Misplacing things, but holding on to the small stuff

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I have spent  half my life looking for things I’ve misplaced. I have spent the other half finding things for Larry that he claims I lost to make his life more difficult.

Recently I was visiting my daughter Julie, her husband Sam, and my granddaughter Sylvie in Colorado. That morning, I had unplugged my charging cord for my phone from the power strip next to my bed. I was sure that I had plugged it into a kitchen outlet. Later in the morning, however, the  only charger, looking mysteriously larger than mine, was connected to Julie and Sam’s iPad.

“Sam, are you using my plug to charge your iPad?” I asked.

“No,” said Sam. “That one is mine.”

I spent a good chunk of the next few hours looking for my missing cord. I looked in my traveling charger case, my pocket book, my suitcase. I rechecked the outlet next to my bed and every other outlet in the house. After we returned from a walk and lunch on  Main Street, I rechecked the outlet, my charger bag, the pocketbook, the suitcase. Then I pulled off all the bedding (maybe it got tangled in the sheets when I was making the bed?) MIA. Julie just rolled her eyes. Mom has lost something-AGAIN.

Misplacing something is part of my personality. Keys.Cell phone. Favorite water bottle. Sun glasses. Larry has grudgingly accepted that every time we head out, we have to allow enough time for me to make one more frantic trip into the house to search for my frequently lost or left behind items (which I refer to as FLI’s)

I know that my misplacing things is not tied to cognitive impairment, a concern as I work my way through my sixties. I have not yet found my cell phone in the freezer or my keys in the microwave. Thankfully, my losses are usually a result of multitasking or not giving myself enough time to put the item in its proper spot in the first place.

To compensate, I have established assigned places for the FLIs. My keys go on the key rack next to the door. The cell phone goes on the kitchen counter, plugged into the permanent charger. My favorite water bottle gets rinsed and put back into the refrigerator. On my good days, the system works.

I’ve given up on the sunglasses. After several last minute scrambles,I finally purchased several additional pairs for my pocketbook, each car, the beach bag, the lanai. This system also works—on my good days.

Larry, on the other hand, rarely loses anything. His keys, his wallet, the checkbook, even his clothes, are organized in such a way that he can find them quickly and without angst. He even has a system for items on his desk, where he can locate exactly what he needs from the piles that totally defy my sense of order.

Unfortunately, as we share the same house, our lives—and stuff—intersect. For example, we share laundry duty, but it is usually on my watch that one of his socks goes missing.

“What did you do with my Smart Wool?” he demands.

“You’re missing one?” I respond. And the search begins. The washing machine. The dryer. Then the rest of the laundry to see if it got stuck to a recalcitrant tee shirt or pair of shorts. The loss is yet to be permanent.

The second most FLI is the checkbook. Larry has a particular Spot for it. There are times, however, that I need it. Invariably, I either don’t put it back in the Spot fast enough or I don’t put it exactly where it belongs. Then, the scenario begins.

“MAR-i-lyn! Where is the checkbook?” The situation is quickly resolved. (EXCEPT when we moved into our Florida house, and one of us put the checkbook in a “safe place” before we left for a long trip to Colorado. If anyone has any suggestions as to where our “safe” place was, please contact me! Two years later, and the checks are still missing.)

Remember I said that Larry rarely  loses anything? Let me relate the Famous Missing Fleece Incident.

While still living in Upstate New York, our son Adam came home in July for a visit. One surprisingly cool morning, the three of us went on a bike ride. Larry had Adam use his road bike, and he took his hybrid.

A couple of weeks after Adam left, Larry asked me what I had done with the University of Rochester fleece he had worn on the bike ride.

“I have no idea,” I said. “I probably washed it and put it in your closet.”

“Well, it’s missing,” Larry said.

Thus began a three-month intermittent search. I checked our closet and every other closet and dresser in the house. I called Adam and asked if he had taken it back with him to California. Nada.

“Maybe you gave it to the Salvation Army,” Larry said. “I can’t believe you would give away my favorite fleece.”

At the end of October, Larry and I decided to go on a bike ride. The roads were wet from a recent rain, so we took our hybrid bikes for better traction. Halfway through the ride, it began to rain again. Larry paused to put his phone, which was in a case on the handlebar, into the saddle bag to better protect it.

“Hey! Look what I found!” Larry exclaimed. “It’s my missing fleece! I must have put it in there in July when it began to warm up on our bike ride with Adam!”

