Houston’s Survivors

Rosine Chappell*

Born: Rosine Joseph
November 1, 1928
Bucharest, Romania

“The [U.S.] State Department put an awful lot of impediments in anything that we tried to do… To this day I have a lot of angry feelings about the fact that it was made so difficult for us to come here, and it was made impossible for some of our friends there. Some of them were imprisoned in camps back in Europe and ended up dying in the Holocaust.”

Rosine Chappell recalled a childhood “without too many joyful things.” Life in Romania was difficult for the Jews, especially after the fascist Iron Guard seized power in 1940. “It was a frightening time,” she said.

Rosine and her father did have one distinct advantage over their co-religionists in Romania: they were American citizens. Rosine’s father was born in New York during his parents’ brief sojourn there at the turn of the century. Although he and his family went back to Romania after a few years, he passed on the right of American citizenship to Rosine. By 1940, he was eager to return to America, especially when repressive anti-Jewish regulations nearly drove his haberdashery out of business and he was jailed for failing to comply with all of the new rules. There was one problem, though: Rosine’s mother was a Romanian citizen and the United States maintained strict immigration quotas that made no special allowances for refugees.

After an arduous struggle, Rosine’s father finally received permission to take his family to the United States. In November 1941 they set off on a harrowing journey that took them across Yugoslavia to Turkey, and then on to Syria, Iraq and Bombay. There, they boarded a ship that embarked on a treacherous two-month voyage around the tip of Africa and across the Atlantic, evading the German U-boats that riddled the waters.

From New York, the family proceeded to Corpus Christi, where they had relatives. Rosine remembered feeling out-of-place and different there. After graduating from high school and attending community college, Rosine found herself in a Jewish summer camp. It was a turning point for her. Not only did she meet her future husband, Cliff Chappell, at camp, she also encountered a sense of Yiddishkeit and felt comfortable embracing Judaism for the first time in her life.

In 1967, Cliff’s career brought them to Houston, where Rosine worked as a teacher and interpreter and they raised three children. A cancer survivor, Rosine volunteered at M.D. Anderson, a hospital and research center, for 26 years. In 2004, she was honored for her commitment and dedication by the Cancer Fighters of Houston. She is active in Jewish causes, including Brith Shalom, Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women. Rosine is a docent at Holocaust Museum Houston.

Sam Joseph, survived
Charlet Klein Joseph, survived