by Ronnie Katz Gerber, Hadassah L’Dor, V’Dor Chapter – Metro Membership Educational Outreach & Publicity Chair
My L’Dor V’Dor (Hebrew for “from generation to generation”) group of Hadassah here in the South Bay has just celebrated the arrival of 5781 with a well attended and successful mahjong fundraiser. Following Covid-19 protocols while we played mahjong and raised a glass to the ongoing excellence of the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) in Israel, we raised healthy amounts of money to buy a bed and a comfortable reclining chair for visitors, in general, furnish a fully serviceable room in the new building of the Round Tower at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.
We are a small outpost, just south of metropolitan Los Angeles, and our population seems to be old guard, but we are proud and capable and generous and have our eye on the prize-we intend to save lives. We’re looking right into the New Year for us Jews. It will be 5781 this September 8, 2021, and some things seem changed while others seem to remain the same. And though my urologist and hematologist say I really haven’t got a chance, I am fast to remind them – and myself – that I also do not have an expiration date. I am Here. I am Here and Here I shall remain until all else fails me. “Hineni” – whether I am here on Earth or for the Lord to find me. Much like you. And I will choose to build toward life and affirm life by giving and doing with my Hadassah sisters.
In 5780, I lost many friends and neighbors and have wept silently into my pillow for the losses and for their families. Doctors, dentists, accountants, teachers, engineers. Husbands, lovers, wives, and mothers and fathers. Friends and colleagues. It seems the weight of their goodness and being became too much for this earth and so off they went to make room for new ideas and loves and all sorts of progress. That’s the way of the world. But Covid-19 has put that natural passage into a new and imminent perspective for many of us. Thank G-d, the New Year doesn’t seem to want to relinquish its hold on our clearly tenuous threads of life. So, we must fight on. Every day. And, if we’re clever, we’ll smile and enjoy every moment of joy we’re given. We will find the strength to continue to help others.
On the Julian Calendar we recognize the New Year with some gleeful celebrations. Drinks all around. Happy horns blaring at midnight. Kiss a stranger. Kiss your love. Enjoy festive foods. And making resolutions to make our souls and lives lighter. As Jews, It’s different for us. We ask forgiveness and seek atonement during the Days of Awe which begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur. We have those ten days to work our way into the Book of Life for another year. Serious business. Many of us will eat foods and fruits sweetened with honey on Rosh Hashanah. And then, 10 days later, we are fasting for Yom Kippur. From the ridiculous to the sublime if you will. But this doesn’t make our mourning or living or praying any easier. Covid-19 even alienates many of us from the comfort of group prayer in our synagogues. Our tables aren’t as laden, and guests are fewer and somehow more solemn. Some things change.
I am fighting my cancer as ever. Test results are mixed, but I feel normal, and will open my home to my small bubble of good friends to share erev Rosh Hashanah with them. This lifts my spirits. I begin to count my blessings of family, friends, and creature comforts. And then there’s my silly, though aging dog, Cha Cha. She is my shadow and my closest confidant.
During all of this, I am reminded of my young cantor. She is going through her own private hell and in fear of either losing the sight of one eye or the eye itself. In a matter of a few weeks, she’s come out of three successful procedures for ocular cancer – another freak cancer. Now she will try to coordinate her odd vision to her brain. Newly married and on her honeymoon, she knew that when she returned home some things would change. She didn’t know what was in store yet, but her life is the hospital now and her treatments are depressing and frightening and lonely. Oddly enough, diseases of the eye are professionally researched here and in Israel. Many innovative treatments here in the states come from the Hadassah medical organization. Personally, however, her dear husband cannot spend close time with her. Covid-19. Her family is also restricted from open visitation. I want to hug her. Remind her that her children will be just as beautiful. Her life filled with all the colors and shades of the rainbow. Rain will shower joy. One eye or two, beauty is so much deeper than what we’re used to seeing. Peace has its own coloring book. Joy comes with paintbrushes, paints, and choices. Life is colorful none the less. Of course, your honey dipped voice will be missed during our Days of Awe at the temple – but not forgotten. And we know that you will return to us and bring all your tones with you. Another year in the Book of Life for sure.
Yes, some things change. Some things remain the same. Hadassah has given me hope and strength and a sense of personal empowerment. I wish the same for you and yours. Shana Tova and Shalom.