Thursday, October 31, 2013

What You CAN Do for the Frankls

Many people in our lives are undoubtedly having trouble focusing on just about anything other than the Frankls. Since Yarden’s post last night, people have been turning to us left and right to ask what they can do. Realizing before they ask that there is probably nothing to do, per se, they still want to reach out, to help, to do anything besides feeling helpless.

I’ve continually said to people that there is really nothing to be done. But then I started thinking about what people CAN do. Before I list things that you can do, there are just a few things not to do. Please don’t try to visit. They need this family time. Don’t make them food at this time. When they need food or anything else, we promise to keep you in the loop.

Ok - here is my list of what you CAN do in Stella’s name:

1. If you live in Neve Daniel, you can get involved in an amazing chesed project that our friend and neighbor, Dan Jacobson, is creating.  It’s called the Ahavat Hinam (roughly translated, Unconditional Love) Project. Here is how they described it when they first introduced the idea, “Interested in meeting for an hour a week with a retiree to shmooze, play a game, or learn?  Interested in helping a single parent family?  "Ahavat Hinam" will pair "big brother" with "little brother"; retiree with a younger adult or teen etc.  If you would like to visit, mentor, or help; If you would like to receive a visitor, mentor, or other help, please contact us.”  The people in charge are Dan Jacobson, Elana Kaszovitz and Sarah Fried. Stella’s life has focused so intensely on chesed, giving and gratitude. This would be a beautiful way to participate in giving back to someone in her honor.

2. Do a random act of kindness for someone. Do it one time, do it weekly, do it daily…just do it. Think of someone with whom you haven’t spoken in a long time and call them. Pay for someone’s coffee behind you at a store. Send someone flowers. Do something! Do anything that will make you feel good for helping someone else to feel good. That’s a very Stella thing to do.



3. Send me your favorite anecdote about Stella, Yarden, the kids, Bailey…whatever. I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite moments, and have reminisced and shared with the Frankls a lot. It will direct your energy to write something down, and it will offer a lovely moment of laughter and memory for the family. I’m going to compile these and share them at some point. Email them to me with the subject line ‘Stella Stories’ at:  home@thesussmanfamily.com         

So, here’s one of my favorite moments…and we’ll take it from there.



Last year, right before Pesach, I had the flu. And I was really, really sick for a few days. When I started to come out of the fog, I spoke to Stella, who was  in the middle of another round of chemo, I believe.

“Stay away from me, Stella,” I warned. “Don’t come over here. I’ll see you in a few days.”

“I’m coming to see you. I promise I’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” she insisted.

And we went round and round with this dialogue until I finally said, “I’m barring the door if you come here!” and I hung up.

But knowing Stella, I knew that she wouldn’t stay away from the chance to do bikur cholim (the mitzvah of visiting the sick).

And so, while I was lying there on a beanbag the next day, Stella appeared…wearing a mask. And I had to laugh.

My crazy best friend. She had insisted on coming to see me, but had made the compromise with Yarden, Josh and me that she would stay away from my germs; and so she came to visit in a hospital mask.

And there we sat, with my sick friend coming to “visit the sick.”

And if that ain’t a Stella story, then I don’t know what is.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

