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miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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A Tribute to My Father on his YahrTzeit

What do you say when someone asks you for information that is readily available on the Internet?

Google it! That’s code for “Look it up. Figure it out. You can do it….”

My siblings and I reminisce that my father would encourage our independence in learning new things, by telling us to  “look it up.”

In honor of  the yahrtzeit or anniversary of my father’s passing two years ago, I write this blog post. This one’s for you, Daddy.

Shalom Stern, or Shalom ben Shlomo (the son of Solomon) Halevi (a descendant of the Levites) passed away after a diagnosis 14 years earlier of Parkinson’s Disease. My father passed on September 28, 2014 but the Hebrew date falls on today’s Hebrew date which is the day after Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year). Today we lit a candle that lasts for 24 hours and my brothers recited kaddish in my father’s memory.

My father was a paradigm of punctuality. Descending from German ancestors, his motto was “a place for everything…everything in its place.” This time of year which precedes the holiday of Sukkos has a theme from the book of Ecclesiastes which reads, “A time to mourn, a time to rejoice…..a time for everything.” Similarly, my father believed that there is a time for everything and he stuck to a sensible daily schedule in his life.

My father was born in Antwerp, Belgium May 27, 1926. He attended Cheder (traditional Jewish elementary school) there along with his sister. He had a relatively uneventful childhood with his parents, many cousins and friends in the little town where they lived. In the early 1940’s,  the political situation changed and they left their home and moved from country to country, town to town, living over the next few years in France, Portugal, Cuba, followed by the U.S.

IMGThis is my paternal grandmother

According to stories we heard from my father and my aunt, “everything was an adventure” during these unstable times. Yes, they were afraid but it didn’t cripple them. They trusted their parents, prayed and continued on with their  daily activities and schooling in each place that they lived. Time to be afraid and time to move on. My aunt recalls saying the prayer “Shema Yisrael” in her bed as the war planes were flying in earshot. My father spoke about his countless stories of escape and survival into a recording and one of my nephews created a CD for all the family which I cherish.

When my dad came to the U.S. at age 16 (1942), he attended high school in Brooklyn and learned the English language rapidly. After high school he continued in with his Jewish studies in a local yeshiva while attending Brooklyn College to earn a degree in Economics. In 1949, my father met my mother and they married that year in June. He went into business while my mother stayed home with the children and together they raised a family of six children. They were the matriarch and patriarch of  many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

dadyoung

My father had a very disciplined and hard working nature. I was proud to have such a “perfect” father who was so smart, wise, kind, learned and accomplished. On the other hand, there was this pressure to keep up, to do things correctly. My husband spoke at a small memorial meal that we sponsored in my father’s memory last Shabbos (Saturday). One of my husband’s key comments was that he felt that our father was someone to look up to, to emulate and to aspire to be like.

He had a meticulous schedule in which he rose early, prayed, studied Talmud, ate breakfast, went to work and then came home at the same time each night. Looking back, it seems kind of idyllic in some ways. The predictability, the security and all that. At the same time as I said there was this pressure to do good work. It was sort of an unspoken expectation of “You can do it. You will do it.” Each one of us siblings has differing interests. But, we each try to do our best in whatever we do.

daddyThis is my father speaking at a family event in the final year of his life.

My father learned and studied Torah deeply and often could be found in his study poring over books either alone or with one or several grandchildren. Even in the last days when his PD had progressed to its worst symptoms of not being able to talk above a whisper, my father enjoyed listening to stories about Torah. This energized him. I believe this means my father was a very spiritual person.

Additionally, in his life, my father was active in founding a girls’ high school in our community and he gave charity to many institutions around. My father had a witty sense of humor, enjoyed being around people and socializing in the free time that he had. He liked traveling, people and words.

momdadMy Mom and Dad

Just this morning, I asked my brother a question and my brother’s return text to me was “as Daddy would say, ‘look it up!'”

I recall my father’s study with his unabridged dictionary and huge atlas along with many encyclopedias and books surrounding him, we always had to resources to “look it up.”

As we come out of the two intense days of the New Year and move forward into the 10 days bridge until Yom Kippur, I make that my new mantra. Whenever I struggle with something, I will think of my father and how he used all his abilities to look things up, to figure things out and to grow. I will remember his motto of a time for everything, a place for everything.

Whether I’m studying, reading, learning, blogging, working or socializing, I will be mindful of doing things carefully and properly to the best of my ability at the appropriate time.

My father was a tough act to follow – but definitely someone to aspire to. All in the right time.

