Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Welcome Yakir Yaakov: In Memory of Papa Jerry

The Brit of Yakir Yaakov ben Yehoshua Raion v'Reuma Michal Sussman

As many of you know, and have been reminding me for four years now, at Eliav’s brit in 2006 Josh closed by inviting you to the britot that we would be having in 2008 and 2010. While I hate to admit that the man seems to have navua – the facts are certainly on the ground…And so today I welcome you with incredible gratitude to Hashem to the Sussman brit of 2010.

As you probably know, we struggled a bit to decide on a name for this little guy. I had heard the name Yakir a while ago and put it in the back of my mind as a possibility. No matter what else we considered (suggestions from friends, the Facebook challenge or ideas from our kids) I kept coming back to Yakir...my dear or beloved one. While many will see him as 'the sixth son' or 'one of six' or 'WOW...SIX BOYS?!?!?', I view him as one of a kind original and a miracle from Hashem, just like every one of his five big brothers. In giving him this name, Yakir, it is our hope that he will always know how special and unique he is to us.

When we went to the sonogram where we found out the sex of the baby, I have to admit that I was a bit shocked. Could it really be possible that I was producing yet another boy? (One of Josh's former interns has since pointed out that the likelihood of having a family composition like ours is 1.5%!!) As we walked out of the appointment, with me in shock, Josh said, “Well, of course it’s a boy Romi. It has to be – this baby is, after all, Papa Jerry’s neshama.”

And indeed it is. My grandfather, Jerry Weinhouse, whose Hebrew name was Yaakov Yosef ben Birtie, died about 2 weeks before we found out that we were pregnant. I was raised around the block from my nana and papa and grew up in their home, and in their warm embrace, as much as I did in my own.

In so many ways, I feel an incredible sense of coming full circle with this brit and with the naming of our son, Yakir Yaakov and I’d like to share these thoughts with you.

10 years ago, Papa Jerry flew to Washington, D.C. to be able to hold his first great-grandchild during his brit. We were all a bit worried at Matan’s brit that Papa would drop the baby, as he stood there crying and rocking Matan in his arms, but Papa couldn’t have had a prouder moment in his life. Today, I feel like we are holding Papa in our arms as we name our sixth son in his memory.

My papa earned two purple hearts during World War II as part of the American army. He was shot in the leg and bombed out of a tank…and certainly could never in his wildest dreams have imagined the creation of the State of Israel – let alone have imagined that one of his grandchildren would someday call this place our home. Today, as we come full circle, I feel a sense of astonishment and pride, considering that Papa’s 11th great grandchild, being named in his honor – will someday serve our country, but as part of a Jewish army, and in OUR Jewish nation.

As the birth grew closer, and I started to look ahead to see which Parsha the baby would probably be born during, I was, once again, stunned. The baby was scheduled to be born, according to his due date, during Parsha Toldot – when we first meet Yaakov in the Torah. And, of course, he was born right after this Parsha, and during Parsha Vayeitzei, when we first meet Yosef. Could Hashem be speaking more clearly to me? At the beginning of parsha Vayeitzei, Yaakov sees Hashem in a dream. Hashem explains to Yaakov that the ground upon which Yaakov lies will be given to Yaakov and to his descendents and that his offspring will spread out in all directions. He promises to guard Yaakov wherever he goes and that he won't forsake him. Here we are, thousands of years later, on the very ground that Hashem promised to the Jewish people - creating the descendents that he promised to give to Yaakov- and the descendents of my own Yaakov, my grandfather.

Finally, a last example of coming full circle. When Papa died, Josh took it upon himself to commit to saying Kaddish for him for the entire year. It has not been an easy commitment. While traveling for work, juggling family life each night, and dealing with a complaining wife who was often heard saying, “It’s time for minyan again? Already?” he has said Kaddish with compassion and grace all year for my grandfather. I want to publicly thank Josh for taking on this commitment for me and for Papa. As Josh finishes saying Kaddish in the next 10 days, I have, yet again, a profound sense of coming full circle. While moving away from the ritual of saying Kaddish, we will continue remembering my grandfather now, through the very existence of our son Yakir. Thank you Josh for the incredible commitment that you’ve shown to me and for keeping Papa’s memory alive all year.

And so, today, we welcome Yakir Yaakov ben Yehoshua Raion into our family, our incredible community here in Neve Daniel, and our greater community as part of Am Israel. My Papa was fiercely loyal to family and madly in love with his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was a man of dreams, picking up his family from Chicago for a better life in Los Angeles and a man who adapted remarkably well to change, remarrying in his 70s when my grandmother suddenly died, and then finding love in his late 80s again in his senior home. Our bracha for our son is that he follow in his namesake’s footsteps, as a courageous, loving, devoted and adaptable part of Am Israel and Eretz Israel.

Thank you all for being with us today. We feel overwhelmingly blessed in our professional lives, in our family life, in our community life and in our life here in Israel and we appreciate the part that each and every one of you plays in our lives today. Mazal Tov!

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