Monday, February 14, 2011

A Jew without a community

We have an old friend whom we met in our former synagogue over 30 years ago. She used to attend Chanukah and Purim parties and Shabbat (Sabbath) dinners, plus the occasional service, held there. But she was raised secular without any Jewish education, and never really found a comfortable niche for herself in the Jewish community, religious and/or secular. She probably hasn't attended a Jewish service, except for weddings, bar or bat mitzvah celebrations, and funerals, or been involved in the Jewish world in any but the most minimal way, in several decades.

Since moving out of Manhattan, we've kept in contact with her by phone and by getting together for dinner on or around our birthdays. So we just saw her a couple of weeks ago.

That's why I was a bit surprised to get a birthday card from her a few days ago with the puzzling request, "Call me." But a gift from her appeared in the mail a few days later, so I assumed that she just wanted to be sure that it had arrived. I called yesterday and thanked her, and we chatted for a few minutes about the birthday celebration.

We must have been talking for close to five minutes before she got around to telling me why she'd requested a phone call--her mother had died, and she'd been making calls to, or leaving messages asking for calls from, family and friends to let them know. She said she'd found it comforting to talk about her mother's death.

I was sad, and not only because her mother had died. What saddened me almost as much was that, without any Jewish community to support and comfort her in her time of need, our old friend had been, essentially, sitting shiva via telephone.


Anonymous Chicago said...

I found this poignant. I'm glad to know she has Jewish friends and reached out to them.

I don't know what to say other than that really, but I was touched by this story you shared.

Mon Feb 14, 09:19:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks, Chicago. I was glad to be there for her, but I wish she hadn't had to go looking--a community would have brought her family and friends to her, and relieved her of the necessity of actively seeking solace, phone call by phone call.

Tue Feb 15, 11:42:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Susan B said...

The traditions surrounding death are among the things we Jews do very well. I'm sorry she isn't involved in the Jewish community and missed out on the loving embrace she would have received by having a funeral service and the ability to sit shiva with that community.

There is nothing like seeing how the Jewish community can rally around someone when it comes to any life cycle event.

Tue Feb 15, 12:12:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I agree, Susan. I'm sorry she's missed out on what the Jewish community has to offer, especially in such difficult moments. The Jewish community does do well pretty well in helping mourners. The thought of my good friend sitting alone on the telephone when she should be literally surrounded by family and friends just makes me sad. Shiva, which is, fundamentally, organized by the community on behalf of the mourner, is a wonderful institution.

Tue Feb 15, 12:45:00 PM 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>