May his memory be blessed.

daddymatzeivah

 

 


SCHOOL DIARY #1: First Day of School Jitters (and how to deal)

computer-and-school


My grandson who is seven shared with me the other day that he is “scared” of second grade. Now mind you he’s a very bright student and a confident child…(Spoken like a true grandmother!). But still, he expressed what many of us feel each year as the summer winds down and the new year –with the first day of school and other firsts — creeps up on us.

Fear. Worry. Concern. How will things go?

All beginnings are hard, our sages tell us. As a teacher of high school, I have my own share of jitters in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. Will my students do well? Will they behave? Will I have a good lesson planned? And so on.

I shared how I’m also nervous, but not to be a student. I’m jittery about the first day of school (in a few weeks) when I will be an teacher after a 6 year hiatus from that job.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I taught music in various settings. Between 2000 and 2009, I taught high school English in a local high school. Then, in 2009, I “retired” from teaching, partly due to burnout and partly to focus more on my writing career, my grandchildren, and my music therapy career. Sounds like a lot, and it was.

And now, I was approached by the principal of a small school to take on several English and language arts classes. This teaching job of approximately eight lessons per week will be on top of my already full load of music therapy patients.

As I told my grandson, I’m nervous. Why? Several reasons, but mostly because beginnings are often difficult and it’s relatively normal to have butterflies in our stomachs when starting new things. New auditions. New rehearsals. New roles. New anything.

So what do we do when we are worried about starting something new?

We draw on our old experiences and remind ourselves what we did right. And do more of that. In my case, I took out all my materials from years ago, and sorted through it all.

Things are different these days. More material online. Communication between administration, I’ve noticed, is less on paper and more via email and text. Grades are posted online. And students have computers in the classroom.

Kids have things to worry about too. Will they make friends, will they understand the material, and will they get picked in sports? Among other things.

This is also the time before the Jewish New Year, when we pray for a happy new year and lots of good things to come. A  certain amount of concern and vigilance is in order. 
 
Maybe it’s a healthy sign for us to have some degree of anxiety at this time. That motivates us to pray, to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days.

How do you get motivated to do the preparation necessary for good beginnings? Do you have any sense of fear or anxiety when starting new things? How do you cope?


“Imagine If…” – A Children’s Book Review

By Rabbi Zeegel; Illustrated by Darrel Mordecai

By Rabbi Zeegel; Illustrated by Darrel Mordecai

Way back  when Theodore Seuss Geisel wrote a zany                 rhyming book for children, I wonder if he realized that he’d be so successful with the series that future  authors would attempt to imitate him.

I mean, imagine imitating green eggs and ham. Or a cat in a hat. Or a fox in socks.  It’s kind of ridiculous, wouldn’t you say? Still,  for  years, wannabe Dr. Seusses congregated in coffee houses, libraries and living rooms trying to mimic the flavor of the venerable Dr. Seuss. Continue reading


Another Chance

Second Chances are great; we just have to know to use them.

I didn’t make that slogan up. I read it somewhere (And I don’t remember where!), and the author expounded on that topic by explaining how after awhile the excuse or plea to pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease give us one more chance (remember as kids we begged our parents — or more correctly, “I” begged “my” parents…??)  is lame and stale. Eventually, we have to pay up, suffer the consequences, so to speak.

When I played piano for my professor back in college (or at weekly piano lessons as a younger student), I had the urge to start my piece of music a few times. Usually the refrain I would say would go something like: “Wait, let me start again…that doesn’t count..” and with a wave of my hand, I would take a deep breath, and begin the song again on the piano – from the beginning.

Until one teacher said to me, “hey, Miriam, start the piece one time, and keep going….”

Wow. What a concept. He was one tough teacher, but I did learn from that person to move forward, not backward.

So sometimes, we want to go back and correct our mistakes. Other times, we just move forward, and improve the future songs of our lives. Never mind the past. That is history.

On Rosh Hashanah, our rabbi spoke about how this holiday was two days – not one day. Even in Israel, where many of the Jewish holidays are celebrated for only one day, Rosh Hashana is still celebrated for two days. And why not? We need another chance, another gift to be able to pray better, articulate to G-d our praise and feelings, and to just do a better “job” at talking to G-d.

As our rabbi said, just in case we feel we “blew it” on the first day of the New Year, and didn’t get a really good “davening” (prayer session) in to our Hashem (G-d), we get a second chance.

Second chances work for me. I need that extra gift of time to process things, and improve. Revise, edit, and fix things up before turning them in.

And knowing that we (I) did our best is  all we can really want. When we feel secure that we did our best, we know we can move forward with confidence.


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