Gaza attack victim’s widow gives birth


The widow of the victim of a Gaza rocket attack on southern Israel gave birth to a baby boy.

Lilach Shoshan gave birth on Yom Kippur in Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.

Her husband, Yossi, was killed in August when a Grad rocket fired from Gaza struck him in Beersheba. He was 38.

Shoshan said she will name the boy Shimon after her husband’s father, as the couple had planned.

The couple had two other children, daughters aged 7 and 4. They will choose the baby’s middle name, according to reports.

Widows, Widowers Seek Ways to Cope


When Esther Goshen-Gottstein’s husband of 39 years died, she felt like her world had crumbled.

“The bottom had fallen out my life, as in an earthquake, when the ground on which one has stood firmly for years suddenly collapses,” she writes in “Surviving Widowhood” (Gefen, 2002). “Would I have to wait for rescue workers to pull me out and put me back on my feet?”

Unfortunately, as Goshen-Gottstein made clear in her book, there is no road map for how to get back on your feet; no emotional recovery drug that can make it all OK. Most people must navigate on their own this desolate landscape of loss. Yet there are things that they can do that can make this experience at least bearable, if not easier: join a bereavement support group, turn to rabbis for religious guidance .

“Surviving Widowhood” is one of a number of Jewish books on dealing with loss. But what makes it unique is instead of citing hard-andfast-rules about how people should act when their spouses die, she walks them through her own experiences and, using her skills as a psychologist, is able to thoughtfully analyze her own and others’ reactions to the gamut of emotions bought about by the experience of death.

For the author, dealing with the death of her husband Moshe — a well-known academic in Israel and the winner of the Israel Prize — was an ongoing process that continued long after the shiva (seven days of mourning).

The book is unflinchingly personal and she does not shy away from talking about the little things that his death affected, such as changing habits that had become second nature, like transitioning in speech from “we” to “I.” The hardship in having no one to share the minutiae of life, she finds, is one of the most difficult things to deal with.

She also writes about the role that Judaism played in her emotional recovery. Goshen-Gottstein found the moratorium provided by the shiva “allowed me to express my grief uninhibitedly. What a relief it was not only to know what to do, but also how long you have to do it.”

Yet, there are other philosophical aspects of Judaism that can help one deal with loss, said Rabbi Levi Meier, chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“The major way that Jewish people cope is through real belief and religious imagination that the future good can already be experienced now,” Meier said, referring to the feeling one has when one recovers emotionally from the loss. For those not spiritually evolved enough to see the silver lining in a horribly dismal rain cloud, Meier says that sitting shiva and reciting ‘Kaddish’ can ease the pain.

“The recitation of ‘Kaddish’ is like an incessant dialogue with the deceased, because when you say ‘Kaddish’ you are constantly thinking about the deceased, and they become more visible as a result,” Meier said. “Also, the laws of mourning don’t let you mourn by yourself. When you sit shiva, people come to visit, people come to the funeral and when you go to shul to say “Kaddish” you need a minyan. You need to mourn with a community, so you might feel existentially alone, but still connected to other people.”

While it might be important to feel connected to the outside community, many people who are grieving feel the need to talk to others who are sharing their experiences. Many synagogues, such as Wilshire Boulevard Temple and Temple Isaiah on Pico Boulevard offer bereavement support groups where people can meet others who are going through the same thing. Typically therapists or trained counselors run these groups, and people usually attend them for one to two years.

“I think every single emotion comes into grief,” said Fredda Wasserman the adult program director at Our House, a Woodland Hills organization that provides grief support services. “From sadness, guilt and anger, to joyful memories and sometimes relief. People usually don’t know to expect all of that, and don’t know that all of that is normal. Going to a bereavement support group provides people with a lot of long-term support. People often feel that they don’t want to be a burden to someone else by having to share their feelings, but in these groups, they are talking to other people who know what they are feeling and what they need.”

“Grief is not a psychiatric disorder,” she continued. “It’s a normal reaction to natural process, and people’s feelings, emotions and responses can be normalized when they are with other people who are going through the same thing.”

“All these things are cathartic.” Meier added, “Ultimately, after you lose someone and you go through the process and do as much as you can, you actually come out of it stronger, with a greater sense of faith, a greater understanding of God and a greater understanding of life and of death.”

