No secrets!

This post will not make you cry. It will not make you laugh. It could, however, save a life.

Ask anyone about me and they will mention any number of things- positive and maybe negative- but they will not mention anything about my state of health. Aside from heightened cholesterol like a large percentage of people my age, I have no other medical conditions.

Or so I thought- until one day in July when my husband and I were walking in the mall and I suddenly got dizzy. I continued walking and didn’t think much of it, but then a week or two later, it happened again and seemed a bit more severe.

I made an appointment with my doctor (previously known as Dr. Nonchalant) and he suggested that I have an echo-under-stress test. Taking him seriously and because I had just a week before I was leaving for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, I was able to schedule a test for later that day and had the results in hand by about 4 that afternoon. The doctor called me and said that what they had found was completely unexpected- my valves were fine, but now I needed an echo cardiogram to confirm the diagnosis. I scheduled that for 3 days later.

It confirmed the diagnosis. I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder.
In most cases, an affected person has one parent with the condition.

Fortunately, this is a treatable condition. It is, however, often the cause of sudden death in young people after exertion. Think of the runners, football players, basketball players, etc. who suddenly keel over and die. These articles suggest screening young athletes for the condition. (Please don;t stop reading here- there’s more important information…)

Screening athletes for heart disease
Screening for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Young Athletes
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy screening program in the athlete

The doctor suggested that all of my children be tested and if any were affected, their children be tested. We are going through that process in an attempt to identify if any of them are at risk. My children who are not affected do not have to test their children because it being a dominant gene, if the parent doesn’t have it, the children won’t.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether there were any deaths of young people in my family and remembered that I had two cousins, brothers, who died of heart attacks- one at 31 and one at 39 (I may be off by a couple of years, but I think it’s accurate). These are the sons of my father’s sister. That would mean that my father and his sister both carried this gene. There are other family members who could be affected- at least five young people- and I hope their parent/grandparent who is a possible carrier will choose to be tested.

So why am I writing this? People sometimes like to hide unpleasant things from their family members- but secrets, particularly those that could affect someone else’s health, are rarely a wise thing. What my children or grandchildren may have gotten from me genetically is not something I had any control over, but I can do whatever I can to make sure they are protected, don’t over-exert themselves, and make sure to have regular medical follow up. I hope that my cousins will take the same responsibility with their children and grandchildren.

May we all have a healthy, happy new year.

1976/2018

1976- we are in the Army. Well, actually, Aaron is in the Army, but the rest of the family is right there with him. We were getting close to 4 years in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Our children enjoyed playing in the swamp near our house, enjoyed the “Mother Nature Tree,” loved the freedom of running around the neighborhood with no fears. The Army base was a safe place. It had everything- an indoor swimming pool within easy walking distance, even a small convenience store a 5 minute walk away.

Like all Army families in our position, we were awaiting “orders” because 4 years in a place was a long time and the Army likes to move people around and we were expecting that soon we would be told where we were moving to.

This was the only home the children really knew. Our children were 8.5, 7, 5.5, and 4 years old. Moving was venturing into the unknown.

Word finally came. We were moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. We had only about 3 months to prepare. We would be leaving behind most of our furniture (furniture was supplied to Army families since it was cheaper than transporting it across the ocean twice- we would see it again when we returned), all of our friends, and yes, our family- our parents and my sister.

There were so many unknowns, so many fears- we had no idea what our neighborhood would be like, what our city would look like, how German people would treat us as Americans, as Jews, how much German would we need to use on a daily basis- in short, we were bewildered. And as much as we tried to reassure our children that everything would be fine, we ourselves were not all that certain about what life would be like for us and for them.

Our parents lived far from us- in New York and Philadelphia. We didn’t see them more than once or twice a year, but we could call them on the telephone and we knew that we could always get in a car and visit. Now we would be across an ocean and the price of telephone calls was outrageous and letters took days to arrive. I know they must have been upset, but they didn’t try to influence us to stay since it was not our choice.