“YOU misplaced it!” I said. “Don’t you feel bad for accusing ME of losing it?”

“No, that’s okay,” said Larry. “All’s well that ends well.”

And the charging cord I “lost” in Colorado? Turns out that Sam had rolled it up and put it into a canister where he and Julie stash all their extra cords. So I actually wasn’t at fault that time either.

Elizabeth Bishop wrote: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master; /so many things seem filled with the intent /to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” In my world, losing “stuff” may be a problem. As long as I keep what is important—my family, my friends, my memories—it will just be small stuff.

Living My Values

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Larry and I at Special Olympics in Florida

The Shabbat prayer book in our synagogue includes the following meditation: ”I harbor within—we all do—a vision of my highest self, a dream of what I could and should become. May I pursue this vision, labor to make real my dream.”

On Tuesday, January 20, Donald Trump was sworn in as our forty-fifth president. Leaders as well as friends have asked us to give the new president an opportunity to prove himself. Based on his appointments, his actions, his continued negative rhetoric, the growing scandals, however, I refuse to stand with this man.

As an American and as a Jew, I shudder at the uptick of racist acts, xenophobic proclamations and bans, and the proposed loss of funding and support for public education, the arts, health care, civil rights, the disadvantaged, the environment—the list is endless.

Despite or maybe because of the current political climate, it is more important than ever for me to find “my highest self.” I must do what I can to live my values in a time where our country is led by an individual whose values do not come close to mine. I must use my moral compass  to point me in a direction that counters his rhetoric of hate. “Not all of us can do great things,” Mother Theresa said. “But we can do small things with great love.”

Up until this past presidential election, I did not consider myself a “political” person. I was—admittedly—marginally involved in the Vietnam War protests and the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment fight. Although I have voted in almost every local, state, and national election, I  have minimally involved in campaigning. The possibility of Trump becoming of president, however, stirred a level of activism in me that had me expressing my concerns on Facebook and becoming actively involved in supporting Hillary Clinton.

Now that Trump is president, I continue to be an activist. I have joined a local grassroots organization to effect change at a local level. Along with contacting my legislators through phone calls, emails, and letters, I have met with my United States House representative in House to express my concerns.

I volunteer at Special Olympics and support financially other organizations that align with those values. I subscribe to the New Yorker and the New York Times to stay more informed with media that does not provide “alternative facts.”

And I continue to subscribe to The Jewish World. For fifty years, the Clevenson family has been the voice of the Capital Region’s Jewish community. Their bi-weekly not only gives local news and events but also fair and unbiased information about the United States, Israel, and the world. If you have not already done so, subscribe to their fine paper, and consider giving a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

Tikkun Olam, the Hebrew expression translated often as “repairing the world,” is the Jewish  moral principal that states every individual should leave this world better than he or she found it. This is the vision of my highest self.  Through my voice and through my actions, I hope “to do small things with great love”—to make our country and this world a better place for our own and future generations.

Mazel Tov! Six Couples Celebrate Fifty Years of Marriage!

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Four of the happy couples: Goldbergs, Grossman’s, Plass, and Secans

What does The Jewish World have in common with the following six couples? All are celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary!

Susie and Ed Goldberg met each other at a dance at The Laurels, a resort in the Catskills. Susie, who had just turned seventeen, came back to the room that she was sharing with a girlfriend and found several young men sprawled out asleep in the beds and couch of her hotel room. She called security to have them all thrown out. The story of the “Good Girl with Chutzpah” quickly spread through the guest grapevine. Ed was impressed “if I ever go steady again, I want my girlfriend to be just like you,” he said,and then asked for her number.

After casually dating for eighteen months, the two started “going steady” once Ed was drafted into the army. When he got his orders to go to Vietnam, Ed proposed. Despite parental pressure to wait until he returned, Susie and Ed chose to have a small wedding at Temple Israel in New Rochelle, New York, a month before Ed shipped out. Fifty years later, Sue and Ed agree that many factors that constitute a great marriage:  love, communication, empathy, patience, compromise, quality time with family, with friends, and especially with each other.

“Bubbemeises”—tales from a Jewish grandmother— brought Hedy and Harvey Flechner together. They were just sixteen and seventeen when they started dating as freshmen at CUNY City University of New York. The first time she met him, Hedy’s grandmother said he was an incarnation of  her own late husband, Frank. “I’ve dreamed about this day,” she told Hedy. “He’s the man you’re going to marry. Just finish your college degree first.”

