I believe in magic. Not those trippy, sleight-of-hand illusions that tap into your inner child and leave your eyes feeling scrambled with wonder. I believe in the magic that happens when you get together with an assortment of individuals from your past, and a collective joy emerges that is so much greater than anything you imagined it could be – especially when the emotions you felt prior to the meetup were a quirky mix of excitement, curiosity and trepidation (accompanied by a soupçon of nausea). Why the trepidation, you ask? Well, even though you’re no longer that quiet, socially awkward teenager with questionable fashion sense (because the 80s made you do it), it seems that you still haven’t managed to completely rid yourself of those last remaining shreds of self-conscious, teenage angst.
But you allow the excited, curious bits to take control, and suddenly find yourself registering for your 30th high school reunion. You’ve been reconnecting online with your former classmates for years, and if you happen to be an introvert like I am, maybe platforms like Facebook have allowed you to create a comfort zone that lets you put your personality on display in ways you never dreamed possible. The confidence you lacked back in the day – when you were sure that EVERYONE had more than you did – has finally taken root. You know who you are and you like the person you’ve become, and you love the idea of reconnecting in real life.
So you subject yourself to a marginally invasive full-body pat-down (because security theater) and wedge yourself into a cramped airplane seat, hoping your seatmate won’t be a chatty armrest usurper while quietly, fervently praying to the airline gods for no seatmate at all. If you’re like me, you’re on a transatlantic flight or two, because you really are crazy enough to fly in for a week just so that you can spend a few days with your old high school pals – and make a few new ones – in and around your old hometown.
Despite the fact that it’s such a cliché, you’ve got a sweet selection of John Hughes movie soundtracks playing on a loop inside your head as the reunion draws closer. You’re staying with a dear friend you’ve known since first grade, and you spend the afternoon catching up and gossiping before digging through your suitcase for something suitable to wear. You take one last look in the mirror to make sure your hair is doing that wavy thing you like, and it’s off to the pub you go.
You arrive a little early, and when you step inside, you see that others had the same idea. The setting sun plays games with your eyesight, casting shadows and dancing rays of light around the classmates who greet all newcomers with whoops of joy. You squint against the glare as hugs are exchanged – sometimes with people you barely spoke to back in your high school days, but now it’s all good. The years have softened the memories and made us all nostalgic, and the lines that once separated us into distinct social groups are blurred beyond recognition. Thanks to social media, you can skip much of the preliminary “getting reacquainted” stage and jump straight into the fray.
A private room has been set aside for the Niskayuna High School class of ’86, and one of your former classmates generously turns the cash bar into an open bar by setting up a running tab for all. Drinks in hand, everyone works the room, moving from group to group to catch up and marvel at how amazing we all seem to look, because apparently, none of us have aged at all and everyone looks even better than they did 30 years ago. Despite the proximity of the bar and the privacy, though, there’s a gradual move to the crowded outdoor patio. The room is stifling and your friends question the wisdom of a closed space with insufficient cooling for a large group of perimenopausal women in their late 40s. Jostling with others for a good spot in front of a fan in the corner while beads of sweat form on your forehead and in the small of your back, you’re inclined to agree.
At some point, you start to yawn and your friend seizes the opportunity to tell everyone that you’re still battling jet lag. You tear yourselves away and collapse into her car, rehashing the evening while driving through the dark, quiet streets of your childhood. You later find out that many people stayed until the 2am closing time and then moved on to Denny’s, and are seriously impressed by their fortitude, if not their choice of venue.
The next evening, after a leisurely afternoon spent in the pool drinking sangria and homemade limoncello (and marveling at the appropriateness of the Oreo flavors paired with each – Annette knows you well and it shows), you head out once again for the second official event. You talk, laugh and drink until the restaurant closes and throws you all out, at which point you move en masse to the pub from the previous evening, stopping by the car to change your shoes and drop off the bottle of locally produced wine that Lisa gave you as a gift (because she knows you love wine, and also because she’s clearly awesome and thoughtful).