For more information on bereavement support groups in Los Angeles County, visit the Jewish Bereavment Project’s Web site at www.jewishbereavement.com.

Dear Deborah


Detail from the cover of “Boy MeetsGirl,” a romance comic book, 1947

Suffocating Sweetheart

Dear Deborah,

I am engaged to a wonderful man whose “littleproblem” has become very, very big during the course of our two-yearcourtship and has grown acute during our engagement. He was always alittle possessive when we dated, but, then, it made me feel loved. Iactually thought it was sort of sweet and sexy, and it made me feelprotected.

His possessiveness has grown into what I feel isan invasion of my privacy that seems, to me, to be not sweet at all.It feels controlling — as if he thinks of me as an incompetentchild. He’ll show up uninvited to a girlfriend-only lunch; he’ll tryto find me a job with a friend of his before I even open theemployment ads; he calls my doctors and asks about test results forme.

When I complain, he says that he is just trying tobe helpful, and asks why I don’t appreciate his love and caring. Ido, but I’m worried about feeling more and more “devoured” by his”caring,” and I’m asking for help in how to deal with it because, atthis point, I feel inclined to hide my whereabouts and activities sothat he cannot butt in so freely — even though I have nothing tohide.

Feels Devoured

Dear Devoured,

“As wolves love lambs, so lovers love theirloves,” wrote Socrates. While you found the wolf at first to becompelling, you are now beginning to feel more like a lamb chop thana lamb. Should you marry him without resolving this now, youundoubtedly will be devoured by his controlling nature.

You must tell him that this issue is seriousenough to cause you to call off the whole deal if it is not resolvedimmediately. Explain in as concrete a manner as possible thebehaviors that are not acceptable to you, and why. Listen to what hesays — whether he is defensive or truly understands you. He may beinsecure and need a little help in some areas, he may have somecharacterological issues that are deeply entrenched, or he may notsee the need to change. If you get nowhere with him, get counselingtogether immediately.

It will take courage to face these issues squarelyand at once, but not to do so will ultimately reduce you from lamb tolamb chop to mucky, little divorce statistic.

Mommie Dearest?

Dear Deborah,

My 7- and 10-year-old sons recently sat me downand told me what I was like when I got angry. They said that Iscreamed a lot, acted like a “monster,” frightened them, and wasentirely different from the “sweet mommy” who usually takes care ofthem. I always knew I had a temper, but I had no idea I was havingsuch an effect. My husband thinks they are just spoiled and don’twant to hear about it when they do wrong.

I am a little confused about how to handlethis.

Chicago Mom

Dear Mom,

The Talmud states that if one person tells youthat you have ass’s ears, pay no attention. But if two tell you,you’d better saddle up.

Whether or not your children are spoiled is notthe issue. Whether or not they don’t like criticism is not the issue(who does?). Rather, the fact that both your children experience yourrage as frightening and deemed it important enough to approach you iswhat counts — that, and your ability to hear them with an openheart.

Yelling is not an effective way to discipline.Either children get scared or feel bad about themselves, and,eventually, they become so inured to yelling that they tune you out.Also, they will learn to be yellers from your example. Learning tomanage anger is the task at hand.

First, when you feel the rage coming on, stop.Notice the buildup of anger. Catch yourself before you hit rage.Collect your thoughts before you speak. Then choose a differentmethod, preferably quieter and with less blame. Use consequencesrather than fear. “You may not go out and play until your rooms areclean.” “No TV until the homework is done.” “Here is ashmatte. Now goclean up what you spilled.” In other words, actions should havelogical consequences that teach children responsibility.

If you lack the necessary self-control to stopyelling, there are anger-management and parenting books and classes.If that fails, there is counseling. The fact that you are taking yourchildren’s feelings to heart is a good prognosis.

Mother-in-Law Blues

Dear Deborah,

My mother-in-law has been in the hospital,recovering from surgery for a week. She is a widow and has alwaysbeen an unpleasant, demanding and self-absorbed woman, but she is myhusband’s mother and children’s grandmother, and because I have noremaining parents, I do want to be a good daughter-in-law.Furthermore, my husband is an only child, so there is no one else totake care of her. He works more than full time, and since my job ispart-time, I feel it is my duty.