On their one month anniversary, Harvey gave Hedy a red rose, a tradition he continues every month to this day. “When he was too poor to buy a rose, he’d steal one from a neighbor’s garden,” said Hedy. Six hundred and fifty roses later, they attribute their long marriage to carefully picking their battles and following Hedy’s beloved grandmother’s advice. “Never go to bed angry,” she told the young couple. “It will take away the fun of being in bed together!” Smart woman, that bubbe!

A grandmother also had a hand in the Plass’s marriage. While spending her summer on Far Rockaway on Long Island, Mickey was introduced by her girlfriend to “the cute boy who works at the penny arcade.”  After their first date, Grandma Spitz told the soon-to-be college freshman  to finish her teaching degree before marrying Richard. “I told her I barely knew him,” Mickey recalled, “but she insisted he was The One.” They were married—the summer after Mickey graduated college The Plass’ advice: Don’t marry anyone with expectations to  change them. “Why would you want to change someone you really love?” Mickey asked rhetorically.

Chris and Bernie Grossman met at a dance at Grinnell College at the beginning of her freshman year. Bernie, a junior,  was about to ask another girl to dance when Chris “got in the way.”  They dated while at college. As they both were from the Chicago area, they continued their relationship during school breaks and even after Bernie graduated. They got engaged during the summer after her junior year. Chris took Jewish conversion classes through her senior year, and  they were married the following summer after her graduation.  Chris and Bernie follow the advice that Chris’ parents’ offered at their fiftieth anniversary: “The secret of a long marriage is to always keep in mind that the little things that annoy you about your spouse are not that important in the grand scheme of things.”

The Secans met on a blind date. Phyllis’s sister-in-law and Joel’s sister, who were friends, gave Joel Phyllis’ number. Five months later, he finally made the call and invited Phyllis to lunch at Nathan’s in Oceanside, Long Island. They had such a good time that lunch was followed by a movie,dinner, and a commitment for a date on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, Phyllis knew that this was “the love of her life.” Ever since that first night, Phyllis and Joel have built on their immediate mutual attraction by anticipating each other’s needs staying “up” when the other was “down,” and, most importantly, finding ways to keep the romance going. “Having a date night is a must,” Phyllis said.

Betty and Steve Schoenberg were fixed up by their fathers, who knew each other through their jobs with the United States Postal Service. “Eighteen year old” Steve (he was really twenty-one) asked sixteen-year-old Betty to join him on a boat ride on the Hudson River. At first regarded as passing summer romance, Betty and Steve continued to date that fall. “It was hard to say we didn’t like each other when our own parents had set us up,” recalled Betty. They got married after Betty’s sophomore year at NYU. “A good marriage takes a great deal of patience, said Betty,” and a good sense of humor—a VERY good sense of humor.

Six couples. Six decades of marriage times five. Eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren later, all have no regrets. Phyllis Secan summed up all the couple’s life-long romances in her outlook on the future: “Our marriage just keeps getting better and better.” Congratulations to happy couples and The Jewish World on their Fiftieth Anniversary. May you all go from strength to strength.

My house was a very, very fine house….

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And Marilyn makes five….Me in Potsdam 1952.

 

My mother Frances Freydl Cohen wrote down many family stories to share with her children and grandchildren. The following story describes our home in Potsdam, New York.

In 1948, my husband and I were living in New London, Connecticut. Now that the war was over, my husband Bill was concerned that his job was insecure. When my brother Eli offered him an opportunity to become a partner in his retail-clothing store in Potsdam, New York, we decided to make the move.

The big problem was that there was a big housing shortage. The only place we could find to live was a small new two-bedroom house that was barely adequate for Bill, me, and our two children.

Our first winter in Potsdam was a very traumatic one. Our six-year-old daughter started first grade. She came home with everything but an education. First she came down with measles. One month later, she came down with the chicken pox. Each time, she gave the illness to her two-year-old brother.

Spring finally came and my parents were finally able to visit us. The couch in the living room opened to a bed, so our living room became our guest room. We bought a double collapsible bridge table and our living room also served as a dining room.

Laura wanted to take piano lessons, so my parents bought her a small reconditioned upright piano that just fit on one wall.

Things were running smoothly. Our children made friends. We made friends. We especially loved going to the outdoor movie theater in the summer. The admission for a whole family was nine dollars. We would dress the children in pajamas and they slept on pillows in the back of our red station wagon while we watched the movie.

