Yesterday, close to 100 members of our community joined me and Stephanie Hausner, COO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, for a discussion about the current upheaval in Israel over Judicial Reform. Stephanie was incredibly insightful.
But I’m not going to talk about Judicial Reform this week.
Last week, and for weeks before, we’ve been dealing with actual and anticipated antisemitic activities, the need to educate against it, and secure our institutions.
But I’m not going to talk about antisemitism this week.
I’m going to talk about my mom.
This month is Women’s History Month. I’ve written about the legacy of Golda Meir, I’ve proudly watched several friends and acquaintances attend the first summit of Jewish Women Leaders at the White House this week, and I quietly considered the poetry of Hannah Szenesh, wondering what a massive impact her strength, insight and compassion would have had on the world had she lived. But of all women, we most often know our mothers’ stories best.
My mom was born in the 1940’s in the US, and raised in Canada. She took college courses and held secretarial positions in law offices and commodities brokerage. She began volunteer work at a young age, demonstrating to her four kids how vital such work was, becoming a leader and bringing us to help at events for the organization she cherished throughout her life, Emunah Women. She was involved in so many aspects of our communal life I can’t remember them all, but I do remember the many years she volunteered with special needs children at a time when such commitment to these kids was little understood or appreciated. She ran a food business, cared for her parents and her mother in law, and carried her passion for helping people from visiting seniors, to chaplaincy service at local hospitals, to eventually becoming Executive Director at an assisted living/nursing home serving the Jewish community. She gave me my love of reading, my skills, such as they are, in the kitchen, my penchant for always being on time, my diplomatic nature, and my abiding passion for Israel.
Her generation of women, including my aunts, her friends, and their friends, built the foundation of Jewish life in my hometown of Toronto, now a thriving Jewish community of 200,000. Most importantly, my mom was gentle, she was strong, she was compassionate, and she was determined.
If we can learn those qualities from the women in our lives, we are blessed. This month we honor women’s history writ large, and cherish the individual histories we witness in our communities and in our homes. May these legacies inspire us for generations to come.