Tonight you stay until the end, until the gruff-looking bouncer with the loudest voice you’ve ever heard (who surprises you with a gentle smile when you jokingly ask him if he’s going to yell again) announces that the bar is closing and everyone has to leave. We are drunk and sober and every shade of tipsy in-between, leaning into one another and against each other as we shuffle towards the door. We are makers of magic, a magic that follows us outside to the parking lot, where we cling together for as long as possible and then some. Nobody wants to break the spell this weekend has cast on us, and we linger for long moments before splitting up to go our separate ways.
Two days later, the trip is over. Airports make you teary-eyed and this visit is no exception. To pass the time until your flight, you keep checking Facebook because your classmates are still posting about the reunion. You’re finally able to the board the plane, and blink back tears while quickly writing one last update, clicking “Post” just after the plane doors close. Your mind is still on the reunion and you feel like you’ve left a piece of your heart behind. But you’re okay with that. After all, the missing piece has been replaced by magic.
Photo courtesy of Annette Wertalik-Collinsby Liza Rosenberg
On February 29th, my mother passed away following a brief battle with ovarian cancer. This is the eulogy I wrote, which was read during the memorial service by my parents’ rabbi.
There is something surreal in preparing for a journey whose sole purpose revolves around saying goodbye to one’s parent. My father and Josh called, and Dad prefaced our discussion by asking if Yogev was within earshot. I quickly entered the bedroom and closed the door behind me, sinking down on the bed as my mind began to race, processing the words I was hearing – “Mom”, “cancer”, “back”, “aggressive”, “hospice”… No one could say how much time was left. Days? Weeks? A month or more? As a family, we agonized. Tickets were purchased, and as I tried to pack for a month’s stay in Sarasota, it dawned on me that I needed to pack something to wear to a funeral. Not only that, but I also had to remind Danny that when he’d start packing for himself and Yogev, he would have to do the same for them.
And with all of this going on, I was in turmoil and I was heartbroken. My mom was dying. My mom, who had spent the last two years battling a slowly progressing case of ALS, was given the opportunity to avoid being utterly ravaged by one monstrous disease in favor of a different one that would take her more quickly and relatively more mercifully. She grabbed it, and I understood completely. After nearly 76 years of life, she made the brave choice of one tragic death over another.
And what a life it was! A wonderful husband, amazing children – in my opinion, anyway – and incredible, beautiful grandchildren – and that’s a fact.
When I think about my mom’s role in my childhood, it makes me smile. She was the one who spent hours throwing a baseball back and forth with me in the street on Rosehill Blvd, at a time when it was still a dead end and there were very few cars to disturb us. Together, we spent hours and hours at the public library downtown, happily staggering out with armloads of books. She organized the most creative birthday parties and made the best Halloween costumes. One year, at the height of the first Star Wars craze back in the late 70s, my mom even turned me into R2-D2 – a tradition we’ve managed to carry into the present as Yogev prepares to dress up as Kylo Ren for Purim this year, after dressing as Anakin Skywalker last year. Clearly, the force is strong in our family…
I moved to Israel shortly before marrying Danny, and we usually saw my parents twice a year for several weeks at a time. Before Yogev was born, they started coming to Israel less frequently because the trip was a difficult one. Once he came along, though, they began to make annual visits again – which they did until my mother was diagnosed with ALS.
Yogev loved spending time with his grandparents – and they with him. Spending time with Grandma meant art projects, fun activities and outings – everything from sculpting side-by-side in sculpture class, to line dancing across the living room, to Easter egg hunts in Sarasota whenever Passover vacation conveniently coincided with Easter, and so much more. Hands down, though, our absolute favorite activity to do with my mom was puppy hugging at the Southeastern Guide Dogs facility just north of Sarasota. My mom always loved dogs, and passed this love down to me. I, in turn, passed it on to Yogev. We LOVED going puppy hugging. Yogev and I would happily join the circle of people sitting on the floor while Mom and Dad would sit on a nearby bench. Mom and Dad got it right though, for while we would sit there trying to entice each puppy to play as they ran and tumbled around us in a blur, kindly volunteers would inevitably bring a puppy or two over to my parents so they could get some quality puppy time as well – without having to work for it at all!
