A musician, teacher, caregiver and friend — to many people in the Washington area, Elizabeth Robinson Kruger was all of these. “Liz” or “Lizzie,” as her friends called her, was the resident musician at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington for over 30 years and left an impact on the people around her. She passed away last September.
Now, a group of local musicians will honor her memory with a free concert at Kol Shalom on May 21. Among the songs they will perform are several that Kruger composed.
Kruger grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. She spent six years as a special education teacher in Virginia before moving with her husband, David, to Silver Spring to start providing music therapy at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. She performed for the residents and encouraged them to engage in music themselves.
“One thing to know about Liz is that she had a huge heart,” said Sally Heckelman, Kruger’s sister. Heckelman organized the concert at Kol Shalom, where she is the chazzan. “She was always helping everybody and being there for everybody. She was the glue for our family and had a very positive attitude on life. She only saw the glass half full, was very warm and loving, made friends wherever she went and treated everybody with so much respect and so much love.”
Kruger’s family came up with the idea for the memorial concert while Kruger was still alive. She was spending the summer of 2022 in Israel with her family. Kruger had been diagnosed with Leptomeningeal disease, a cancer that spreads to the brain through spinal fluid. Her family wanted to do something to honor her memory when she passed.
“We used to sing together when we were young,” Heckelman recalled, “And we continued through adulthood. Our first concert was at a Soviet Jewry rally. We did a lot of music together.” Heckelman and her family are among the performers in the concert.
The event description written by Heckelman and David Kruger notes that Liz Kruger kept composing songs even when she was receiving treatment in the hospital. Her last piece encouraged her family to never give up and keep moving forward.
While the concert is free, donations are encouraged. All proceeds will go to Beit Uri, a residential village for adults with special needs in Afula, Israel.
The Krugers’ daughter, Shoshana “Shoshi” Kruger, moved to Beit Uri in 2017 when the family made aliyah. Heckelman said that Liz Kruger had been diagnosed with cancer before, and she wanted to find a place with proper accommodations for her daughter.
“That was a big relief for Liz, knowing that her daughter was in a good place,” Heckelman said.
Heckelman hopes the concert keeps her sister’s memory alive, bringing people together and showcasing the healing power of music.
“We can keep our memories of her alive through music, so her spirit lives on through all of us that continue to remember how wonderful she was,” she said. “And to sing her songs, keep living life to the fullest and enjoy each day. That’s what she would want us all to do, because that’s what she did.” ■