Things changed when I realized that I was pregnant with my third child. Babies are little but take up a lot of room. The kitchen was so small that I could stand in one place, open the fridge and take a chicken out, turn around and wash the chicken in the sink, turn again and place the chicken in the oven. Where would I put a high chair in that small kitchen?

But Bill and I always planned on more children, so all the family was thrilled when our daughter Marilyn arrived in September.

Picture our home nine months later. In addition to our couch, two chairs, and a piano, we had the following in the living room:  a playpen, a baby carriage, toys, and shoes and boots on the floor as we did not have a foyer or a garage. The master bedroom now had a crib and a dressing table for the baby. As it was a new house with no trees and situated on top of a windy hill, the house was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In addition, the basement always had water, the depth depending on the weather. Despite the crowded and less than ideal conditions, we were happy in our little home, which we called the “Rubber House” as it stretched.

We were even happier when my brother’s wife announced that they were going to have their first baby. Two months before the baby arrived, I planned a baby shower for her. The day of the shower, we collapsed the playpen and the baby shower and opened the double bridge table. Bill took our three children to my brother’s. I served tea sandwiches, dessert, and coffee to eight women. We all enjoyed opening the baby gifts.

Soon after that, I could no longer put off the gall bladder surgery that I needed since my first symptoms appeared when I was pregnant with Marilyn eighteen months earlier. The surgery was difficult and the recovery even more so, especially with three children. Fortunately, Bill and my brother waited until I recuperated fully to tell me that the store could not support two growing families.

In a short time, we decided to open a store in Keeseville, New York. Bill went to Keeseville to plan to open the new store, and I stayed in Potsdam to sell the house.

One day the agent called to tell me that he was bringing a couple to see the house. The sun was out, and it was 90 degrees outdoors and indoors. But miracles do happen. By the time they arrived, the sun went down and a strong wind came up. The basement happened to be fairly dry that week. When the couple arrived, they said our place was the coolest in town and our basement had the least amount of water.

Now that the house was sold, our family was ready to start a new chapter in our lives in Keeseville New York in our eight-room house.

My Family’s History of Immigrants

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The history of the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of New York City is intertwined with my mother’s family and in particular, my smart, generous, resourceful Aunt Lil.

My maternal family story began Ragola, a small shtetl town in the southeast part of Lithuania.  My grandmother’s Ethel’s birth mother Channah married Buck (first name unknown), a radical and a “free thinker.”  Buck’s unorthodox views were too much for the religious Channah and her parents. Soon after the birth of their son Rafael, the marriage was dissolved. A few years later, Channah married Elihu Hirsch Osovitz. Rafael was soon joined by a half-brother Sam.

Five years later, Buck came to their home and took Rafeal with him to America. Channah, heartbroken,died a few weeks later during childbirth. Channah’s parents took Sam into their home. The infant Ethel—my future grandmother— was placed in a home a wet nurse.

Three years later, Elihu fell in love with Faigah “Vichna” Levinson, the daughter of a prosperous couple in the baking and grocery business. At first Vichna’s parents did not approve of their twenty-year-old daughter’s marriage to a thirty-plus widower with two children.  However, their union was a love match, a rarity in those days of arranged marriages.

Ethel adored her new mother, In fact, it was not until she was introduced her maternal grandparents seven years later that Ethel realized that Vichna was her step-mother. During that visit, Ethel  also learned that she had an older brother Sam in America.

Elihu was a pious man and a student of the Torah. Grandma Vichna was the breadwinner, working in her father’s store. They shared a shtetl “duplex” with another family. Each side of the small wood building held one room with a curtain in the corner hiding a bed to provide the parents some privacy. The two families shared an outhouse.

By 1899, the couple had four more children sharing their one room house: Joe, Lil, Paul, and Rose. Fearful of the threat of pogroms, Elihu and Vichna insisted their oldest daughter cross the ocean by herself to “die goldeneh medinah”—the Golden Land— for a better life. At Ellis Island, fifteen-year-old Ethel was met by her brother Sam and her half brother Rafael Buck. It was the first time she had met either sibling. Staying with distance cousins, Ethel got a job in a umbrella factory for three dollars a week.

Back in Ragola, behind that thin curtain, Vichna and Elihu conceived three more children: Bea, Ruth, Morris. As the oldest girl living home, Lil was responsible for her younger siblings until she was sent to America when she was twelve years old to join Ethel.