מה שאתם יכולים לעשות למען משפחת פרנקל

מה שאתם יכולים לעשות למען משפחת פרנקל
אנשים רבים בסביבתנו מתקשים להסיר ממחשבותיהם את המצב של משפחת פרנקל. מאז שירדן פרסם אמש את ההודעה שלו, אנשים רבים פונים אלינו ושואלים כיצד הם יכולים לעזור. זאת, למרות שהם מבינים לבדם שאין כל כך מה לעשות, אבל הם שואלים כי הם בכל זאת רוצים להושיט יד תומכת, לעזור, לעשות משהו כדי שלא ירגישו כל כך חסרי אונים.
כבר יצא לי לומר להמון אנשים שאין באמת מה לעשות. אבל אז התחלתי לחשוב מה בכל זאת אנשים כן יכולים לעשות. לפני שאפרט אותם, אפרט את הדברים שלא עושים. נא לא לנסות לבקר. הם זקוקים לזמן הזה למשפחתם בלבד. אל תכינו עבורם אוכל בשלב זה. כאשר הם יהיו זקוקים לאוכל או כל דבר אחר, אנחנו מבטיחים שניצור איתכם קשר.
אז הנה הרשימה שלי של הדברים שאתם כן יכולים לעשות בשמה של סטלה :
1 . אם אתם גרים בנווה דניאל, אתם יכולים להיות מעורבים בפרויקט חסד מדהים שידידנו ושכננו דן יעקובסון ייסד. הפרויקט נקרא “אהבת חינם” וכך תיארו אותו כשהציגו אותו לראשונה: "מעוניינים להיפגש לשעה בשבוע עם גמלאי כדי לפטפט, לשחק משחק, או ללמוד יחד? מעוניינים לעזור למשפחה חד-הורית? "אהבה חינם" ישדך בין "אח בוגר" ל"אחיו הקטן", בין גמלאים למבוגרים, לצעירים או לנערים; אם אתם רוצים לבקר חולה, לעזור בשיעורי בית או לעזור בכלל; אם ברצונכם שיבואו לבקר אתכם, או יסייעו לכם בשיעורי הבית, או יעזרו לכם באופן כללי - אנא פנו אלינו." האחראים על הפרויקט הם דן יעקובסון, אילנה קסוביץ’ ושרה פריד. החיים של סטלה כל כך הוקדשו לעשיית חסד, נתינה והכרת תודה - שזו תהיה דרך נפלאה להמשיך בשמה את מעשי החסד ולתת לאחרים לכבודה.
2 . לעשות מעשה חסד אקראי למען מישהו. עשו זאת פעם אחת, עשו זאת פעם בשבוע, או עשו זאת באופן יומיומי... העיקר שתעשו זאת. תחשבו על מישהו שאיתו לא דברתם כבר זמן רב ותתקשרו אליו. שלמו עבור הקפה של מישהו שעומד אחריכם בתור. שלחו למישהו פרחים. העיקר שתעשו משהו! עשו דברים שיגרמו לכם להרגיש טוב שעזרתם למישהו אחר להרגיש טוב. כי זה דבר שמאוד מתאים ומאפיין את דרכה של סטלה.
3 . שלחו לי את הסיפור האהוב עליכם אודות סטלה, ירדן, הילדים, ביילי ... לא משנה מה. אני חשבי הרבה לאחרונה על הרגעים האהובים עלי, ושיתפתי עם משפחת פרנקל המון מזיכרונותיי אלה. הכתיבה תתעל את האנרגיות שלכם והיא תספק למשפחה רגע מקסים של צחוק וזיכרון. אני מתכוונת לאסוף את כל הסיפורים ולשתף אותם עם כולם בשלב מסוים בהמשך. אנא שילחו לי אותם במייל עם הכותרת "סיפורי סטלה” בשורת הנושא, לכתובת: home@thesussmanfamily.com


אז, הנה – אני אתחיל עם אחד הרגעים האהובים עליי... ואתם תמשיכו משם:
בשנה שעברה, ממש לפני חג הפסח, חליתי בשפעת. הייתי ממש ממש חולה במשך כמה ימים. כשהתחלתי לצאת מהערפל דיברתי עם סטלה, שהיתה אז כמדומני באמצע סבב נוסף של טיפולים כימותרפיים.
"תתרחקי ממני, סטלה" הזהרתי אותה. "אל תבואי לכאן. אני אראה אותך בעוד כמה ימים".
"אני באה לראות אותך. אני מבטיחה שיהיה בסדר. אל תדאגי." היא התעקשה.
והלכנו סחור סחור עם הדיאלוג הזה עד שלבסוף אמרתי: "אני חוסמת את הדלת אם את באה לכאן!" וסגרתי את הטלפון.
אבל מהיכרותי את סטלה, ידעתי שהיא לא תוותר על ההזדמנות לעשות ביקור חולים.
וכך, בזמן שאני שרועה שם על פוף למחרת, סטלה הופיעה... עם מסכה על פיה ופשוט הייתי חייבת לצחוק.
חברתי הטובה ביותר המטורפת. היא התעקשה לבוא לראות אותי, וכדי לעמוד בדרישה של ירדן, של ג'וש ושלי שתרחיק את עצמה מהחיידקים שלי - היא באה לבקר עם מסיכה של בית חולים.
ושם ישבנו, אני וחברתי החולה שהגיעה לעשות ביקור חולים.
ואם זה לא “סיפור סטלה” קלאסי, אז אני לא יודעת מה כן.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lessons Learned at Kindergarten Pick-Up

