached article from the 1995 Santa Cruz Sentinel featuring her skills and her recipes!

Mimi is kind, genuine, speaks to your soul when she talks to you, and is full of life. What a great new addition to our little corner of the world!

Thank you for your service, Mimi!!!

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