The two sisters rented a room with a family of six children and four other boarders.Giving her age as fourteen, Lil obtained a job as garment worker in a sweatshop in Greenwich Village.  She viewed the location— the top floors of the crowded, airless Aisch Building—as “a firetrap.” To  prevent workers from taking too many breaks or stealing, the owners locked the doors to the stairwells and exits.

Ethel, struggling and unhappy with her job, accepted her brother Sam’s invitation to move in with him and his wife in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Paul, Joe, and Rose followed their older siblings to America.

When Paul encountered health problems working in the sweatshops, Lil relocated him and Joe to Burlington, Vermont. She also gave them  money  to purchase a wheelbarrow and enough second hand items to peddle goods to Vermont farmers and their families. First traveling on foot and then on horse and wagon, the two brothers saved enough money to open a store in Alburgh, Vermont. This was the start of Pearl’s Department Stores, department store chain that grew to twenty-two stores in Vermont and Upstate New York.

Working in the factory on Washington Place, Lil proved to be a  fast and efficient seamstress. When she demanded a raise, she was fired—a blessing in disguise. A week later, on  March 25, 1911, the “firetrap”—the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory—was the scene of the deadliest industrial fires in New York City history.  A hundred and forty-six garment works died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths.The tragedy led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire)

By that time, Elihu had died. Lil had saved $75  to pay for the remaining family members’ ship passage. On April 11, 1911, an elegantly dressed Lil  greeted Vichna (44), Bea (11), Morris (9), and Ruth (6) at Ellis Island. Lil rented an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for herself, Rose, and the four new immigrants.

Lil continued to be the main breadwinner in the family. She obtained promotions as a seamstress in various factories specializing in blouses and dresses. She often made as much as $20 a week, a greater salary than even most of the married men with whom she worked. Her hard work came with sacrifices. Lil attended night school, but after a hard day’s work in the shop, she fell often asleep in class. As a result, she never spoke or wrote English proficiently, relying heavily on Yiddish her whole life.

Now that the entire Osovitz family was in America, Vichna now focused her efforts on making sure that her oldest daughter in Baltimore was married. She arranged a match between her Ethel and Joseph Cohen, a lonely tailor originally from Ragola who was sleeping on a cot in his sister’s apartment. On January 14, 1912, Ethel and Joe were married in a large banquet hall  filled with family and friends from the old country. Nine months and four days after the wedding, their son Eli—named after Elihu—was born. Five years later, they welcomed Frances—my future mother.

A few years later, with the entire Osovitz family finally settled in The Golden Land,  Lil married Sam Waldman, a butcher. Lil worked alongside her husband in stores in New York State: first in the city, then Long Island, St. Regis Falls, and, finally settling in the Syracuse area. The entire family remained close throughout their lives, as have their many descendants of the original nine siblings from Ragola, Lithuania. And all of us recognize and appreciate the strong role our Aunt Lil played in our history.

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The Osovitz Family: Bottom left to right: Rose, Ruth, Bea, Ethel, and Lil. Top left to Right: Paul, Sam, and Joe. All their names were Americanized once they moved to America.

From Pizza Boy to Pizza Rabbi

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My husband Larry and I missed the Pizza Boy’s bris.

Diane Silverman, the future Pizza Boy’s mom, and I met in 1977. The two of us, along with several new members, sat together at a event sponsored by Clifton Park Hadassah. Within a year, all the women around the table were expecting. Our son Adam was born in April; the Silverman’s daughter Erica came one month later. By the time the eight children were walking, the Hadassah Baby Boom mothers formed a weekly playgroup, one of us baby sat while the other moms got a break.

“Three years apart” must have been the Hadassah mantra, because six of us delivered our second child in 1981.Diane and Mark’s son arrived on March 11. Eight days later, while Todd Harris Silverman was ongoing his rite of passage into Judaism, I was having a planned caesarian-section. Obviously, Larry and I couldn’t be at their simcha. Therefore, Diane and Mark announced the birth of our daughter Julie Rose—to the large group of mutual friends.

As did our two older children, Julie and Todd grew up together. They were in the same playgroup (Hadassah Baby Boom Two), and the same nursery school class. When I went back to work, Diane watched Julie before school. It was Diane who put Julie, along with Todd, on the bus the first day of school as I was teaching my first class.

