Lessons My Mother, of Blessed Memory, Taught Me
I realize now that when I grew up, even though I acted like I was on autopilot, cruising through the days of my life, I was truly like a sponge absorbing the example that my mother, of blessed memory, set. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother’s involvement in local Jewish community life; she was a member of our synagogue’s sisterhood, the youth director for many years, and involved in Hadassah. She did what she could to help others and make the world a better place, whether in the PTA or as an active member of the local Cystic Fibrosis Foundation chapter, where she also served a term as president.
My mother instilled our home with the beauty of Jewish customs and traditions and the importance of Zionism. She taught my sisters and me about the sanctity of Shabbat and holidays as she prepared our home for each special celebration through the year. No matter what the circumstances were of any particular week, Shabbat was a special time for us to sit in the dining room for Friday night dinner, to light candles, and to eat dinner together as a family. We were often joined by friends, as our home was always open and filled with guests. I have tried to instill these traditions and values in my own home.
At the young age of 43, my mother became ill with cancer. Her prognosis was six months to one year, but with her strong will to live and zest for life, she defied all odds and survived for nine more years. She saw my sisters and me become young women, danced at all of our weddings, and held my son, her first grandchild, before she passed away 19 years ago. From her, I learned to value good health, to appreciate every moment, and to live life to the fullest. This included marrying the man I love and moving with him to Israel to live and raise our family. She encouraged me to follow my heart and my dream and supported me completely as I took the El Al flight from Kennedy Airport to begin a new chapter of my life, making aliyah.
As my children grew, it became important to me to join a synagogue where we could feel part of a community and to celebrate the holidays and traditions in a manner that was comfortable to me as a woman and familiar to me from my upbringing. In 2004, we joined Congregation Emet VeShalom in Nahariya, Israel, affiliated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. Shortly thereafter I began to volunteer to help sustain our community. I found that acting as a liaison between Emet VeShalom and Jews in the Diaspora spoke to me, so I began to build connections to raise awareness of Israel and strengthen Jewish heritage. In this capacity, I embraced Emet VeShalom’s forming a chapter of Women of Reform Judaism Israel and became involved in our twinning activities.
I think about my mother on a daily basis but with more intensity on the yahrzeit (anniversary) of her death. I reflect on the righteous life she led, as a woman of valor, in both her home and community. I see that her example has guided me to make certain choices and to become the mother and woman I am today. When I recite the Mourner’s Kaddish in her memory at synagogue, I reflect on the void she left in my life and simultaneously refill my soul with commitment to emulate her example. In my prayers, I ask that the merit of her good deeds stand in my favor and help strengthen my ability to contribute positively to my family, community, Israel and the world.