Nearly every item of clothing I’ve purchased over the years was tried on and acquired with my mother by my side. Every visit to Sarasota (and to Schenectady before that) always involved several outings for shopping, which sometimes resulted in a look of disbelief from my father as we’d walk into the house, arms laden with shopping bags. For him, shopping always meant that when you needed something specific, you’d go to the store, find what you were looking for, buy it and come home. Mom and I would roll our eyes when Dad would ask what we were going to shop for and head out. And while I know that shopping may sound like a rather mundane, unexciting activity, those were also the times that allowed us to have our one-on-one conversations. Those moments comprised such a big part of the quality time we shared, and it’s going to be so strange to visit those same shops on my own. I’ll do it though. Not only because I know she’d want me to keep doing something that we enjoyed doing together; I’m also reasonably certain that the last thing she’d want would be for me to have to walk around without any clothes, so… Right, Mom?
And now, all of a sudden. It’s all come to a screeching halt. There will be no more Easter egg hunts and no more sculpture classes. No more line dancing across the living room filled with your artwork. No more shopping together or visits to the theater. There will be an empty space on the bench when we go puppy hugging – which we will, of course, continue to do. But most of all, there will be no more pain for you, and that’s the most important thing. The only wish I’ve made on every first star in the sky has finally come true – you’re finally free from all the pain and suffering of the past two years. Danny, Yogev and I love you so much, Mom, and we’re really going to miss you.by Liza Rosenberg
בימים אחרים, הייתי כותבת את הטור שלי באנגלית ומעבירה אותו לתרגום. את הטור הזה, כתבתי ישר בעברית. התבקשתי על ידי העורכים שלי ב”אדם עולם“, המגזין של הקהילה האנתרופוסופית בישראל, להתייחס לנושא של הכשרות שקשורות לאנתרופוסופיה: הכשרות חינוך, רופאים, מחנכים וכדומה. פשוט, נכון? זהו, שלא כל כך. ועוד החלטתי שהפעם, אני מתכוונת לכתוב את הכל בעברית – פעולה מאתגרת ומתסכלת.
אבל כנראה שכל האימיילים והפוסטים שהכרחתי את עצמי לכתוב בעברית בשנים האחרונות – לפעמים עם עזרה ולפעמים בלי – עשו את שלהם, כי משום מה, הצלחתי. יפה, לא? אינני רוצה להגיד שזה היה ממש באופן מפתיע, כי תכלס, בשלב זה הרגשתי מספיק בטוחה ביכולות שלי לפחות לנסות, וכמישהי שכותבת אופן מקצועית (אומנם בשפה אחרת), אני תמיד רודפת אחרי אתגרי כתיבה. למזלי, האתגר הזה מצא אותי, וזה מה שיצא.by Liza Rosenberg
Woven through the stories and the summers of our youth
Your laughter threaded through the soundtrack of our days
And nights spent in the camp that hugged the Delaware
Where slivers of our hearts will always stay
They say time flies too fast, my friend, and I believe it’s true
For it seems like only yesterday I first laid eyes on you
Or maybe just this morning, not so very long ago
So tell me how the hell are we supposed to let you go
I’ll remember you with laughter and I’ll think of you with joy
Of long-forgotten moments when you were just a boy
While sifting through the memories that span across the years
Of words sent over miles where you shared your hopes and fears
Now I’m sitting here in sadness ‘cause I can’t believe you’re gone
It shouldn’t have to end this way – it seems so very wrong
As I listen to the songs we’ll never hear you sing again
My smile slowly drowns in tears with thoughts of you, my friend
Quintessential Dave, who always made us laugh:
In memory of Dave Alpert, who left this world way too soon…
Links to Dave’s music:
by Liza Rosenberg
During a work outing several years ago, my colleagues and I were given an opportunity to make ocarinas out of clay. While the others created instruments that looked like delightful sea creatures, dragons and other fictitious members of the animal kingdom, I suspiciously stared down at my lump of clay without coming up with a single idea. In the end, I created a simple, goofy smiley face on one side, and on the other, I wrote “My talents lie elsewhere”, since when it comes to envisioning and creating my own piece of artwork, I’m utterly and unapologetically hopeless.