Julie and Todd were close—maybe too close! At the end of first grade, their teacher recommended the two friends be in separate classes as “Julie was leading Todd around by the nose.”

Todd was a frequent guest at our house, and he loved his pizza. Larry nicknamed him “Pizza Boy,” a moniker that stuck with him for a long time.

By this time, both of our families had joined Congregation Beth Shalom, and we parents shared responsibilities for the children’s religious school carpools.We even were each other’s helping families at their bar/bat mitzvahs.

Early in his religious education, Todd felt the strength and pull of his Jewish roots. Growing up in kosher home, Todd lived in a family that actively participated in Judaism through holidays, simchayots, and synagogue membership. Additionally, he felt surrounded by fellow Jews. “You might be hard pressed to find another kid in Upstate New York who felt like the majority of his family’s friends were Jewish,” Todd said. He realized at a young age that being “a part and parcel of the Jewish community” was important to him.

After his bar mitzvah, Todd joined Temple Gates of Heaven’s North American Federation of Temple Youth’s (NFTY) chapter. He attended summer camp for three of his four high school years at Kutz Camp, the Reform Movement’s youth leadership academy.In 1997, Todd participated in a five-week NFTY-sponsored trip to Israel. He came back bronze-skinned, twenty-five pounds lighter and his eyes opened to Israel.

His religious faith was tested in college. As a theater major at State University of New York at Oswego, Todd found few opportunities for participation in Judaism. Furthermore, the death of three people close to him—an accident, an illness, a suicide—made him seriously question what direction his life would go.

In his last year of college, help came from his NFTY connections. Todd reconnected with a fellow camper from the Kutz Camp, who invited Todd to be on staff at a summer camp in Malibu, California.

Immediately after completing bachelor’s degree in theater, Todd  headed to the West Coast. After the summer camp experience, he found a job as an elementary school teacher at Brawerman Elementary School in West Los Angeles. His experience at the Jewish day school helped confirm his the lifelong belief  that he needed to serve the Jewish people. As Todd admitted, his vision was a “romanticized version of spiritual leader, pastoral guide, educator, and keeper of the stories and traditions.”

In 2011, Todd enrolled in the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. As part of his seminary training, he  lived for eleven  months in Israel, learning the language, the customs, and the politics of the Middle East. He returned to Los Angeles, where he spent another five years immersed in history, liturgy, counseling education, pedagogical instruction — everything a series of internships and student pulpits could provide.  

Upon his ordination in 2015,Todd learned of a rabbinical position opening in New Orleans, Louisiana.  His initial reaction: “There are Jews in New Orleans?”  Through the interviewing process, however, Todd learned that the Touro Synagogue, one of the oldest Jewish congregations outside the original thirteen  colonies, had a large and active membership. He felt an instant connection to both the shul and the city.

In July, 2015, he accepted  the position as assistant rabbi and  rabbinic director of lifelong learning. Along with life-cycle events and liturgical duties, Todd oversees the synagogue’s  religious school and Hebrew program and youth group activities.

Todd also continues to teach classes, including courses in .Pirkei Avot and rabbinic literature (Midrash, Mishna and Talmud). One of his favorite duties is teaching each semester a four-part  cooking class called,“In the Kitchen With Rabbi Silverman.”  Session topics have included recipes for challah, Jewish soups, Chanukah latkes and sufganiyot  (donuts); and a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a cumin-infused sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions. “I love shuksuka almost as I love pizza,” said Todd

“I preach and I teach and I learn and I walk to work when it’s not 100 degrees with 110% humidity,” said Todd. “And I love every second of it.”

March 11 is Rabbi Todd Harris Silverman’s thirty-sixth birthday, That evening, he  will celebrate the holiday of Purim. He will  help lead a service, join.his fellow congregants as they twirl their groggers, and eat the traditional cookie, hamantashen. Our former Pizza Boy has grown up to become the Pizza Rabbi. I, for one, can not be prouder of him!!

Running for Katie

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My husband Larry and I  met Judy and Charlie Lynch and their two girls in 1984. It was the first day of Clifton Park’s tee ball practice, and our two six-year-olds were assigned to the same team.  The parents and our two three-year-olds got to know each other while watching the games. Our son Adam spent most of his time in the outfield picking dandelions. Katie’s beautiful red hair couldn’t be contained under the maroon baseball caps all the pint-sized players wore.

