Lisa was born Liselotte (Lilly) to Kurt and Elisabeth Isaak in Berlin in 1932. Kurt was Jewish and Ruth was Lutheran. Lisa had been stricken with polio as a child and was in a body cast when the family decided to make their escape to Shanghai. They rigged up a stroller and made their way out of Germany to Italy, and then by ship to China. After arriving in Shanghai, they were sent to a camp where conditions were harsh with very little food. The family stayed there until the end of the war. Lisa came to the U.S. in 1949.