Tag Archives: act of kindness

My Personal Pillars of Life

27 May

I recently was asked to write something about myself for our synagogue’s newsletter because I am a vice president of the congregation. I was unsure, did the president want my qualifications as to why I was a vice president? No, he wanted me to tell the congregation something about me. I decided to discuss my philosophy of life.

The first time I actually wrote down my philosophy was on a cruise ship in September 2019. It was our last big trip before the pandemic cancelled everything. We were in the Baltic Sea. During a sea day, I decided I would pamper myself and get a message. The young woman who was my massage therapist was on her first cruise. She was home sick. So we spent quite a bit of time talking. And among the topics we talked about was my philosophy of life. I am not sure why it came up. But she needed moral support and a way to deal with the daily onslaught of people to serve.

It was not my usual, I will fall asleep massage.  Instead, it was my, I am a mother and here is someone in need.  She also gave me a great massage.  So during the second week of the cruise I had another massage. We had another nice discussion.  When it was over, she handed me a notebook and said, “Please write it down.”  It was strange to put my personal philosphy into writing for someone else, but I did.  I hope it helped her in some way during her six-months on the ship, but more important perhaps during the pandemic. 

Below is the third time I wrote about my philosophy of life.

My philosophy of life is based on four pillars, Gemilut Chasidim (good deeds), Tzedakah (righteous charity), Kindness and Family.   Because I believe in creating a positive energy in the world, I volunteer quite a bit besides what I do at my synagogue.   Currently I am involved in Women’s Philanthropy as campaign chair; for NCJW I chair the scholarship committee providing funds for high school seniors going on to college; and I am a Spiritual Care Volunteer for Jewish Family Services. Every Wednesday I visit with seniors in an elder care facility. I also work at a small, private, non-profit school for children who do not do well in a traditional school setting.  I keep busy!

I believe in being positive!  I have learned that doing an act of kindness for someone brings so much more happiness than buying a gift for yourself.  That act of kindness is the gift!  I keep a happiness journal.  Each evening, I enter something that made me truly happy during the day.  I list at least one good deed I did that day.  And finally, I list five things that I am grateful for that day.  Almost every day that includes my family and my cats.

One way I keep happy is to crochet…mainly baby blankets for the multitude of young couples I know who are having babies.  I could just buy a gift.  But for me, making something filled with the positive love I feel when I make one, has more meaning.  I make other things as well.  My daughter often sends me a photo of something she likes and asks, “Can you make this for me.”  So I do.  I also make items for special people. A friend who donated a kidney loves ducks. So I crocheted her a duck doily. A friend whose son died way too young got a heart doily. A little girl with cancer received a long Anna wig to wear. When I make these items I feel like I am infusing them with love.

I love to I read, because books bring me to other worlds and entrance my imagination.   I usually travel, but for the past 15 months I have been home. Books have given me the opportunity to continue to visit new worlds, both real and imaginary.  My mind is filled with trivia thanks to these books. Reading brings me joy.  I enjoy discussing books with others.

My path to tzedakah comes from my family.  I knew from an early age that giving to others was important. My great grandfather Louis was one of the founders of the Bialystoker Home for the Aged in NYC.  He also was the president of the Free Loan Society for the Bialystokers.  My family supported this institution throughout my childhood.  My Dad, his grandson, was the president of his congregation for 11 years.  We were all taught to help others as we could.

My path to kindness comes from my family as well, especially my Mom. She taught elementary school for 30 years and had great experience in teaching kindness.  I learned from her, and from my experiences in the world, that you do not need to love everyone you meet. However, you do need to be Kind.  You never know what type of day someone is having. By being kind, you can brighten a day for someone else and in turn make the day better for yourself.

Yes, I also get sad sometimes and worry about the future.  No one is happy all the time. When I feel blue, I often go for a walk outside with a friend.  Just being outside helps cheer me up. But sometimes I go back to my foundation of Gemilut Chasidim, Tzedakah, Kindness and Family are my foundation, focusing on something good I can do to bring me out of the blues.