In 1987, our families connected again at the Knolls Gang, a locally-run summer swim team. On the first day of practice, our daughter Julie brought over  “my new friend, Julia” to meet us. The two older siblings remembered each other from tee-ball. The four adults spent the next several years sharing conversation and stopwatch duties at the meets.

Larry and I left swim meets behind when Adam and Julie got involved in running. Charlie and Judy continued to breathe chlorine at various Capital District pools as their two girls continued competitive swimming. Our four children shared classrooms and proms and family get-togethers.

Meanwhile, as the years passed, Judy and Charlie became two of our dearest friends. We frequently met for dinner or a movie, a concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center,  or a leisurely tour of the Clark Museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Katie was co-valedictorian of the Shenenehowa graduating class of 1996. She went to Drew University on scholarship, where she was the captain of her swim team. In 2000, she graduated with honors, got a job with Ernst Young in New Jersey, and eventually met a wonderful man. Friends and family waited expectantly for an email announcing their engagement.

In  September 2008, Judy sent out a completely different e-mail with devastating news.  “Katie is sick” read the subject line. Katie had been  diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), one of the deadliest forms of blood diseases. Because of her general health and young age, she had at best a 50/50 chance of recovery, and an aggressive medical approach was needed— immediately.

Katie, always one to accept a challenge,  determinedly underwent everything the doctors threw at her: chemotherapy, numerous hospitalizations, painful side effects and biopsies, and countless blood tests, and transfusions.

While Katie was undergoing treatment, friends and family reached out to ask how they could help. Judy, a runner, had heard about Team in Training (TNT) through her many years of running, the  flagship fundraising program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). LLS is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services. TNT volunteers, many themselves survivors,  train to complete a marathon, half marathon, cycle event, triathlon or hike adventure, while fundraising to support the fight against blood cancers.

In 2009, Judy signed up with TNT  to raise money by her participation in the New Jersey Half Marathon. Katie had gone into remission, and Judy regarded the race as a victory lap, with Katie and her now-fiancé meeting Judy at the finish line. Friends and family, including Larry and I, donated money to LLS in Katie’s honor.

Katie would not watch her mother complete the race. The cancer reoccurred, and she was in the hospital preparing for a stem cell transplant. Judy’s fundraising became her fight for her daughter’s life. She raised over $12,500.

Tragically, Katie’s positive attitude, her strong will to live, and the undergoing of every conceivable treatment were not enough. Less than fourteen months after her diagnosis, the Lynch’s beautiful, sweet, intelligent daughter died on October 26, 2009. She was 31.

Before and during Katie’s illness, running had been Judy’s therapy, her go-to for coping and figuring things out. After Katie’s death, it was her bridge into life without her daughter, a way to move forward and memorialize Katie. She would tell the world about Katie at the marathon, wearing a shirt with her picture, her dates, and messages to fight leukemia, donate blood, and join the bone marrow registry. Immediately after the memorial service, Judy signed up for the 2010 Boston Marathon. A torn hamstring delayed that goal, but she found other races—in Atlanta, in the Capital District, and in 2011, her first Boston Marathon.

Judy felt the need for something positive to result from Katie’s tragic death.  She made a personal commitment to do one event a year for TNT, raising as much money as she possibly could each time.

With Katie as her inspiration, Judy accepted challenges she never would have considered. Along with running races ranging from 6.1 miles to 26.2 miles, she expanded her fundraising efforts to include a triathlon and two one-hundred mile bike rides. This year, Judy will run the New Jersey Half Marathon, where she ran for Katie the first time in 2009. Her goal is to raise $15,000.

Charlie has been Judy’s number one supporter, and he himself supports her fundraising for LLS through his Craft Beers for Cures sales. Together, the Lynches have raised a total of over one hundred and one thousand dollars for blood cancer research.

“I run not only for Katie,” said Judy, “but also for the fighters, the survivors, those not yet diagnosed, and especially for those whose lives were cut short way, way too soon.”

On January 16, 2017, Katie would have turned 39. Through their tzedakah—their charity and giving, Judy and Charlie have kept Katie’s memory alive not only in their hearts but also in the hearts of their many supporters.

I often think of Katie’s determination, courage, and grace under terrible circumstances. And I deeply respect and admire my dear friends for their incredible fundraising efforts they have undertaken in memory of their daughter. Their hope is that other families can be spared the devastation of losing a child or loved one.

For more information or to donate, please connect to Judy’s webpage at http://pages.teamintraining.org/vtnt/nj17/JLynch.