That’s not to say that I don’t love art however, for I do – it often brings me great joy. I can, quite happily, spend hours wandering aimlessly through art exhibitions and galleries, and the genre of naïve art (discovered after I visited a naïve art gallery in Tel Aviv for an article I was writing) seems to reach into my soul and make my heart race with emotion. It touches me in ways that I simply cannot describe. I love the colors, the detailed intricacies woven into every scene that invite me to stop in my tracks and stare in open-mouthed wonder…
And now I’m going to let you in on a little secret. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
My son clung to me and cried as he begged me to turn off the news last night. Through his tears, he said that he’d been ok in the morning when I gently broke the news to him that Arik Einstein had died, but that all day long, no matter where he went, people wouldn’t stop talking about it. And suddenly, while watching President Peres eulogize Israel’s greatest musical icon, he simply couldn’t take it anymore.
Not that it was easier for anyone else, of course. I, like so many of my friends and fellow Israelis, labored to get through a day that was permeated with sadness and seen through the occasional haze of tears. We shared memories and milestones that played out against the backdrop of his music, and it seemed that no matter where we’d grown up or what we’d done, Arik Einstein’s songs were seamlessly woven into the tapestry.
Growing up in Young Judaea, his music was as much a part of our collective Zionist identity as Israel itself – so much so, that during the National Summer Convention in 1985, we voted to make the song “Ani V’Ata” (see the transliterated version and a translation here) the movement’s official national song. And yesterday, as I struggled with my writer’s need to convey all that Arik Einstein had meant to me, I remembered that the starting point of my love affair with his music began with that song. Suddenly, I found the words I wanted to write.
You sang that we could change the world
And we believed you as only youngsters can
But really, it was you who changed ours
For we allowed your words to guide us
And as we strove to make a difference
Your music was the soundtrack of our lives
Rest in peace, Arik. Thank you for changing our world and creating the soundtrack of our lives.
1939 – 2013
…יהי זכרו ברוך
by Liza Rosenberg
When I heard that the wife of one of my brother’s oldest friends had lost a child, I sent a carefully worded email to her husband, asking if Stacey might want to talk to someone who had been through something similar. She did, and the connection was made.
That was approximately eleven years ago, and over the years, Stacey and I kept up our correspondence at varying degrees of frequency, never losing the special connection we’d created out of a mutual, almost desperate need for support from someone who understood. As we managed to have other children and move on to other subjects, that shared, profoundly visceral understanding of devastating loss has always been at the heart of our friendship.
Stacey and I have exchanged hundreds of emails, yet no opportunity had ever presented itself for us to meet in person – until recently. My brother and his family were celebrating the Bat-Mitzvah of their eldest daughter, which – conveniently for us – fell during my son’s Passover vacation. I was looking forward to seeing family and friends, but from the moment I decided that we’d make this trip, much of the joy I felt was in knowing that I would finally have the chance to meet Stacey, whose painful journey had been such an integral part of my own healing process. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
More than 25 years ago, I spent my gap year in Israel on Young Judaea‘s Year Course program. One month of that year was spent living with a family in an agricultural community (a moshav), and while I can’t remember the names of anyone from the family I stayed with, I do remember the family below, which hosted a friend of mine (and was actually much nicer to me than my own host family). Arlene is also a former Young Judaean.