I visit her every day, bring her anything she asksfor, and, when she is well, take her shopping and to doctorsappointments. I try. Yet she barrages me with complaints about how noone cares about her, no one visits her, and so forth.

She doesn’t understand that I do work, havechildren (which is another full-time job) and have a life. She thinksthat I am her servant, which would be OK if she showed anyappreciation whatsoever. I am at my wit’s end with her complainingand sometimes want to say what’s on my mind, and yet I never say aword.

At Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End,

There seems to be a rather fine line between”honor thy parents” and “kick me.” I mean, Martyr of the Year is arotten, low-paying job with no benefits and zero glory.

Have you said anything at all when she complainsabout the dearth of visitors, such as: “What am I? Chopped liver? Ihave visited you every day. It hurts my feelings when you say thingslike that.”

Although you are a true mensch for your efforts, thereis no law against directly and kindly saying how you feel. You neednot be abused to be a dutiful daughter-in-law.

Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist. All letters toDear Deborahrequire a name, address and telephone number for purposes ofverification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Ourreaders should know that when names are used in a letter, they arefictitious.

Dear Deborah welcomes your letters. Responses canbe given only in the newspaper. Send letters to Deborah Berger-Reiss,1800 S. Robertson Blvd., Ste. 927, Los Angeles, CA 90035. You canalso send E-mail: deborahb@primenet.com

 

Family


My Aunt Illa, a woman capable of great charm and vast intrigues,was hated by both my mother and father.

By Father, because he believed that Illa was so jealous of thelove between his brother Zoltan and himself that she prevented herhusband from the frequent contact the brothers wanted. And my mother– well, because of the usual animus she held against the women inFather’s family.

The final angry incident between them (and these two had beensisters-in-law for 30 years) had to do with a fine embroderedtablecloth my mother gave Illa as a gift. Two weeks later, Illareturned the cloth to my mother, saying she owned enough tablecloths.As far as Mother was concerned, this would be the last insult. Forthe next two years, she refused to visit the by-now widowed Illa andcontinually railed against Illa’s nastiness and jealousy.

But one evening just before Rosh Hashanah, during a phoneconversation, Illa asked me, “How are your parents?”

“They’re fine. My mother misses you,” I replied.

“Well, I miss her too.”

As soon as we hung up, I called my mother and told her that Illahad asked after her and that she missed her. Without her usualreference to her pained feelings, Mother said that she thought aboutIlla and missed her. I told Mother that Illa would appreciate hearingfrom her. “You ought to phone Illa and wish her a happy new year.”Mother immediately ended our conversation and phoned hersister-in-law. From then on, until Illa’s death two and a half yearslater, my parents visited Illa at least once a week, finding comfortin each others’ company. When Illa died, three days after suffering amassive heart attack, Mother cried bitterly.

In the several years before Uncle Zoltan’s death, though theylived nearby, I rarely saw them. Yet during the painful months of mydivorce, terribly needy and at a loss, I visited them often; theywere attentive and sympathetic. One evening during that bleak time,Uncle Zoltan came alone to my parents’ home when he knew I would bethere: his intention, to encourage me and cheer me up.

I wish I could remember his jokes that evening and details of hisstories, of how he survived the hard times in his life, the loss ofhis first wife to cancer, his struggle for economic survival inAmerica.

He sat with me on the sofa, holding my hand, his kind eyesencouraging me to take in his message, to put to rest, for awhile atleast, my angry tirades. He also offered me an interest-free loan ofseveral thousand dollars which I gratefully accepted. As I think backon that evening, I know that it wasn’t the exemplary tales themselvesbut these kind acts of my uncle’s which reminded me that hope andlove exist in the world. That I should not despair.

What my Uncle Zoltan did not recount that evening were storiesabout his life in Auschwitz. But I already knew them. When Zoltan andhis first wife immigrated to America in 1947, they lived with myfamily for a few weeks in our New York apartment. My mother hadbanished me from the living room, where night after night, thenewcomers told and retold their stories to relatives and friends, wewho had been safe in America. I say “we” — for actually I was there,hidden from view by the hanging edges of the red silk shawl drapingthe grand piano beneath which I crouched. And though I spokeHungarian fluently, I was too young to understand what they weretalking about. I didn’t understand grown-up words; I simply knew thatwhat I was hearing was important and would change me.

