Lucky me that we had that ice storm back in March! Otherwise it would have been a real challenge to catch up with any one of my very active interviewees before my article deadline. Most likely, they wouldn’t have been home; not because they work – since some of them are retired – but because their days are now, perhaps, fuller than ever. What are all those baby boomers and traditionalists so busy with? Here is a sampling of just some of our friends and neighbors and what they are up to.
How many of us take the time out of our busy lives to recognize those who help us? They may be home health companions, waiters and waitresses, grocery baggers, shopkeepers, and even neighbors. All of them give us a helping hand. Here is just a small sampling of the many wonderful people who go above and beyond duty in aiding members of our community with a warm smile and a full heart.
Bags Are his Business
If you’ve shopped at Seven Mile Market, you know Lamont. Like the proverbial postman, Lamont has been loading customers’ vehicles with the familiar blue bags 40 hours a week in rain or snow, sleet or heat. Yossi Lax, a fellow employee, remarks, “People really love Lamont because he knows what everyone needs and even remembers where they parked their car. On erev Shabbos or Yom Tov, he knows exactly what to say: “Have a good Shabbos!’ or ‘Have a good Yom Tov!’ I would call him ‘Lamentsch’ because he is a mentsch. I don’t remember a Friday that he didn’t buy flowers to bring home to his wife.”
Shortly after I turned my computer on to begin this article on how people choose their shul, a headline leaped out at me: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Pick $5.5M Home – and Chabad Synagogue – in Washington.” Is it true? Was their purchase of the magnificent six-bedroom home due to its location, a mere seven-minute walk from TheSHUL, led by Rabbi Levi Shemtov? While “SHIPPA (Shul HIPPA) laws” preclude confirmation of the reason for their buying decision, I concur with the article’s author’s opinion that it was indeed due to the shul. (That the house happens to be only a couple blocks away from the Obamas’ new home appears not to have been a factor!)
When Bais Yaakov Middle School teacher Mrs. Rochelle Goldberg’s only daughter Shoshana was applying to seminary, she concluded that she preferred to stay home and attend Maalot Baltimore, rather than join the vast majority of her class, who only considered going to seminary in Israel. That was back in the day when Maalot offered a first-year seminary experience. The ever-increasing popularity of Israeli seminaries resulted in closing that program. Maalot now offers only a second-year seminary program.
“People exerted a lot of pressure on us, and we finally caved,” recalls Mrs. Goldberg. “My daughter is happily married with children, b”H, but even now, I wonder if she had to go. She was unhappy much of the year.”
The first thing that struck me as I pulled into the Bnos Yisroel parking lot to attend the shloshim for Lonnie Borck, a”h, were Hatzalah’s four ambulances lined up outside the school’s entrance. It was just as touching to see Lonnie’s Hatzalah colleagues lined up against the rear wall of the auditorium in tribute throughout the almost two-hour-long gathering. Hespedim were not allowed at Lonnie’s levaya, since his petira was on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Succos. The shloshim therefore provided the opportunity to share stories of Lonnie’s extraordinary middos and his care and concern for others.
Alan Borck, Lonnie’s brother, noted that after moving here to attend the Talmudical Academy in tenth grade, Lonnie fell in love with the Baltimore, and Baltimore fell in love with him. It is customary to learn Mishna in the niftar’s memory, because the word mishna is comprised of the same letters as the word neshama and because it helps give an ilui (elevation) to the neshama. “It was particularly appropriate to learn Mishna in Lonnie’s memory,” said his brother, “because he looked at every neshama in a special way. He went out of his way for people who were completely different than he was or not on the derech at all. We need to learn from his example.”
The first time I heard of the word “hospice” was in 1980, just six years after Connecticut Hospice, the first hospice in the U.S., opened in Branford, Connecticut. It was there that my mother, a”h, spent the last days of her life when it became too difficult for my father to care for her.
In August I sat in on a training program for volunteers at Gilchrist Hospice Care, Maryland’s largest hospice organization. It gave me a fascinating glimpse into both the world of hospice care and Gilchrist’s new Jewish outreach initiative. Mrs. Chaya Lasson, recently hired as Jewish Hospice Program Manager, arranged the training, and approached Jewish Caring Network and Bikur Cholim of Baltimore to cosponsor it.
“We thought we’d have 15 or 20 participants at the volunteer training event,” says Mrs. Lasson. “In fact, we had 65 and had to close our registration!” She is grateful for the partnership with Bikur Cholim and the JCN and hopes this will be the beginning of many more such collaborations. “Volunteers are vital and essential for the peace of mind of patients’ family members. We hope that this initial training program will encourage the participants to join the Gilchrist volunteer team.”