Our time in Germany was pleasant. In some ways, almost idyllic. Anti-Semitism at the time was completely forbidden and when people asked us what language we were speaking to our children and we answered “Hebrew,” we never got anything but positive reactions. We were cushioned by the huge American military community which comprised at that time about 10% of the inhabitants of Wiesbaden. Our children went to US operated schools and had German enrichment classes. They learned rudimentary German and felt comfortable buying candies and sweets in local shops. Their schools took them on day trips to places in Germany. The country was beautiful and we enjoyed exploring it and participating in the recreational “Volksmarches” that were held in different locations where people would walk a circular 10-12 kilometer path that could wind through woods, vineyards, fields, and villages and end in a square with an “oompah” band! The German people were friendly and the landscapes enchanting.

Our parents, Aaron’s dad and my parents, (his mother had passed away in December of 1975) were still relatively young and healthy and they were able to come and visit us.

But now I am the parent and I am feeling sad because my daughter and her family are leaving for their adventure. They tell me that they will return from Austria in 3 years.

In some ways, their transition may be easier because they have seen where they will be living and they have rented a home they chose. Communication with family members here in Israel will be much easier. We are as close as the nearest wifi. The flight is shorter than a trek across the Atlantic and less expensive. In other ways, it will be more difficult. They will not have the cushion of a ready-made community with all of the support and structure it offers.

As I look at the next 3 years, I feel as if I can’t wait for them to pass, but I am conflicted because at this time of life, each day is so precious that each one must be treasured.

I wish for my daughter and her husband and the 3 children who are leaving with them (3 are already adults and will not be accompanying them) a wonderful adventure. We hope to visit you, Rachel, and we look forward to your visits with us. I will be very happy to reminisce with you about your adventure when you finally return home.

I’m going to the Temple Mount and I’m bringing…

Twenty years ago, exactly, my husband and I had our חנוכת הבית, the dedication of our new home in Israel. At that time, we realized that we ourselves were not fully responsible for the achievement of this dream nor should we claim it as our own. Generations before us longed to return to Zion. In their modest dwellings a vision of returning to the land gave their lives meaning and hope. We recognized that despite the hardships and dangers, our ancestors literally kept the faith and transmitted Jewish teachings, values, and customs to generation after generation. And so when we dedicated our home, we remembered by name our great grandparents, our grandparents, and our parents who all were part of the fulfillment of our dream.

Tomorrow, twenty years later, we plan to ascend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. the point from which the holiness of the world emanates. Our ancestors have prayed for generations for the rebuilding of the Temple and we will not see the Temple rebuilt tomorrow, but we will stand on the holy mountain where it stood. And because the keys of the Temple Mount are still in the hands of the Muslim Wakf, we are prohibited from taking any religious articles with us. No prayerbooks, no talit, no tfilin, – even kippot (skullcaps) must be worn under hats that conceal them. But tomorrow, I will be taking something very special with me. I will be taking the names of my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, and my aunts and uncles. They will symbolically ascend the mountain with me.

I will not be taking the names of my children or grandchildren, because not only may they visit the Temple Mount themselves, but I pray that they will be present to rejoice at the dedication of the Third Temple. May it be G-d’s will.

Remembering my Dad

Mom and Dad at my wedding

Mom and dad at my wedding

Be sure to click the link below:

If my father were alive, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday on December 21. Sadly, he was taken from us much too soon.

My father was a kind and gentle man. He was friendly and optimistic and he enjoyed being in the world. He saw beauty everywhere and he had an insatiable curiosity which led him to be constantly reading and learning. Deprived by poverty of an education, he became self-educated and took great pride in seeing me, my sister, and even later, my mother, graduate from college.

His grandchildren were a special blessing and he prized the time he spent with them- flying kites, telling stories, taking walks, and slapping high-five with the youngest. I am not sure he ever stopped smiling when he was with them.

In my mind’s eye, I imagine him embracing and interacting with the great-grandchildren he never got to see. I know how proud he would be of each of them. I can see him getting out his camera and taking endless photographs, freed from the cost of film!

I see his handsome face in my children and grandchildren and I see the kindness, the optimism, the love of beauty in them. He lives on in our hearts and his essence is part of us always.

Jerusalem

 

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Can it possibly be 50 years?

