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Monday, November 12, 2012

Shiva

What do you way to a woman who has just lost her second child?

Never mind that the "child" was in her 60s.

One of the most amazing women -- no, the most amazing people -- that I've ever met is now sitting shiva for her daughter. Her son died in his 50s a few years ago and now cancer has claimed a second child. Edyth has lived in Tzfat since the '70s. She is best known for setting up and running the local English Library which has provided a cultural mecca for the local English-speaking population. Following her belief that a library should be freely available to all she refused to charge a fee -- a universal and totally accepted practice in Israel -- and instead, she raised the money through fundraising.

Edyth's life has been anything but boring. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law school in 1939 ("I was one of two women in my class" she once told me) and then joined the Women's Army Corps and marched into Paris with the American troops. ("When the pilotless planes came through" she told me today, referring to the V1s) "I went up on the rooftops to watch"). She married a rabbi and had three children; following her husband's death she remarried and had a fourth, but the marriage didn't last and she was left to support all four kids. (She told an interviewer that, no matter what else was happening in her life, she always read to her children at night -- they all grew up to be successful, three liv(ed) in Israel, and the family was always very close).

Edyth was a fundraiser for the Miami Federation for many years and when she came to Tzfat she initiated a number of different projects, in addition to the library, for the welfare of the community. Her children joined her efforts and did a lot of their own work as well...her son, who passed away several years ago, started a unique religious/non-religious high school in Jerusalem that teaches co-existence within the Jewish community -- something that's often forgotten. The daughter who just passed away was, politically, somewhat to the left of the political map, yet put a lot of her efforts into fighting the delegitimization of Israeli academics that is so popular among the anti-Israel academic crowd and is so dangerous to Israel.

And yet, with all those "good deeds" under her belt, she's just buried her second child. What do you say? "Anything that I can do?" No, obviously not. "I'm so sorry." Well yes, obviously.

All I can say is that Edyth's determination to continue to do whatever she can to make other people's lives easier and better (she told me that when she wrote to her daughter's friends to let them know that her daughter had passed away, she "happened to mention" that a donation to the library would be a fitting tribute to her daughter's memory -- "do you think that God will mind" she asked me, or words to that effect) inspires me to do more. And I hope that that's a fitting tribute to her daughter.

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