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.

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

 

 

 

 

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.

Moving trauma, vicarious, 2014

Almost 15 years ago, my husband joined me in Israel- he and a shipping container full of stuff. I had already been living in our home in Modi’in with pretty much everything I needed. We rented a nearby storage room and little by little, emptied the contents of the storage room into our home- pretty much filling it up.

That was my last move. Since we married, I had moved 18 times. Every time, it was traumatic.

But it has been almost 15 years. This time it is my daughter who is moving and all I had to do was to see if the packers had finished their job and to lock up the house.

As I looked around the house that profound sense of loss that I had with every move returned with the same strength it had had in the past. It was just so sad. It hurt to see their life packed up in a bunch of boxes and all of the attendant mess that moving engenders.

I began to think about what it was that was so sad for me. I remembered our moves. I remembered leaving the home we lived in when our first baby was conceived and born. I looked back at the living room and saw the people gathered to celebrate his brit. I remembered the apartment where he said his first words and took his first steps. I remember the home where on a sunny spring day bushes full of white blossoms greeted me as I brought home my new daughter. I remember the house with the two yellow bean bag chairs that sat just a little too close to the baseboard heaters and the enormous effort I had to make to get out of them heavily pregnant. I remember piling into the station wagon with four little children and saying goodbye to the home we had painted and papered and carpeted. I remember our oldest son leaving his vegetable garden and my daughter leaving her plant and all of them leaving the “Mother Nature Tree” and the swamp where they played. I remember leaving the apartment where we voted on the fifth child and then the new one where she was born after a cold winter with only the fuschia-colored potted cyclamens brightening the snowy view. I remember the birthday party with my parents visiting and three of the children down with chickenpox, and I remember how the children loved to go to the orchard to see the “geezer” and to pick fruit. I remember the tiny home in New Jersey when we returned to the States and the beautiful big house we had after that. I remember the parties we had there for our family and for the soldiers and my parents’ visits and the joy at the big children’s return home for shabbatot. I remember the house in Boston where everyone had bedrooms, but most nights people were sleeping in the living room- and how if you ran the dishwasher and microwave at the same time the fuse two floors down in the basement would blow. How many times we forgot! But there was also sailing on the Charles for two of the boys and living close to good friends. I remember saying goodbye to our oldest as he left for Israel, the airline security man remarking that he was afraid he would drown in our tears. I remember the small house in Oklahoma with the swimming pool and the big house in Oklahoma where we had to explain that “yes, only one family lives here.” I remember leaving our next home and memories of grad school and sons visiting from high school and college. I remember leaving the next home and memories of a bat mitzvah and the births of two grandchildren.

And then I realized that the sadness is only a function of the fact that every place, every time in my life, was a good time, a happy time- filled with a beautiful family, caring friends, and happy experiences. Closing the door on each chapter was saying goodbye to beautiful times, but every new home brought its own new memories.

…and what more is there to say but to wish my daughter and her family and others going through transitions that the future be filled with beautiful moments they can cherish forever.

Sisters 3

This is my third post about sisters.

There was this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2007/07/23/sisters/

and this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2009/10/07/sisters-2/

because to me, this relationship is very special.

If  you have been reading my blog, you probably know that in December, my sister finally made aliya.  After over 45 years of living very far away, my sister is a 5 minute car ride away.  I can bump into her at the mall, we can see a movie together, and we can sit and talk about things that no one understands the way we do.

When she was far away, we kept in touch.  She was great about making sure to visit no matter where we were living.  She was present at most of the important times in my life.  I appreciated her and loved her.

But now, I know what a wonderful thing it is to have her here, nearby, and to not have to think about when her flight home leaves.  She is home.

If you really loved me…

I have been a family therapist for a very long time. I should have figured it out sooner, but only yesterday I realized that I had been missing something very important when thinking about certain types of cases.

From time to time I would have cases where one family member would say about another “if s/he really loved me s/he would…”

Tests of loyalty, to me, seem so beside the point. In fact, they seem foolish. Why would we expect someone to “prove” they love us by performing a specific task or acting in a manner we prescribe?  The people we love are separate from us. They have their own loves and hates, likes and dislikes, ways of expressing themselves. They show us love in their own way.

However, in this type of a relationship, they may show warmth and consideration, but heaven forbid, if they fail the litmus test the other has created, the whole relationship is at risk.

Sometimes, couples, in order to feel more appreciated and loved,  have to adjust the ways in which they show love. She would like flowers. He shows love by filling up the car. He would like homemade soup. She lights romantic candles. They clearly love each other, but by asking for the show of love to be more in line with their own concept of love, both members could feel more valued and cared for.

,

But that is different than a test of love.

Tests of love usually involve one person expecting the other to know what s/he wants and to do it, despite any obstacles. And then, if it doesn’t happen, well, then “s/he doesn’t really love me.”

But let’s look a little closer…

Who is making the relationship contingent on specific behaviors. It’s not the “uncaring” husband or wife or friend or relative. It’s the person who has decided that the relationship consists of a series of tests all of which must be passed for it to continue to be loving.

Who has the problem?

As a therapist, it seems to me that the person who is making the statement “If you really loved me…” is in fact the person with the problem. S/he has not learned the nature of relationships. Relationships are formed between two individuals, both of whom have wants, needs, and limitations.  Appreciating the other person as a distinct individual is the only way to have a truly satisfying relationship.

