Mother’s Day 2019 Leah R. Lightman
It’s not Dr. Lightman writing this week. Sorry. This is a Mother’s Day column. He speaks to women all day long, day in and day out, about their children and their being mothers. The conversations are almost never about their own mothers.
Last year, I interviewed three working women who wear many hats. Come to think of it, don’t most Jewish women wear many hats? The feedback was uniformly positive. Women and men alike commented that they enjoyed hearing “authentic voices” speak about their lives.
For Mother’s Day 2019, there is no time like the present to reflect on our mothers and how they have helped to shape and form us in almost every area of our lives.
My mother, whose 6th Yahrzeit is in Sivan, left me with a legacy that “You have to do for the Jews.”
As the seeds of the Soviet Jewry movement were planted in this country beginning in 1969 into the early 1970s, one of the first protests took place on a cold Friday morning in the Boston winter. Arlene Rosenfield AH made sure that she was present, together with her three young children. I recall the blustery day, standing opposite the headquarters of the Boston Jewish federation building with my two younger brothers, holding signs that said “Free My People Now.” It was one of the first rallies in this country to publicize the persecution of Soviet Jewry. Did my brothers and I complain about the cold? Most likely. And my mother’s most likely response: You children get to go home to a warm Jewish home. Soviet Jews do not.
After the Shah of Iran had left his country and the Ayatollah Khomeini had risen to power, young Jewish men fled Iran and many came to this country. Scores arrived in Boston yet the community was not prepared. These young men came with minimal possessions, yet were strongly connected to being Jewish and wanting to live Jewish lives. My mother, together with two friends – Brenda Gershon A”H and Goldie Nacht Maklev (who lives today in Bnei Brak) – came together and organized homes, schooling and everything for these young men. Unfortunately, we did not remain in touch with most of them. However, we were zoche to dance at some of their weddings as they established their own Jewish homes.
During our school years, my mother was active in the Maimonides School in different volunteer capacities. She chaired the annual candy sale fundraiser for several years and spearheaded the recruitment committee, at a time when enrollment in Hebrew day schools was plummeting. She was doing for the Jews while expressing her Hakaras HaTov to her children’s school.
This year, I interviewed accomplished, powerhouse women who are wives and mothers (one is also a grandmother) who are raising families. Each reflects on what she has learned from her mother and how it impacts what they want their own children to learn. For a “twist,” I interviewed two sisters separately to learn what each says about their mother. They promise they did not collaborate on what to say.
The three pieces are written “as told to” so the voice of each woman is captured as she describes her mother.
Batya Krasnow is well known to the Far Rockaway and Five Towns communities as the beloved Morah Krasnow who taught 2nd grade Limudei Kodesh and other classes at Torah Academy for Girls for over three decades. This past September, she assumed her new position at TAG as the Hebrew principal for the junior high school. Morah Krasnow is also a highly respected leader in the world of Jewish camps who believes that summer camps are a “necessity” for Jewish girls.
Morah Krasnow, who is the mother of eight, grandmother of not saying how many and the wife of Yeshiva Darchei Torah’s Rabbi Moshe Krasnow, speaks about her mother, Mrs. Judy (nee Zivitz) Ingber.
My mother was born in Brooklyn in 1932 when there were few Shomrei Shabbos families. Her mother was born in Poland, came to this country and attended public school for grades 1 through 4, and then returned to the “alter heim” where she married her cousin in 1918. She and her husband came to this country in 1920 with her daughters, urging them to become educators.
My mother was raised in Brownsville where she attended public school and Talmud Torah from first through 12th grades. She studied at Hunter College where the late Dr. Lander (founder of Touro College) taught her Gemara. She qualified to be a teacher. She married my father and was widowed when I was 15 months old. She married again when I was 3 years old and this man raised me; he and my mother had a set of twins, my sister and brother.
At her husband’s behest, after a 10-year hiatus from the classroom, my mother returned to teach in a public school. My father was totally supportive of her, driving her to and from work and helped her with the running of the home. It is Hashgacha that he encouraged her and helped to make this happen because unfortunately, he was niftar after 10 years of marriage. My mother was left to support three young children on her own and Baruch HaShem, through teaching, she was able to do so.
Despite having a life with challenges, my mother was never down and she has never complained. She always looks at the cup as “half full,” saying, “Look at how HaShem has blessed me. I had 3 wonderful years with one man and 10 wonderful years with another man.” My mother personifies HaKaras HaTov and Ayin Tova.
My mother is imbued with Emuna and Bitachon. “HaShem will always take care of you,” she says. “I’m just doing the best with what HaShem has given me.”
How has she done this? Part of it is her nature. But she is always Mevater people. She just lets the annoying things pass and then invests her energy into the good. She accepts whatever stage of life she’s in, like now, when she is living with us full time.
I appreciate my mother’s Emuna and Bitachon in its simple, distilled form. Her Simchas HaChaim. The fulfillment of teaching and nurturing Jewish girls. Perhaps there is a direct line from my grandmother to my mother to me and to my children, all of whom are in the world of Chinuch and camping. My husband and I never told them what careers to pursue. They see we are fulfilled by our life’s choices as my mother has been fulfilled by hers.
