Judith Magyar Isaacson was born in Kaposvár, Hungary, the only child in a close-knit, extended Jewish family. During the German Occupation of World War II, she and her family were forced to move to a ghetto and ultimately split up and deported to concentration camps. She arrived at Auschwitz two days after her 19th birthday and managed to stay together with her mother and an aunt. After surviving a month at the death camp and nearly a year working at an underground munitions factory in Hessisch Lichtenau, they were liberated by the American army in 1945. A month later, she met Irving Isaacson, a captain in the U.S. Army Office of Strategic Services; they married and had three children. They moved to her husband's hometown of Lewiston, Maine, where she earned a degree in mathematics from Bates College in 1965 and was one of the first women to earn a master’s degree from Bowdoin College. She taught math at Lewiston High School, then became the first computer science teacher at Bates. She was later named the college’s first Dean of Students. She wrote a bestselling memoir, Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor, published in 1990. It inspired a 1995 electronic chamber opera and a 1998 experimental film. She also contributed a chapter on her life to the book A Heart of Wisdom: Making the Jewish Journey from Midlife Through the Elder Years (1999).