When ultimatums exist in relationships, it is not the person who fails to meet them who is the problem.

Parting

June 1967

I am 7.5 months pregnant with my first child. My husband of just a year is serving as a chaplain in the US Army. We are planning to leave the Army after our baby is born and to go to a civilian congregation. He has been hired as the new rabbi at the House of Peace synagogue in Columbia, South Carolina. We have just visited there a second time to talk with them about where we will be living and what changes we would like to see in the house the congregation owns. We are in the Atlanta airport. He is flying in uniform back to Fort Knox. I am flying to Philadelphia where I must take final exams at Gratz College so that they can see that I really did study on my own that year so that I can receive my BHL (Bachelor of Hebrew Literature) degree.

I am young, 21 years old, and very pregnant.

We wait for my plane. When we are called to board, we embrace. I cry. I will miss him.

I take my seat on the plane. The man next to me starts to speak. “He’ll be all right. Lots of men return healthy and whole from Vietnam. He’ll get to see that baby of yours.”

December 2011

I am a bit older. That baby is now a man with 6 children of his own. Soon I will be saying goodbye to my husband once again. This time he really is going to Vietnam.

But I am not worried.

He is going to supervise the kosher cooking for a tour. We have been to Vietnam together several times. We lead tours there. It is a lovely place to visit. It is beautiful and has rich traditions and friendly, welcoming people. The war years are barely a memory by now except for in places they have designated as war museums or in Cu Chi where the Vietcong built an elaborate tunnel system. A tour there is a treat and I look forward to returning.

This morning I bought him some instant coffee to take along because Vietnamese coffee is “different.”

We’ll keep in touch over his iPad and my computer.

But there still may be tears when he leaves.

Fairy godmothers

OK, I’m not really talking about fairy godmothers, but I thought it might be a topic that people were curious about.

Well, actually, yes, I am talking about fairy godmothers, but not in the fictional sense.

There is a concept without a name (at least one that I am familiar with) that I would like to explore. If it’s been written about before, I would love to hear about it, so please let me know.

Having grown up in a home that wasn’t the most nurturing, I had to find validation other places. Here’s where I found it: there were teachers who smiled at me, there were my aunts who made me feel loved, and there were my grandmothers. All of these people were, to some extent, fairy godmothers. They were around sometimes and it was often merely their presence in my mind that formed for me a safety net in the world. As long as they were around, even if only in recent memory, I felt loved and supported. As a group, it felt as if I was encircled by them and protected.

As the years went by and I learned how to appreciate my own value and accomplishments, I didn’t need fairy godmothers so much. But still there were my parents there in the background, out of sight, but still potential supports. After the death of my father, I substituted my uncles in his role of standing behind me, supporting me.

Somewhere in my 30s or 40s, I began to realize that I took the place of fairy godmother for some Lamaze students I taught and some clients I worked with as a therapist. They carried me in their pocket or their mind or their heart, to take out when they needed reinforcement and stability and, I guess, love. I only knew, because they told me.

As time goes on, I realize the world is full of fairy godmothers. They are the people who are in our lives who just by their being there, even when they are far away, give us affirmation and strength. As we get older, often they are mentors, peers, and nowadays, facebook friends– people whose presence enriches our lives.

Often, our fairy godmothers don’t know the function they have in our lives. Often, we don’t realize it until they are no longer around.

So today, look around at your fairy godmothers. Figure out who they are. And appreciate how they have made your life better, just by being there.

And then, think about whose fairy godmother you are, because whether you know it or not, someone who is not in your family– who you may see only occasionally, someone’s life is better just because you are in it.

Ooof!

One of the things that people learn when they move to a new country with a new language is that exclamations differ from those they were raised with. In English, pain evokes an “ouch!” In Hebrew, it’s “Ay-ah!” Frustration in Hebrew evokes an “Ooof!” I’ll admit it; I forgot the English.

So why am I frustrated? It actually has to do with the fact that there is so much right with my life these days. I am feeling healthy, have kept off the weight I lost, and have no problem maintaining a healthy diet. We recently witnessed the graduation from high school of our oldest granddaughter and the awarding of a PhD to our son-in-law. My husband and I had a great honeymoon getaway for our 45th anniversary, and our children invited us to a wonderful dinner celebration in its honor, bringing along a nice sampling of well-behaved gorgeous grandchildren. We are in a state of high preparation for the tour we are leading to Vietnam and Cambodia and are looking forward to a week of fun in Thailand on our way back. In the fall, after the holidays, we’ll be taking a trip to the US and when we get back, I’ll be teaching marriage and family therapy once again. And then, best of all, we prepare for my sister’s aliya!

The blessing of a beautiful garden in Israel, filled with gorgeous plants and fruit trees brings with it the worry of the health of our gorgeous plum tree that has been attacked by some type of a worm. The blessing of a great apartment that we are renting out brings with it the work of cleaning it thoroughly between occupants. The blessing of being close to our children brings day to day discussions and concerns about the types of issues that remote grandparents never hear of.

So why am I frustrated?

I guess it’s because I wish I could split myself in two or three or four in order to give adequate time and attention to all of the wonderful people and things in my life.

I worry about letting people down.

Ooof!

Click on pictures for full images!