Here are two other blogs that touch on my world view.

Is It Serendipity, Just Pure Chance? Or Is My Dad Listening?

2 Sep

My daughter lives in Israel and works at the Peres Center for Peace in Yaffo/Jaffa. I am so proud of her and all that she has accomplished. So when I learned at a committee meeting I serve on for my synagogue, Kehilath Israel, that they wanted more women speakers at services, I made an offer.

I told our Rabbi that my daughter would be flying in from Israel for Yom Kippur and for Succot, and perhaps she could speak about the Peres Center on the Saturday after Yom Kippur.

I figured I was doing everyone a favor: first after Yom Kippur everyone is exhausted. I thought the Rabbi could use a rest from speaking. Second, they wanted more women to make presentations, especially women members. Since my daughter grew up in the congregation, she would qualify on that account. Third and finally, my daughter would have a chance to tell the congregation about the Peres Center for Peace, providing some publicity for this non-profit and its work.

So it would be a little something for everyone, with positive outcomes for all.

The Rabbi agreed it would be a great idea. My daughter agreed, and said she would like to do it. Thus on the Saturday after Yom Kippur, my daughter will speak during Shabbat services at our synagogue.

I told my husband that he had to go to services with me that Saturday. We would get to hear our daughter speak, and perhaps ‘kvell’ a bit. But it is not to be, as he has to be out of town that weekend on business. I was disappointed, and a bit sad that he will miss it and will not get to hear her speak. I had been looking forward to sitting with him, among our friends, and sort of bask in the glow of hearing our daughter.

I told a friend about my daughter’s talk, and my husband’s travel. She understood my disappointment. She said her husband is out of town that weekend as well; so even though she belongs to a different congregation, she is going to come to services with me to hear my daughter speak. Okay I am not alone.

But today, I realized I was never really alone. That same Saturday will be the Shabbat that my Father’s name will be read to the congregation because his yahrzeit (anniversary of his death) is that week. I will stand and say Kaddish (prayer to honor the dead) for my Dad at services.

I say Kaddish for my parents, my grandparents, some cousins and my brother in law. It is the last act of kindness I can do for them. I remember them. Each time I rise to say Kaddish, I feel as though that person is with me for that moment of prayer. I commune with the in my mind. Their name is not forgotten. And so on this day I will remember my Dad and he will be with me.

My Dad was extremely active at his congregation, Temple Israel, in New Jersey. He served as president for eleven years. YES, 11 years. He went to services almost every week. It was his congregation, the Rabbi and the members, who emotionally supported him when my Mom was ill and then passed away.

It was members of the congregation that supported my siblings and I when our Dad died nine months after Mom.   They came to every night of Shiva. They brought food and gave us comfort. The Rabbi was there for us for too many funerals that year, even as he himself endured the loss of his wife.

My parents were so involved in their congregation. They shopped each Thursday at Costco to buy the food needed for the Shabbat Kiddush. They cooked; they volunteers; they served on the board; they went to services.

Mom was the daughter of European immigrants. The granddaughter, niece, cousin of many who perished in the Shoah, she also believed it was important to support the work of her shul (synagogue). My Dad believed in the importance of being a proud Jewish man, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a friend. He was so proud of all his grandchildren. He would be delighted to know she was making a presentation to the members of our synagogue. He would be so proud of her!

In my heart I want to believe that my parents know where my daughter lives and where she works. I believe they are watching over her. I do not think it is serendipity that my Dad’s yahrzeit is that day. I did not realize it when I made the offer. But it makes so much sense. It ties everything together for me.

When I rise to say the Kaddish, I believe he will have listened to his oldest granddaughter as she spoke to the congregation. I know that my Dad will be there with us, beaming in pride. Sometimes serendipity is more than just pure chance!