September 26, 2018

A Most Remarkable Miracle by Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Hope - Magic, Miracles, and Health

[Ed. Note: As we approach Rosh HaShanah, here is an entry that offers hope and a positive story. All of us at Kavod v’Nichum offer you wishes for a Shenah Tovah Umetukah! May you be inscribed and sealed for a year of blessings. — JB]

Once upon a time, on a most average, ordinary day, I received a call from a local Rabbi asking if I was available to go immediately to the ER at a local hospital as an elderly Jewish woman was imminently expected to die… and her husband of 60 years was distraught as he stood near her gurney.

In that brief phone call … minus many details … I was informed that this very day was their anniversary. The plan had been that they would renew their vows later this evening. But as we know, often we make plans and G-D laughs.

As I changed from my jeans to more appropriate “clergy/chaplain” clothes my hubby gathered some flowers from our yard, a small glass and a little bottle of grape juice. With these items in hand, off I went to the ER.

Security guards ushered me to the correct bay, and upon my entering this cubicle, the two non-Jewish chaplains left.

So, there I was with the distraught husband, and his wife who was as white as the sheet she was laying on. I held the wife’s hand as I asked the husband to repeat a very very very condensed version of a renewal ceremony – made up on the spot!!

Concluding this ceremony with the shehechiyanu prayer, expressing thanks that they DID reach THIS day, I began to ask him about his years with her. I asked, “what was the most memorable moment that you can recall?” He responded that it was their trip to Israel the year before.

We talked about the various cities and towns where they stayed, and I asked if they had any relatives in Israel. Nope – not a one. My follow-up question was, “What in Israel moved your wife the most?” He quickly responded, “the Kotel.”

With that answer he was moved to obvious emotion. But this obvious emotion paled compared to the emotion he demonstrated when SHE responded, “the Kotel!”

This sick, frail, and dying woman somehow gathered the inner strength to say, though admittedly in a whisper, “The Kotel.”

The fact that this woman had heard us, could respond and defy the odds was strange enough. The devoted, loyal, distraught, husband NEARLY had his own medical emergency when he heard her speak. He had to catch himself from falling!

With that one unbelievable phrase – “the Kotel” – one has to wonder what the powers that be – let be. Why would THIS conversation have the power to elicit strength that was just moments before absent? How is it that she must have  heard all the previous discussions, prayers, and her husband’s pleas for her to get better, but all that for naught, and yet she heard THIS question?

The doctors were sure that death was a certainty, the chaplains were offering comfort and words of early condolence, and the husband was told to call the funeral home and “make necessary plans.” I am the Roshah of the Chevrah Kadisha in this community, and I would put out the call at news of a death.

And yet, the mention of the Kotel stirred her, emotionally and physically. Slowly, color returned to her face, and ever so slowly she began to “look” less at deaths door.

Her husband recounted to her that they had just had a Renewal of Vows, that it was in fact the day of their anniversary, and he was moved to tears that she appeared better.

With that I left the cubicle.

Outside the cubicle, several feet away, the two Christian chaplains were nonplussed and flummoxed, to say the least. Having overheard that she spoke, they wanted to know the Jewish Secret – what had I done? I simply told them “Kotel,” and left!

I did learn that the elderly, imminently going-to-die woman was released to home after 3 days – showing the power of Hashem, miracles, good luck, coincidence.

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ.  Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years.  I am currently the ROSHAH of our chevrah.  When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain.  I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years.   My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

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Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead!

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is September 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

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Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

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Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

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DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to either:

Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

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SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

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Not a Minute’s Rest for Min the Dynamo

Here in Tinseltown it can be difficult to find people who help without expecting a moment in the limelight; a “15 minutes” of philanthropic adoration. Good deeds are supposed to be their own reward, and this new Lifecycles feature will profile those unsung senior tzadikim whose continued volunteer efforts impact numerous lives in immeasurable ways. Know someone who should be featured? Contact Associate Editor Adam Wills at adamw@jewishjournal.com.