I was a newly married college student. We were living in Valley Station, KY, about 1/2 hour from Fort Knox where my husband served as a chaplain. We were awaiting the birth of our first child.

The tense days of May had us anxious and nervous. The Straits of Tiran were closed and Arab armies were massed on all of Israel’s borders.

We flew to a conference in Washington DC and listened to reassuring words from Hubert Humphry. But we did not feel confident. Meanwhile, inside, a new little life stirred, growing every more energetic as the days passed.

I flew to Philadelphia, My senior year of college was done at the University of Louisville- with the acquiescence of Temple University that granted my degree in philosophy, but in order to finish my degree in Hebrew Literature at Gratz College, I had to study with a local rabbi, with my husband, and on my own the same curriculum as my classmates and return to Philadelphia to take final exams.

June 5, 1967, I was sitting in the Gratz library taking my first exam when the librarian turned on the radio. I thought it was rude for her to do that while I was trying to write an exam, but then another person entered the library and they exchanged the information that the war had started.

What could I do? I wrote my exams while listening to the same news over and over again on the radio when suddenly the lights went out as did the radio and the air conditioning. Later we found out that there was a major power outage along the east coast and some wondered if it could have been related to the war.

News coverage was weak. The same news rehashed and rehashed. The Egyptians reported that they had shot down more planes than Israel had. They reported great victories. The Israel news stayed silent. None of  us knew what was happening.

After two days of exams, I sat in my parents’ house with the TV on embroidering a challah cover. I worked on it very slowly and carefully. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be an heirloom- something the little baby I was waiting for would treasure.

And then the word finally came. “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” I still get tears in my eyes thinking about that most miraculous day when finally Jews could enter the city that for 19 years they had only seen from afar. I felt such a feeling of completeness. The world was being repaired. The pain was being alleviated. The scars were soon to be healed.

Days later we watched on TV the thousands and thousands of people streaming into the Old City to celebrate Shavuot. What elation I felt! My baby would only know an Israel that was whole and strong.

I returned to Fort Knox at the end of June with the challah cover and the baby mostly completed. About 6 weeks later, our son was born. My heart was full. Here was a new beginning, the embodiment of a prayer for peace.

50 years!!!!

On July 3, 2016, my husband and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of our marriage with our family and friends.

Rona & Aaron

 

For the occasion, I wrote a poem with poor rhyme and worse meter to quickly summarize the last 50 years.

Here it is!!

In the summer of 1961,

They went to camp Ramah to have some fun.

 

He as a counselor, she as a camper,

At times they spoke but then had to scamper.

 

Camp life included classes, sports, and plays,

But at summer’s end they went separate ways.

 

Occasional letters, clever and witty,

Went between Philadelphia and New York City.

 

One day 4 years later while eating bagels and lox,

She saw news blurb saying he was at Fort Knox.

 

That prompted letters in a constant flurry,

From September until February.

 

Actually, they continued into July,

But that didn’t rhyme, just you try.

 

Because they weren’t living side-by-side,

Rona became a “mail order bride.”

 

Thus on 3 July 66 in Army dress blues,

With Rabbi and chuppah and various Jews.

 

The wedding took place, Philadelphia the venue,

Rubber chicken the mainstay of the menu.

 

Concomitently without any kibbitzen,

That was the day Rona became a rebbitzin.

 

After a honeymoon in Manhattan,

They went to Fort Knox, home to tankers like Patton.

 

Studying philosophy that year, Rona became “well rounded.”

For a reason that provided joy unbounded.

 

In May 67 fears became heightened,

The threats against Israel had us all frightened.

 

Israel’s victory filled all with elation,

And added to the anticipation.

 

And 2 months later Benjy was born,

On 2 August at 5:10 in the morn.

 

Less than 4 weeks later began the roam,

To Columbia, South Carolina, their new home.

 

House of Peace was the synagogue’s name,

As the new young rabbi, Aaron achieved fame.

 

The people in town had a southern mentality,

and racially there was no equality.

 

But a year later, showing their parents merzi,

They moved closer to them, Somerset, New Jersey.