In the ensuing years, Uncle Zoltan never spoke to me about thewar. What I know I learned, piecemeal, from my father.

Zoltan and his wife were separated in the camps; neither knew thatthe other had survived. I don’t know if they found shelter with theRed Cross or were helped by the soldiers. They discovered each otheralive only after they had made their ways separately to their home ina remote village in eastern Hungary. When Zoltan was released fromcaptivity, he weighed 98 pounds fully dressed in his striped rags andropey sandals. With a companion, he started walking back to Hungary,so famished that when they broke into a deserted farm house, they atethe only food they could find, a jar of mustard, and becamewretchedly ill.

One can imagine my uncle and his wife when they saw each otheragain, their words of greeting, their mingled emotions of elation andgrief; only a handful of their relatives eventually joined them.Uncle Zoltan’s mother, all his siblings except sister Jolan, hisaunts and his uncles had perished. Three years after their reunion,once again victims of government persecution, this time for belongingto the propertied class (and I suspect also for being Jews), Zoltanand his wife left for America. They brought my father a pair ofsilver candlesticks that had belonged to his mother, a wedding giftwhich Grandmother had asked Zoltan to bury in the flower garden ofher home when they realized they would soon be deported. These lovelyheirlooms from a destroyed world, objects that had once been handledreverently by a grandmother whom I never knew, stand on the diningtable in my home.

Another story my father told me about Zoltan. In the early 1920’s,when they were barely in their twenties, they visited Budapesttogether for the first time. They were both lean, tall, strong,dapperly dressed. And afraid. They knew that bands of thugs roamedthe capital’s streets after dark, looking for Jews to beat up. Whenthey had to traverse dark, sparsely peopled streets away from themain thoroughfares of the city, Zoltan and my father walked back toback, one wielding a blackjack, the other armed with brass knuckles.They were never asssaulted.

Uncle Zoltan died less than a year after his generous gestures tome. In the years that followed, I often visited Aunt Illa. She fed mepoppy seed cakes and we drank tea; I listened to stories of herchildhood and early marriage, of her terrible losses during the war.She relished telling me what she thought about my numerous cousinsand, a little sharply, how they sought advice in decorating theirhomes. Her own childlessness didn’ t prevent her from counseling mewisely on raising my children. Nor did she hesitate to tell me howshe thought I should conduct my life. When I remarried, she thoughthard about an appropriate gift. She bent her head, avoided my eyes,and giggled as she told me that her gift was a set of sheets andpillow cases.

“Think of me when you use these,” she tittered. I loved talkingwith her. We never spoke of my parents.

Her apartment was lovely: light-filled and spacious. Whenever Ivisited, although I had no expertise and even less interest, sheinsisted on involving me in her decorating plans What did I think ofthe gray fabric to recover the sofa? Didn’ t I think the bed needed anew spread?

I didn’t fully understand the deeper implications of what she wasabout until now, as I write this. Aunt Illa surprised me, after shedied, leaving me most of her furniture, beautiful objects whosesymbolic value extends beyond mementos of our loving friendship. Theyhave become heirlooms. And such tangible heirlooms have always beenin short supply among us survivors brutally cut off from ourancestors.

What else is left? After his brother’s death, my father woreZoltan’s wedding band for many years, until it could no longerencircle any of his swollen fingers. Illa and Zoltan lie buried in aniche in a wall, Mother in the ground near by, the cemetery in sightof the freeway. This Rosh Hashanah, as I have for the past 16 yearssince Zoltan died, I will drive Father to the cemetery, help him ashe walks. slowly up the slope to say kaddish for his wife andbrother, and continue to recall the dead who, when they were alive,loved me and taught me the meaning of generosity.

From top: (left to right), the author’s father, Ernest Flesch,his sister, Aunt Jolan, and Uncle Zoltan in 1975; Aunt Illa in theearly 1980s; author Judith Rose with her brother Ronald, last year;and Ernest Flesch at the time of his visit to Budapest in the early1920s.