What follows is the text from an email that Arlene sent to a local mailing list that I moderate, and she quickly agreed to allow me to share it here. Please do what you can to help, and please share this note with your networks.
Note that (as mentioned below) Israeli hospitals conduct worldwide registry searches for suitable donors, so being registered in almost any country can potentially help someone in need, no matter where in the world they happen to be.
Our son, Guy Bar-Yosef, was diagnosed with an acute form of leukemia this past April. He has undergone aggressive chemotherapy, and now the doctors are saying that there is hope for recovery only if he receives a bone marrow (=stem cell) transplant from a matching donor.
We are turning to everyone and anyone who may be able to help. Healthy donors are accepted into international registries between the ages of 18-45. Blood type does not matter. Because of Guy’s genetic lineage, we are specifically looking for donors with mixed genetic backgrounds – Ami’s parents were of Moroccan and Lithuanian origin, and Arlene’s parents hailed from Latvia (Baronovich, Russia, and nearby).
In Israel, the organization which does tissue typing and matching is “Ezer Mizion”, and in the USA, it’s “Be The Match” or “Gift of Life”. People in the USA can ask for a kit to do the test at home and mail it in. All other developed countries have similar setups, and Israeli hospitals conduct worldwide searches.
The initial test is merely a saliva swab taken from inside the cheek. It is painless and quick. If the person is found to be a tissue match, he/she will be asked to donate blood on a given day, at the hospital in Tel Aviv. If the person is from abroad, the flight to Israel and all expenses will be paid. It is similar to donating blood at Magen David Adom – no surgical procedure is involved.
Many of Guy’s friends, colleagues and family members are coming forward to be tested, but they can’t all afford to pay for the tests themselves. So another way to assist is by a monetary donation, in any amount to “Ezer Mizion” in Israel. It costs 250 NIS ($65) to process each test, and as they don’t have the necessary budget, they seek donations to cover the costs.
Ezer Mizion: 40 Kaplan St., Petach Tikva, Israel. Tel: 03-9277772, via check, telephone, or online, (there’s a place to name the person in whose honor the donation is being made).
The website is: https://www.ezermizion.org/Donate (Donations are tax deductible and receipts will be issued).
Anyone making a monetary donation as well as those who go to Ezer Mizion to be tested should mention Guy Bar-Yosef’s name.
Time is of the essence. Anyone who has Facebook or other social network media, or who work or study in places where they can notify friends, colleagues, etc., is kindly asked to help spread the word. We sincerely appreciate every and all effort made on Guy’s behalf.
Thanks so very much.
Arlene and Ami Bar-Yosef
If people in South Africa are interested in finding out more about that country’s bone marrow registry (which would also be scanned for possible donors for Guy), please contact the South African Bone Marrow Registry:
South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR)
Match codes: South Africa [ZA]
Groote Schuur HospitalE52,
Old Main Building
Getting tangled in the words
Of a song from long ago
Old forgotten moments
And stories left untold
As children we allowed ourselves
The innocence of youth
When everything was easy
With no complicated shades of truth
I remember lazy summer days
And all the crazy games we played
Imagination and adventure were our guides
Grass that scratched between our toes
While splashing through the garden hose
And counting cloud formations in the sky
Life was full of simple joys
Our world seemed so complete
Snowball fights in winter
Autumn leaves beneath our feet
We didn’t want for anything
It all seemed like a dream
Climbing trees with secret forts
And skipping stones across the stream
I remember lazy summer days
And all those nights we stayed out late
Catching fireflies in little jars
Giggling as we set them free
Got so dark we couldn’t see
Holding hands while watching shooting stars
A memory’s never flawless
And your mind plays little tricks
Changing hazy details
Of the things you couldn’t fix
No childhood is perfect
Though some days were pretty close
And those lazy days of summer
Are the ones I miss the most
Gently pressing lips
Against a little boy’s cheek
As he dreams
The quietest person
In a room full of friends
Because I want to be liked
And not left out
As I used to be
Fearful of losing
People I love
During stupid arguments