Today marks the yahrzeit of my dear grandmother z”l, a Holocaust survivor originally from Kovno, Lithuania.
As the oldest grandchild, I was privileged to enjoy a unique and close relationship with her, and from the time I was a baby and throughout high school, college, and beyond, her house was always my second home.
In fact, Bobi a”h (we spelled it “Bobi” – even though we pronounced it “Bubby”) played a major role in every stage of my life, and thus, there’s so much I could write about her.
I could tell you that she was the world’s best cook (as I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog); how she would sew gorgeous clothes for me; and how she taught me to drive.
I could describe our countless shopping expeditions; how she danced at our wedding; how she gave me cooking tips when I was a young bride; and – most of all - how she was always available to talk, to listen and to encourage.
But for now, I’ll suffice with three things that come to mind whenever I think about Bobi z”l.
1) First, I recall her love for Israel.
She came from a religious-Zionist (aka “Mizrachi”, as it was called in those days) family, and as a girl, she attended a Hebrew-language gymnasiah. (Whenever she saw her Israeli grandchildren and great-children doing their homework, she would say with a smile, “I also studied math in Hebrew!”)
After the war, she yearned to move to Eretz Yisrael. But since she was pregnant, my Zaidy a”h felt that it would be too dangerous for her to sail on a Ha’apalah ship and risk being detained by the British in Cyprus.
And in every US election, she would always make sure to vote for the candidate who was "good for Israel."
2) Second, I remember how much she treasured her beloved family.
Her kibbud em (honor for her mother) was legendary. Her marriage was a true partnership and a model of shalom bayit.
And, as far as she was concerned, nobody was more amazing, more wonderful or more perfect than any of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. No matter what we all did, she was convinced that there was no one better.
Her greatest joy was having any of us come for a visit, and she would spend weeks in advance cooking, baking, and planning elaborate menus for us.
3) The third thing about Bobi a”h that always stays with me is her quiet, inner fortitude.
It was this strength that enabled her to survive the war’s horrors - young and on her own.
It was this strength that allowed her to leave her mother (after they had finally been reunited at the war’s end) and move with my Zaidy a”h to the US - a strange country, with a foreign culture and a foreign language.
It was this strength that transformed her – within an astonishingly short period of time - from a right-off-the-boat new immigrant to someone who would read English books for pleasure; who was the best-dressed woman wherever she went; and who knew all the latest American styles and fashions.
And yet, at the same time, it was due to this strength that when it came to important values and principles, she refused to compromise.
No matter that the “American” relatives insisted that public school was the “correct” choice. Bobi’s kids went to the local Jewish day school and to yeshivot, and Bobi and Zaidy were pillars of their Young Israel community.
And finally, it was this inner fortitude and determination that helped her do what she needed to do as a relatively young widow – such as going out to work (a difficult step for someone of her generation) and moving twice to a new state.
It was therefore an incredible honor, privilege, and comfort that a mere two weeks after Bobi a”h passed away, I gave birth to her oldest namesake yblt”a.
May all our children continue to emulate and learn from their special great-grandmother z”l.
.יהי זכרה ברוך
*This post was based on a speech I gave in honor of Bobi’s Shloshim.