Devorah Lowy Pelman of Far Rockaway and Tova Lowy Pfeffer of Inwood are sisters (there are six more Lowy children) who were born and raised in Los Angeles. Both attended and graduated from the Bais Yaakov of Los Angeles and studied at Bnos Chava. Tova earned her bachelor of science from California State University at Northridge. She is presently on maternity leave from PricewaterhouseCoopers where she is a Manager of Tax. She and her husband Alex have 4 children. Devorah graduated from Touro (including her MBA degree) and is a CPA who is presently the Chief Financial Officer for Amudim Community Resources. She and her husband Chananiah live in Far Rockaway with their 4 children.
Their mother, Esther Freilich Lowy AH, was born and raised in Far Rockaway. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College (Phi Beta Kappa), and her master’s degree and PhD in mathematics from New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. She moved to Los Angeles after marrying Rudolf Lowy in 1974. She and her husband raised eight children. Before establishing Touro on the West Coast, Dr. Lowy taught mathematics at Cal Poly Pomona. She passed away in December 2014.
Devorah speaks first.
My mother did not talk about what she did. She just did. Nothing was a big deal for her nor did she make anything into a big deal.
My siblings and I grew up in an open home where there was a constant stream of people in and out of the house. Our friends loved coming over. We hosted a lot of guests. When I think about it now, my mother never talked about it. She just did. She made sure there was always a guest room ready, with fresh linen on the bed. The house was stocked with food. Anybody could step in at any time and they would be welcomed.
When my mother cooked for Shabbos and Yom Tov, there was plenty of food. She made sure that everyone was well fed and satiated. She did not “potchke” with recipes. She got the job done and she did it well.
The guest room was always made up so on a moment’s notice, we could host guests. Our guests were comfortable and had plenty of food. My mother did everything without fanfare.
My mother never pressured me or my siblings into making a decision about anything. Doctor or lawyers or whatever – career choices were up to us. But you had to be college educated. My mother and father value college education. My mother was highly educated. Her doctorate was in mathematics and she taught in different college and university systems. But being a mother reigned supreme to her. She always said, “Being a parent is the most important job you will ever have.” She left the workforce until my youngest brother turned 10 years old. She was fully present in our lives, urging us to grow and achieve, always keeping in mind that being a parent is first and foremost.
There was only one rule when we were teenagers – You had to be home by midnight and if not, you had to call home by midnight stating that you would not be home by midnight and why. My mother believed in us and built us from the inside out accordingly. And because she believed in us, we have grown up to believe in ourselves.
Valuing family was a top priority for my mother and it is best be seen in how she treated her parents. My grandparents moved to Los Angeles to be near their only daughter, son-in-law and their eight boisterous children. My mother always cared for her parents throughout her life, making sure finances were in order, doctors’ appointments were current and many other details. Even when my mother was sick and ailing and my grandfather had already passed away, she was concerned about her mother and cared for her until four short weeks before her death, never sharing her own physical pain. Most of the Lowy children were living in New York and her mother should be near them and the rest of the family. It took a lot of energy but my mother made sure that her mother moved back to New York and located close to as many grandchildren as possible.
My children are still young and I pray they can hold onto memories of my mother.
To me, she was just a mother. She created an open, relaxed house where people were in and out all the time. I never thought about her academic background and accomplishments unless a friend asked, “Do I call your mother Dr. Lowy?” I would have to stop and think each time (the answer was Mrs. Lowy) because to me, she was Mommy.
It is also funny but to me and my siblings, she was a young mother. She married at 26 and there’s a 17 and a 1/2-year difference between the oldest and youngest siblings in our family. Maybe our baby brother kept her young and energetic. My mother could be more fun than my friends’ mothers who were chronologically younger.
I have a newfound respect for my mother now that I’m an adult raising my own children. For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, we compiled an album of letters. I have read and reread them and wonder, how do she do it? And nothing was ever a big deal to her. I can’t recall my mother ever complaining.
My mother urged us all to be college educated. It was a must. But she and my father never told us what we had to be. That was our decision. But my mother always said, “No matter what you do, being a parent is the most important job you’ll ever have.”
My mother always made me feel good about my decisions. When I was a stay-at-home full time Mommy, that was great. When I was juggling working outside the home and raising my kids, that was also great. My mother was at home full time until my youngest brother turned 10 years old.
Both my parents are more of “doers” than talkers. They don’t judge. They just do.
Perhaps the biggest thing I learned from my mother is Kibud Av V’Eim, respecting parents. My mother built her life around respecting her parents. They had done for her and it was her honor, not her burden, to do for them. After my grandfather died, my mother made sure that one of us always slept at my grandmother’s house (the Freilichs had relocated to Los Angeles to be near their daughter and her family) so she was never alone. It was done in the most respectful way. My sister Devorah slept there for several years.
One of the last things my mother did in this lifetime was to help move her mother back to New York to be near all of us who all live in New York. My mother wanted her mother to be surrounded by family and love. My grandmother now lives at the Nautilus (in Long Beach) where the staff tells us that she is blessed with a constant stream of visitors, including on Shabbos and Yom Tov, when we walk across the Atlantic Beach Bridge to see her.
It’s not a burden. It’s an honor.
Every person has a story to tell about their mother.