Minerva “Min” Leonard doesn’t have time for breakfast. She’s too busy shopping for ingredients and preparing a salad bar luncheon for 80 people at Adat Ari El Sisterhood’s weekly Multi-Interest Day. Or making 10 lokshen kugels for her friend’s daughter’s bat mitzvah. Or baking “I can’t even begin to tell you how many” batches of cranberry and chocolate-chip mandelbread to bestow on friends, neighbors and an appreciative Jewish Journal reporter.

At 90, this diminutive North Hollywood resident, who was married to her husband, Phil, for 53 years and who raised three children, is showing scant evidence of slowing down. True, she no longer makes 1,000 latkes from scratch for the synagogue preschool’s Chanukah celebration. But she fries up 500 for the senior citizens group that meets at Valley Cities Jewish Community Center and another 500 to distribute as gifts.

But mostly, as Adat Ari El’s unofficial chef, Leonard devotes chunks out of four weekdays to preparing the sisterhood salad bar, which she has single-handedly assembled for at least a quarter century, getting help only with chauffeuring, because she has never driven.

The lunch features pasta salad, tuna salad (Leonard’s special recipe with sweet relish and grated hard-boiled eggs), green salad, Tostitos and four kinds of cakes, with chocolate and lemon poppy seed in high demand.

Leonard charges $4 per person for the lunch to cover costs. But she shops so conscientiously — personally picking out her peppers, lettuces and tomatoes at a local farmers market and buying her other ingredients at Costco, the 99 Cents Only Store or on sale at Albertsons — that she donates $2,000 back to the sisterhood each year.

Leonard has loved to cook since she was a little girl, helping her mother in the kitchen of a one-bathroom house in Jersey City, N.J., that she shared with 14 extended family members.

“I could clean, pluck and quarter a chicken by the time I was 11,” she explained.

But Leonard’s knowledge extends beyond the kitchen. She received a bachelor of science degree in psychology and education from Long Island University, and only because of a three-year bout with tuberculosis, which struck at age 21, was she deterred from entering dental school.

“I’ve never been sick in bed since,” she said.

She’s also savvy about Judaism. She presented the monthly Jewish education report at sisterhood board meetings for many years, privately published by her friends in a booklet titled, “Min’s Food for Thought,” and studied to become a bat Torah as an adult.

Last February, the Adat Ari El Sisterhood honored Leonard at a luncheon on her 90th birthday. Even then, she insisted on preparing 50 pounds of pickled herring and 10 kugels for the event.

“She’s the most giving person you could ever find,” said Marsha Fink, a friend and sisterhood past president.

At home, where she lives alone, Leonard does all her own housework and laundry. “I hate ironing,” she admitted but feels fortunate that she doesn’t have to heat up flatirons and mix her own starch, as her mother did. She also colors and cuts her own hair.

When she’s not cooking or cleaning, preparing lunch for her monthly havurah meeting of “nine old ladies” or serving as “Jewish grandmother” to neighborhood children, Leonard listens to the radio or books on tape, currently enjoying “Tears of the Giraffe” by Alexander McCall Smith. But while she’s listening, she’s also twisting swatches of fabric into “yo-yo squares” to fashion into a quilt.

“Resting is not for me,” Leonard said. Not even in what she calls her “wonderful old age.”

Min’s Noodle Kugel (Dairy)

From “California Kosher” (Wimmer Cookbooks, 1991)

8 ounces wide noodles
4 ounces butter or margarine
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup golden raisins, optional
1/2 pound dried apricots, optional

Topping:

1 cup cornflake crumbs
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Cook noodles in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and add butter. Set aside. Beat together eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, sugar and milk. Add raisins or apricots or both. Add mixture to noodles. Pour into buttered 8-by-12-inch baking dish. Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle over kugel. Bake at 350 F. for one hour.

Makes 10-12 servings.