There are people in your life that make indelible imprints on you. There are those that come and go. And, there are those special people in your life that you lose touch with...and fate/B'sheret brings them back into your life. This post is about one of these people. I vividly remember when I met Angela Gold.
I attended many conventions in high school and college. These were usually for "future Jewish educators." Of course, many of us expected we would be rabbis, cantors or "Professional Jews." These conventions were really just an excuse to renew friendships or make new ones. Yes, there were educational and religious aspects of these conventions. However, it was about the relationships made - with other participants AND with the educators.
There were a group of us - maybe 5 or 6 - that always "hung out." We just naturally were drawn to each other. Perhaps we had similar senses of humor...who knows? What mattered to us was that we had a connection - a bond. One of those people - Jason Schnee - introduced me to my wife (we met at his wedding). Until I reconnected with Angela in 2011, at the URJ Biennial, Jason was the only person from that special group of friends that I stayed in contact with.
At the Biennial in Washington, DC, I saw Angela from across the hotel lobby. It was as if no time had passed. At least 10 years had passed since we saw each other last...however, our friendship was rekindled and it was as strong as it ever was. One late night at the Biennial, Angela told me some very private news - she had a brain tumor, an operation and was in recovery. I didn't believe her at first - she was so young...
Since that night in 2011, I have made sure to include Angela as a part of my family - she and my wife became friends. At the Biennial in Orlando, when Danika turned 1, we included Angela in our family celebration. She is family...she always will be. Angela has a smile that stretches from one end of the room to the other - it is completely contagious and her laugh is just as wonderful. Since 2011, Angela and I have seen each other 3 times...and each time I have been reminded of how special she is and why I am so blessed to be one of her friends.
When she first spoke with me regarding her illness/recovery, she made it very clear that her name was NOT to be added to my congregation's Mi Shebeirach list. She did not want her brain tumor and subsequent surgeries/recoveries to a) define who she is or b) dominate her conversations or relationships. I could tell that if I even mentioned it to her, she was not pleased. She wanted to talk about what was going on in our lives (positive) and the future. She has always been someone who looks forward rather than back...
As a rabbi, I find it a blessing to be with people in their most vulnerable of times - often when a family member is sick or at the end of his/her life. This is painful for the family, their communities and yes, even for me. However, when it is someone that I have known for many years of my life, it hurts much more. I find some comfort in writing and sharing my feelings with others. Just a few weeks ago, I saw an update on Angela's CaringBridge page that shook me.
Angela has always been one of the strongest people I know. To read that she is no longer able to accomplish daily tasks shook me to the core. The pain Angela is feeling right now is unfair and I would not wish it on anyone. Her family and friends have tried to rally to help her mom and make life as easy and happy as possible. The pain...it is overwhelming to think about.
To learn about Angela - to see the impact she has had and still continues to have on people, check out her CaringBridge page: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/angelagold
If you would like to help offset her medical expenses, please visit her GoFundMe page:
Sending prayers of healing and strength to Angela, her Mom Elaine and to all of us who are blessed to have Angela in our lives.
I am NOT happy to be here. I am not happy that we are gathered this evening. I am angry that we must be here, tonight, together.
I am terrified for the future of our world on its current path. I am worried that our children will not be able to experience the love that was once present.
Yes – all of these feelings are with me tonight. And, yet, I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to show my support for my Muslim brothers and sisters – and all of those gathered here this evening. I am thrilled to see so much support from this community, just as this community showed the same support just a few months ago to the Jewish community. I feel the love present here…and I pray that this love is felt by members of the Muslim community today and every day going forward.
I recognize and understand…and feel the anger that others, especially those of the Muslim community, must be feeling. I want to sit down, hold their hands and cry with them. I want to be able to tell them that everything will be ok. This was not supposed to happen…ever. And, yet, this was not the first time, and unfortunately, I do not believe it will be the last time…at least not if we do not figure out a way to love each other, even in our disagreements and misunderstandings.
Let this be my pledge. I will work with my Muslim brothers and sisters and anyone else who believes that love can and will overcome hate. Until my dying day, until I take my last breath – I will work towards recognizing the most important words of the Hebrew Bible – V’ahavtah Lereiacha Kamocha. Until everyone person in the world truly learns to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I will not give up fighting for what is right – for all of us to live in a world of peace and understanding.
I will end my words this evening with a prayer I wrote for today:
“Praying for All of God’s Children”
We have many names for You, God. Yet, our hearts yearn for the same.
We pray for many reasons, God. Yet, our minds desire for the same.
We call You Beloved, Shechinah, Ar Rahman, God, Adonai, Allah. Yet, our words wish for the same.
We reach out for You in all times for a variety of reasons. Yet today, our souls ache for the same.
We turn to You, today, God, to ask for healing for all of those injured in Christchurch, New Zealand.
We beckon to You, today, God, to ask for Your mercy upon those who have entered eternity.
We plea to You, today, God, to ask for Your strength in our attempts at understanding.
We beg of You, today, God to help us end the terror, the killing, the destruction, the pain.
Together – all of us – Jew, Christian, Muslim…Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh…Pagan, Agnostic, Atheist…
Together, we pray, we hope, we dream, we demand, we need love to overcome hate.
Together, we will work so that our children will live in a world of understanding and love.
Together, we will ensure that every human has the right to pray as they are…in safety and peace.
Bieawn Allah, (beahown ileh)
With God’s Help
Open your eyes and look for their smiles;
Close your eyes and listen for their laughter;
Reach out your hand and hold a child’s hand;
Remember the smell of a newborn’s head.
When our children cry, we must be their light;
When our children hurt, we must heal their pain;
When our children want, we must provide;
When our children fear, we must protect them.
It is easy to dwell on what is negative or what is bad;
It is harder to stand up and make a difference.
It is easy to forget from where we came;
It is harder to remember the past as we look to the future.
Today – we make a stand to live for our children.
Today – we make sure to listen to our children.
Today – we make the future brighter.
Tomorrow – we learn from today.
Eloheinu v’lohei Avoteinu v’Imoteinu, Give us the strength to go forward. Help us to do what is right and what is best for our children, our future.
I have learned; I have studied
The Holocaust, the Shoah; the destruction of millions of stories
I have reflected; I have imagined
The souls of those who were lost; where we would be today with them
The music began; the violins began to tell their stories
The history was awakened; we were transported back in time
The musicians and the instruments were as one; their stories became intertwined
I sat in my seat mesmerized; everything around me faded from view
Each violin cried; each violin sang; each violin smiled; each violin spoke
Jewish communities of old; Jewish communities of today
Every person sitting in the theater was reminded; our present became our past
We became a lost soul; their souls became alive in our thoughts as we remembered
Communities come together to learn; communities come together to remember
Atrocities; Genocide; Mass Killings; Holocaust
We closed our eyes and cried; We opened our eyes and wept
The future is now; the past is now; the present is now
These violins teach us not just their history, but our history.
We must learn so we do not repeat the same mistakes.
Hate begets hate begets hate begets hate begets hate...
Love is the only answer - the only solution - the remedy so these memories are not repeated.
Blessed are You, God, the One who teaches, encourages and stands by us as we learn together.