 

Near to parents, not far from the ocean’s water,

The highlight of their time there was the birth of Rachel, a daughter.

 

In 70 they moved to Pittsburgh, all of the famuel,

And shortly thereafter welcomed new baby Samuel.

 

At his brit someone asked “next year will there be another?”

So 16 months later along came Akiva, his brother.

 

By this time civilian life was getting smarmy,

So Aaron decided to head back to the Army.

 

They filled up their cars, rather than amble,

And moved right along to Kentucky’s Fort Campbell.

 

It turned out to be a momentous decision,

As Aaron joined the 101st Airborne Division.

 

Life on the post for the kids was full of glee,

And they played at the swamp and at the “Mother Nature” tree.

 

From where hundreds of copters flew over in harmony,

From Campbell the family moved next to Garmony.

 

They landed in Germany with their pans and their pots,

And taught the children “wir vohnen in Wiesbaden auf dem flugplatz.”

 

Life there was good, they never were sorry,

As Akiva went to preschool with Timmy, Tumu, and Jabari.

 

One day in July the kids called a vote,

“We want a little sister on whom we can dote.”

 

The vacation in England all would remember,

Back in Germany there was good news in September.

 

With walks to Luley’s they were all in cahoots,

And they befriended the “geezer” who let them pick fruits.

 

In springtime near Pesach when trees start to blossom,

Baby girl Leah was born- how awesome!

 

The next summer with 2 month old Leah they flew,

To spend 4 weeks in a place where all spoke Hebrew.

 

Dressed alike the 4 big ones wearing bandanas,

On bus trips sat on strangers and were fed bananas.

 

2 summers in Israel, for children used to roam,

Convinced them that someday, this would be their home.

 

3 ½ years in Germany came to an end,

To Fort Monmouth New Jersey their path did wend.

 

In a big Ford station wagon that sure was a beaut,

The gate guards on the post would smile seeing the children salute.

 

Attending a day school, but not in the groove,

6 months later, it was time to move.

 

Fort Benning Georgia was the next abode,

In the beautiful house on Sigerfoos Road.

 

(Yes, Sigerfoos, not a joke it could be-

But he was not friend or confidante of Robert E. Lee).

 

When Ben entered high school, instead of dealing with Santa,

He went to Yeshiva High School in Atlanta.

 

Meanwhile they raised children, led the Jewish congregation,

And Aaron served soldiers of all kinds for their nation.

 

During three years of this place the children were fond,

With forays to the minimarket and to the pond.

 

The football field near their house for the boys was a dream,

As they made their fortune selling cokes and ice cream.

 

But being stuck down in Georgia for them was exhaustin’,

So they were thrilled when Aaron was sent to study at Harvard in Boston.

 

No matter from where in Boston the children were hailing,

On the Charles River they were offered lessons in sailing.

 

For that year in Boston all of them were learning,

While Aaron from the Army a salary was earning.

 

At the end of that year the Michelson aliya got started,

As Benjy for Hebrew University departed.

 

It was time to get on again with their roam-a

And they set out for their new home in Oklahoma.

 

Aaron taught ethics at the artillery school,

Rona opened her family therapy office, how cool!

 

Over the next 3 years, Rachel went to Israel- at 16,

And Sam and Akiva left the scene.

 

They studied at a yeshiva in Texas, in Dallas,

And lived in a home that was not a palace.

 

Later off to St. Louis the two boys went,

While in a 5 bedroom mansion the last 3  lived content.

 

Time in Lawton Oklahoma had lots of fun in it,

Concerts, and shows and traffic’s rush minute.

 

After being rural of civilization they needed a fix,

So were happy to receive orders to Fort Dix.

 

Their home was happy, full of jokes,

And only an hour and a half ride from the folks.

 

Rona studied at Penn, Aaron paid the bills,

In summer Akiva worked at Great Adventure a park for thrills.

 

Ben and Rachel were in Israel, Aaron worked as a clergyman,

Rona & Leah visited Israel, Sam was in St. Petersburg or Kyrgystan.

 

Visiting Israel a lot whet their desires,

On Tower Airlines they became frequent fliers.

 

Akiva and Sam made aliya,

Leaving Leah at home with ma and pa.

