Marking the first anniversary of his father’s death, a son reflects on the deceased’s once-powerful frame and how its legacy and memory continue to give him strength.
Samuel G. Freedman
On winter mornings long ago, we would go, my father and I, to Lake Nelson to skate. Lake Nelson, in a rural stretch of central New Jersey, was not much more than a pond formed by damming a creek. That creek had run alongside the anarchist colony where my father grew up and within miles of the town where he raised our family.
Watching friends, family and acquaintances go the way of obituary and biography.
“People are dying who didn’t used to,” my mother could have said, but didn’t. It was somebody else’s mother.
Now I’m thinking along the same lines.
There are deaths in the family, of course. Shocking, awful, and no matter how expected — unexpected. My father’s was the first and the worst. Besides being beloved, he was a rabbi and the one we went to when someone else died. How could we ask him questions about his own funeral? About grief? I am still asking him.
What burial grounds and tombstones say about our personalities, cultures and traditions.
Cemeteries are not isolated burial grounds unto themselves — they are tied to people’s lives through customs and beliefs. Within their walls are intimate expressions of love, grief and faith, as well as expressions of both individual and group identity. They are places where the feelings human beings have for their dead are displayed in tangible and artistic ways; places where relationships between the living and the dead are maintained.
As we searched for illustrations on the theme of loss, our art director Dan
Bocchino told me of an uncle who used to visit the Queens cemetery where his wife was buried, set up a lawn chair and keep her company almost every afternoon.
I’ve had that image in mind as we sought out essays that explore the shadows of life, the power of ritual and the possibility of consolation.
Our contributors reflect on loss and, in doing so, affirm life. A wide range of essays explore the rituals related to death and mourning, other losses, the power of memory and the possibility of consolation.
The original Hegelian notion of the Other, that of separateness and alienation, was adopted by social scientists to theories of group prejudice, where the Other is any person (or group) “other” to that person. The Other is different, therefore deviant, therefore alien to the society.
Late last year Israel accepted what’s set to be the final wave of Ethiopian immigrants. But the country is still struggling to integrate the 120,000 who’ve arrived over the past three decades.
Malkamu Chani spent 10 years in a camp in Gondar, Ethiopia, waiting for permission to move to Israel. In early January, he finally flew to the Promised Land and moved with his wife and child to a spare, two-room immigrant-housing apartmet in Mevaseret Zion outside Jerusalem. His neighborhood was a sea of clotheslines strung across modest backyards. The acrid smell of green coffee beans roasting in nonstick frying pans filled the tiny space that serves as his living room and kitchen.
One woman’s struggle to make Jewish life accessible for herself and others.
I was fortunate to be born into a Jewish family with three generations of deaf members. Both of my parents are deaf, as were my paternal grandparents. This was an ideal situation for a deaf child, as I considered myself fortunate to have parents who made sure I had full access to language through sign language at home. Given that I was a typical member of my family, I considered myself the same as everyone else.
In July 1936, one of Warsaw’s Yiddish dailies, Moment, described the wedding of two Jewish deaf-mutes. An arranged marriage of a well educated boy from an affluent family to a “poor, but beautiful” bride, the story made special note that the groom’s parents, who owned a successful hat-making company, had a “strange pall hanging over them.” All three of their children were unable to hear or to speak.
A Jew by choice brings a needed outsider’s perspective to the community.
Last week when I went to the Israeli consulate to get a visa for my upcoming trip to Israel, the security guard, after taking in my kipa and tzitzit, asked me “Atah yehudi?” Are you Jewish? On my replying “bevadai,” of course, he persisted in asking “Atah yehudi mimakor?” “Were you born Jewish?”
Young Families, Singles Flocking to Upper East Side; ‘The Memory Is In Their Taste Buds’: The Lure of Sephardic Food; Safra Synagogue Rabbi’s Growing Empire; Sephardic And Egalitarian at B’nai Jeshurun; Giving Voice to Sephardic Music.