Six degrees of separation: Doris Shechter

By Bilha Fish

People always want to know how I found the twenty women I interviewed for my book. I’m always tempted to say I had a highly refined system, a computer logarithm that sifted through hundreds of options and delivered the best possible candidates.


The real answer is less complicated. I relied on my memories, my friends and my curiosity.


Twenty years ago, I honored a Rwandan refugee through a social program my medical practice sponsored. I wondered what happened to Jacqueline, a dedicated teenager who had distinguished herself among other candidates. She demonstrated an amazing will to live after her parents and siblings were slaughtered in their village in Rwanda. She wanted to travel and preach for tolerance and peace.


What was she now, I wondered?


And what about Doris, a baker I met 25 years ago? Her story of being a little Jewish girl who grew up in a Catholic school hiding from the Nazis was so compelling. Did her experiences provide her with the impetus to do good?


There were others I’d heard about from colleagues and friends, or whom I read about in the paper, like the Argentinian refugee who, as single teenaged mother, arrived in the United States and would receive a Nobel price. She piqued my curiosity.


And so, through my own experiences and through people who knew people, I discovered twenty heroes who were welcomed by the UNITED STATES and whose contributions changed the world.