 

In 93 for sukkot they traveled to Israel in anticipation,

And met Hadas, the first of the next generation

 

Two months later came Tzvi, bright and curious,

After that came more and more, fast and furious.

 

In 95 when Leah came to study at Bar Ilan,

Rona arrived in Israel too, a hanger-on.

 

For 4 years Rona & Aaron commuted across the Atlantic,

The frequent reunions were very romantic.

 

When they bought a home in Modiin,

Aaron’s father agreed to come too, sight-unseen.

 

The rest of the story’s full of nachas embarrassing,

So for you dear people no more harassing.

 

As you know they travel far and wide,

For 50 years, it’s been quite a ride.

**************************************************************************

Now here is  the whole family minus three grandsons- Matan, Yonatan, and Shlomo. Fortunately, Yonatan joined us later in the evening.

The family

 

 

 

 

Apartheid

I live in Modiin, a new city, soon to celebrate 20 years of existence. We have watched the city grow, seen the trees mature, and watched a large shopping mall spring up in the center of town. It is not unusual to see Arab workers there- serving food,  and cleaning, or Arab men and women shopping, and eating in the food court. In our local shopping center, there is an Arab dentist. To us, this is perfectly normal. Often, I just want to take photos so that the haters will see what Israeli life really is like- that we mix freely and are pleasant and respectful. Of course, the Jews here in Modiin are not of a sort. We have native born Israelis, English-speaking immigrants, and immigrants from  Russia, former Soviet republics, France, Morocco, Mexico, Holland- and the list goes on. And somehow, all of us, Jews, Arabs- Muslim and Christian, get along. The atmosphere here is relaxed and calm.

But this week, my husband and I decided to go on a short vacation to a hotel at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea, is of course, the lowest place on earth and the Dead Sea waters are full of salt and minerals. You probably have seen the photos of people sitting in the water reading the newspaper. It is true. You can literally sit in the water. It is warm and pleasant, and there are those who will swear to its medicinal properties.

When we checked into the hotel, we were a bit surprised to see that we were among the only English-speakers and that there were not many native Hebrew speakers. In fact, most of the guests at the hotel were either Russian speakers or Arabic speakers. The hotel was filled with Arab and Druze families. Oh yes, we also had some visiting Koreans with us. Again, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed- with helpful conversations as to the hotel’s facilities, with smiles in the dining room and and laughter.

View of the pool

View of the pool

Arabs and Druze sitting in the lobby

Arabs and Druze sitting in the lobby

Druze woman at the coffee bar

Druze woman at the coffee bar

I wanted to film it, to show the world that this is the real Israel- a place where we don’t just talk about accepting each other, but a place where it happens- where people spend their hard-earned money on a vacation where they know that they will be among people who are different from them, but ultimately, with people who share the same values and are looking to build a future together.

A few years ago we took a short trip to Bulgaria on an Israeli charter flight. At our hotel, there were other Israelis. We signed up for day tours. In our van of about 10 people, there were 4-6 Druze, 2 Arabs, and us. We had a great time together. This is the real Israel. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. I am here and see it firsthand.

 

 

Mint Juleps with Mom

As a new bride, I joined my husband in Kentucky. He was serving as a US Army chaplain at Fort Knox. His thought, when we got married, was that he would serve his 20 years in the US Army and then retire in Israel. I, of course, had other plans. It wasn’t that I thought the Army was so foreign to my experience- it was, but my concern was that I didn’t want to have an unstable life, moving from place to place. Fortunately, I found an ally, my mother-in-law, who was not keen on her only child perhaps being sent to Vietnam where the war was in full swing.

Married in July, by the following May I was 7 months pregnant and my husband had agreed to look for a civilian pulpit. He was asked to fly out to Spokane, Washington, to interview there.

When I told my mother, she insisted that she come to stay with me while he was gone- from Thursday through Sunday because  she was afraid for me to be alone.

So that Thursday I literally walked to the gate on the left side of the corridor and watched my husband get on the plane and then turned to the right side at the gate directly across from it, and within minutes, my mother arrived.

