Funeral Date: Monday, 26 June 2017
Selma Mitchel, M.D., age 97, passed away peacefully at her home in Paramus on June 23, 2017. She was born and named “Sara” to Aaron and Frida Tolkachev in Bobruisk, Russia on September 1, 1919, the younger sister of her beloved Bela. Selma was married for 67 years to Stanley Mitchel, the love of her life.
Dr. Mitchel earned her medical degree in Soviet Russia shortly after the end of World War II. She enrolled in medical school in Leningrad at age 18. Soon thereafter her parents were slaughtered by the invading Nazis in Bobruisk (White Russia, today’s Belarus), and her ties to her home were severed forever. Her medical school studies were interrupted when she left Leningrad on one of the last trains out before the Siege, en route, ultimately, to Siberia. There she survived the war through the help of her sister, Bela who, as a chemical engineer working for the state, received small rations of food that she shared with Selma. After the war, Dr. Mitchel completed her medical school studies in Moscow. On assignment by the Soviet government to Poland, she then met Stanley, a Holocaust survivor from Poland. They married in 1945. Their daughter, Francine, was born in the American Zone in Germany while they lived in a displaced persons camp and Selma worked as a physician under the auspices of the U.S. Army. The family of three emigrated to the United States in 1948, settling in New York, speaking no English and with no resources, save their determination, fierce work ethic and intellect.
Dr. Mitchel spent years requalifying as a medical doctor in the US, completing studies, passing professional exams as well as an internship and residency. She began work at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, and her second daughter Tamara was born at that time. The family then moved to Paramus in 1956, where Dr. Mitchel established a pediatrics practice in which she worked tirelessly for the next 42 years.
Dr. Mitchel was a beloved and respected pediatrician to her patients, their children, and in some cases, their grandchildren. She was utterly devoted to giving them the benefit of all of her wisdom and all the time and attention needed to hear and address all of their concerns. She was also committed to her work at Hackensack Hospital where she was a staff and attending physician for decades, taught resident physicians and also served on the physician ethics committee. Dr. Mitchel was also for a time Director of the Infectious Diseases Department at Bergen Pines Hospital in Paramus, where she was also a staff and attending physician in the Department of Pediatrics for many years. In her early years in New Jersey, she was also a school doctor in Hackensack.
Her generosity with her professional time included providing free medical services at the Well Baby Clinic in Paramus, among many other such services.
Beyond her professional endeavors, Dr. Mitchel deeply appreciated the arts and also practiced them. She instilled a love of music in her daughters who both seriously studied the piano through her guidance and inspiration. Dr. Mitchel played the piano, painted and wrote poetry to the end of her life – often sending poems to her family and dear friends to show her love for them.
Dr. Mitchel’s generous and inspirational spirit and thoughtfulness were rewarded by the many friends she continued to make until the end of her life. She was intensely interested in life and in helping others in any way she could.
She was predeceased by her beloved husband Stanley Mitchel, in Paramus, and her beloved sister, Bela Chechik in Israel. She is survived by her loving daughters Francine Winters (Richard Winters) and Tamara Mitchel (Daniel Ross), her grandchildren Leslie Silver (Michael Silver), Steven Winters, Owen Ross and Hugh Ross, and her great-grandchildren Jayme Silver and Jack Silver.
Funeral Services will be held at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus 304 E Midland Ave, Paramus, NJ 07652 on Monday June 26, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. Shiva to be announced. In lieu of flowers, donations to Dr. Mitchel’s memory can be made to the Jewish Community Center of Paramus. For further information, please contact Robert Schoem’s Menorah Chapel (Paramus, NJ).