Born in Linz, Austria, Erika Van Gelder Z”L grew up in Romania, Israel and Canada. Since 1980 she had been living in Holland with her family.
Erika has dedicated her life to defending the Jewish community, fighting antisemitism and building bridges to live it together. A sparkling, energetic , human being, she was known for her never ending energy when she was fundraising for the needy in Central and East Europe. Her experiences shaped her social life, her life full of helping others.
Erika was the president of B’nai B’rith Europe during the years of 2014 and 2015 and she knew that becoming president would give her more strength for her social activities . To be able to become the president she first became Vice President of her Lodge, that of Amsterdam.
One of her major projects was “Bridges of Tolerance” and was a great success. former president of B’nai B’rith Europe (2005-2008), Reinold Somon, honored her in her own Lodge in Amsterdam, with the “Jacob Van Hasselt” award. This award was given to a person with exceptional human and social skills.
Moreover, Reinold Simon, together with two other former presidents, Bent Melchior, Joe Domberger, decided to apply for her knighthood by the Queen of the Netherlands and she was awarded “Orde van Oranje Nassau”, a civil and military Dutch order of chivalry founded by the Queen regent Emma, acting on behalf of her under-aged daughter Queen Wilhelmina. The order is a chivalry order open to “everyone who has earned special merits for society”. Soonafter that she also received a same honor by the President of Romania.
She tried to rejuvenate the organisation and was an ongoing force for the good of others. A Jewish light, an exceptional woman, a devoted mother and a loving grandmother that unfortunately left this world sooner than expected.