Archives for November 2010

“Honors” surprises

As I thought about people who should have been honored and haven’t been, I thought about a teacher, Elsie Chomsky, I had in Hebrew college. She taught education and her ideas were brilliant and eye-opening! She was a household name because she had also taught my mother!! She was married to a man who became very famous (at least in Philadelphia) but my perception was that she was overlooked.

In thinking about her, I decided to do a google search and see if there was anything at all written about her. What a surprise! There was a whole 38 page article.

But that is not the whole surprise.

You see, on page 11 was the following:

Here we come to a dramatic break in Elsie Simonofsky’s story. Sometime in
l926-27, she left her job, family, peer-group, and friends to move to Philadelphia.
An air of mystery surrounds this period in her life. Her file in the Office of the
Registrar at JTS contains a “To Whom it May Concern” letter dated December
10, l926–a strange time for Hebrew teacher to be job-hunting– affirming that she
has satisfactorily completed her teacher’s diploma and is “entitled to teach in
Jewish religious schools.”

Why might she have decided to relocate? One source attributes her departure to
an unrequited romantic attachment; she felt she simply had to leave New York.

In 1965, I was engaged to be married. Four weeks before the planned wedding, with guests already RSVP’d, the apartment already carpeted, and a final fitting of my wedding gown, my fiance decided that he didn’t want to marry me. I was an emotional wreck. I had such difficulty believing it that I didn’t call any of my friends to tell them, but on the following Sunday, when I showed up at Hebrew college, there was no way of avoiding it. I told my friends and I burst into tears. I couldn’t remain in class, and so I went and sat in the student lounge.

A couple of minutes later, Mrs. Chomsky appeared. She and I had never had a personal conversation. She was my teacher. She sat on the sofa next to me. I don’t remember the exact words she said , but it was something like this.

“I just heard what happened. I know how hard it is because I went through it too. Believe me, your future is going to turn out better than you ever dreamed.”

So yes, I know what happened to her in 1926.

But there’s more.

My parents sent me to Israel and Europe for the summer, just a few weeks later. When I came down to the hotel lobby at the President Hotel in Jerusalem my first morning, Mrs. Chomsky was there. Together we walked to the Wizo shop on Jaffa Road so that I could buy an embroidered blouse for my sister. Having her show up there so unexpectedly, I thought it was as if she were my guardian angel.

Oh, and about my future… she was right.


I was thinking today about the whole issue of being honored– not by one’s children, but by a community, publicly. I was thinking of how people were chosen to be honored. Usually it’s because they stayed at a job for a very long time, or they contributed their energy and effort to a community, or they contributed a serious amount of money, or they accomplished something amazing. When they are honored, people come together and most of the time, they eat. Then there are speeches about how terrific the person is and sometimes people make jokes and often there is a big picture of the honoree either displayed or on the program for the event.

Now picture your average person. In the new world of employment, people often change jobs several times during a career. They also may move from one city or country to another. They don’t ever become the old community fixture or the one everyone knows because they are transient. They may do volunteer in the community. They may help people who are needy. They may be charitable and kind, but they are not recognized by those around them except, perhaps, family and friends.

So here is what I propose. I am happy to feature on my blog a picture and tribute to any person or people you may know who deserve to be honored. They need to be real people (no Mickey Mouses or other people who registered to vote through ACORN.) Editorial control is only mine. Requests should be mailed to

And yes, the honors are available posthumously as well.


My mother was right.

Ohmigosh! Did I say that my mother was right????

Well, it turns out that she was, but not in the way she meant it.

My mother used to tell me that people were judging me. They were looking to see if my clothing had stains or missing buttons or if my stockings had runs in them. I came to understand that actually, they weren’t. Most people had more important things to occupy themselves with than the minutiae of my appearance.

But people do indeed judge you.

Think about a time when you went to an office and the secretary/receptionist was too preoccupied to notice you and when he/she finally did, he/she was rude and unhelpful. You probably left the office thinking “What a rude and unpleasant person!” Think now about a time when the person at the desk greeted you with a smile and seemed happy to help you. You might have left thinking, “what a nice person!”

The things we say and do to others, whether they are people who are close to us or strangers, really do have an impact on them. People will remember the nice person and the rude person.

It is said that we only have one chance to make a first impression. What type of impression will it be?

And suppose you will never again see that other person. How would you like to be thought of?

Your children deserve a happy childhood

Most of us, when we decide to have children, think about how cute and sweet and lovable babies are. We think of their smiles. We fantasize cuddling them and holding them and having them fall asleep on our shoulder. If we think ahead, perhaps we see them building things with blocks or taking their doll or action figure for a walk. We may picture ourselves reading them a story or pointing out interesting flowers or trees or birds.

We may not necessarily realize that aside from the physical care of children (not an easy proposition in itself), we all are responsible for their emotional safety and security.

In the early years of marriage (roughly the first 15 or so), couples typically spend a lot of energy both getting to know each other’s foibles and trying to rectify them. They often express their frustration with each other. Some of this is all right. If one spouse can help the other grow and develop him/herself in a positive way, then those types of encounters can lead to positive things for both the individuals and the relationship. So often, though, people think of the relationship as a zero-sum game. In order for one to be up, the other must be down. They vie for the top position and are never happy because no one can occupy the top position all of the time if two people are vying for it.

Some couples go through this process in quiet ways. They try to influence each other by words and deeds. Sometimes they resort to manipulative measures. But, in the end, if they are both working toward the same goal, a happy life together which includes both of them feeling good and happy, then the uncomfortable times at least can yield good results.

Other couples are in a constant struggle to prove to each other that he/she is smarter, better, more clever, better liked, etc. than the other. This constant struggle impacts badly on those around them.

I am acquainted with a couple that has been married around 50 years. I have not known them the whole time, but I have known them for a significant period of time. It has not happened that I have been with the couple and they were not in some sort of struggle with each other. He picks at her; she picks at him. They do it everywhere- in front of friends, relatives, and strangers. It has become a habit. It may never end.

That is what should not happen.

All couples go through the struggle for ascendancy. At some point, the sooner the better, they should come to the point where they realize that their happiness is entwined with their partner’s. If my husband is miserable, so am I. If my wife feels hurt and put down, I feel the pain.

At that point, the marriage can turn around and become a place where people are appreciated and nurtured.

And the children will feel it. They will see that their mother and father are working together. They will feel safe and secure.

They deserve it.

Still crazy (about him) after all these years!

Still crazy (about him) after all these years!