It was the first time she had seen me showing- and by 7 months, I was pretty large. She noticed. We drove to my home and I cannot recall any details about our discussion nor about anything we discussed for those 3 days. I do know there were lots of smiles and laughter.

What I can recall is feeling very special, carrying her first grandchild. I can recall our going out once for ice cream sundaes at the local Howard Johnson’s and laughing when we heard a  group of women order large ice cream sundaes and diet drinks. I remember that Saturday night, we decided to check  out the place on Dixie Highway that was advertising mint juleps- the Kentucky Derby was that weekend and mint juleps were all the rage. I remember we went into the place that had them and we sat down and ordered them. She sat with her back to the door and I sat across from her.

I don’t remember what they tasted like. I don’t remember what we said. I just remember that the time we spent together that weekend was probably the best time we ever had together.

On Sunday afternoon, my mother left and a few minutes later, my husband returned.  A bit over 2 months later our oldest son was born.

mom

Twenty-six years later, I visited my own daughter in Israel when she was pregnant with my first grandchild. I hope she also experienced precious moments.

May 27 2014

Most of my life has been a surprise.

I was surprised when I found out other children came from loving homes that were not at the whim of a mother’s radical mood swings.

I was surprised, that despite what my mother told me, I found someone who was happy to marry me and stick with me through the years.

I was surprised at the depth of love I felt for my babies, my children, my teenagers- even when I was pretty sure they would cause me to go out of my mind.

I was surprised that I was able to fulfill impossible dreams- it was as if everything I imagined I could never accomplish became possible: Teaching Lamaze courses, becoming a doula, becoming a family therapist, becoming a supervisor and teacher of family therapy, and becoming a tour guide in exotic places!

I was surprised that when my children grew up, they would have lots of children and amazed at what good parents they became.

I was surprised at how easy my transition to living in Israel was and am constantly surprised at how much I am aware of the blessing of living here.

I was surprised each year on my birthday, because the years are flying by and while I still think of myself in my 20s or 30s, most of my children are older than that.

My life has been filled with surprises, and I am grateful.

Surprise! It's a begonia!

Surprise! It’s a begonia!

Update: April 2 2014

Family, Traveling, and Pollard

The Family
Family
It’s been a long time since the whole family was together at a time when we could take a picture. This one was from last year’s Shabbat HaGadol weekend at Yad Binyamin. Interestingly, this year’s pictures will have a lot to do with Binyamin as well. Tomorrow we will be gathering for my son, Benjamin (also known as “Ben” and “Benjy”) and his bride Shlomit as they get married! We are very excited and happy for both of them.
Traveling
I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about lots of things. We have done a lot of traveling in the last year- China in May, Tibet and Nepal in August, China again in October, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore in January and February- and we are looking forward to a lot of traveling in the coming year as well. We still have space on our tour to China, leaving on May 7 and guaranteed to go. We also are looking for adventurous people to join us in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru in June/July. All of these tours are in English and kosher, of course.
Random Thoughts
Pollard: Jonathan Pollard has been in jail for 28 years. Those in the know, even those who wanted him to have a harsh sentence, have said enough is enough. It infuriates me to see the US wanting to demand a price for his freedom.He has served a longer sentence than anyone else in a similar position. Anything he knew when he was jailed is old news. Much of the damage that he was purported to have caused was in fact found out to have been done by Aldrich Ames. So instead of doing the right thing and freeing him already, the US is offering us the opportunity to have his freedom considered if we release terrorists? Does this make sense in any universe? Have we all gone so amazingly liberal that we think that sworn murderers will suddenly play nicely if freed? The evidence is solidly against that. We have seen terror perpetrated by former prisoners and we have caught others as they were preparing to kill innocents. Why do we even need to pay a price for the Palestinians to talk to us? What price have they paid for the privilege of talking to us? Would you negotiate with someone who is unwilling to say that at the end of negotiations there will still not be a cessation of hostilities? What is the point? and how does Pollard even become related to all of that? Oh, I know… Israel/Jews/what do they care about?/other Jews/who is a Jew that we can offer them to exact a price? I get it. Sounds to me like the thinking of a criminal.