The other day, I was standing outside of my child’s school waiting for pick up. As usual, I started a conversation with one of the other mothers. We were discussing how amazing a friend of ours was and about the many acts of chesed (kindness and giving) she was always doing.

“Why can’t we all be like that?” she asked.

Now, normally, I would have agreed. I would have shaken my head in shame that we can’t all be superwomen, and have sighed. But for some reason I was in a different place on this day.

“Because Hashem gave each of us different talents,” I replied. “We’re not all supposed to be amazing at the same things. I’m sure you’re terrific at some things.”

She paused for a second, and then seemed to unpack her anxiety at my feet.

“Wow,” she said. “That’s true. I guess he made me an amazing baker.”

“Well,” I said, “That’s definitely not one of the talents he gave to me. If we all had to rely on my baked goods, we’d be mighty skinny.”

And we had a great laugh. And then they opened the doors for us to retrieve our kids.

The conversation lasted for all of 5 minutes, but I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. I live among absolute superwomen. Everyone has children to look after - some with more than a few. Everyone runs a house with no assistance beyond perhaps a once-a-week cleaner. We don’t have nannies, we cook for small armies each week, we send our kids to school in relatively clean clothes and many of us work outside the home.

Many of us feel like this on any given day


And yet, we all seem to have the propensity to compare ourselves to others. How many times have I heard these sentences said by women to other women?

“Your house is so clean. How in the world do you do it. Mine is such a mess.”

“You’re the best cook. My food isn’t that tasty.”

“You’re always helping others. I barely have time for my own family. How do you do it?”

We all have a lot on our plates and it’s great to learn from others. But what we tend to do, instead, is to compare ourselves to others. And if we’re only seeing part of the picture, and only comparing one character trait of ours to that of someone else, we will often fall short.

Here is how we assume everyone else's house looks

While one friend may be a superwoman at certain activities, I’m a superwoman at time management, fast dinner preparation and homework help. And if I compare my talents to hers, I’ll always fall short and I’ll always feel inferior. But who said that I have to be perfect at the things that she does well? The areas in which I am strong are important too, and help my family to keep running. And the areas where I’m weak? Well, we can’t be great at everything, and we can always learn with baby steps.

Hashem gave each of us different talents. I greatly admire the talents that my friends have – but I don’t have to try to mimic or surpass their talents. I’ve got some of my own; they are different ones than they have, but no less important.

The pressure is off ladies. You’re each amazing and talented. Let’s keep that in mind as we admire our friends and recognize how awesome each of us is in her OWN way.

Lessons to be learned at the kindergarten pick-up.

Now let’s hope I can keep my own words in mind next time I look at a friend and wish I were more like her.

Each Supermom to the rescue with HER talents!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

From Kibbutz Gezer to Neve Daniel

Look how young and cute we were! 20 years ago...

20 years ago today Josh and I started dating, while participating in a one year post-college social service program in Israel called Otzma. We actually first started dating at Kibbutz Gezer, and last night Josh very romantically swept me off my feet and brought me back to the Kibbutz. With a sushi picnic-basket in hand, a blanket, pomegranate wine and a dozen red roses, we revisited our first date in a beautifully orchestrated evening.



Who would have thought, sitting under the stars at Kibbutz Gezer in the middle of Israel 20 years ago that we would live here now, raising six Israeli children and reveling in a community life such as ours. It’s certainly been a week of reflection and gratitude.

On Sunday, the night before our return to Kibbutz Gezer, we celebrated the bar mitzvah of our son’s closest friend, Maimon. But Maimon is not just Matan's close friend. 

When we met on Otzma, one of the people leading the program and coordinating all of the logistics for the group was Eric Esses. He was a sweet, kind person, only a few years older than we were, and we enjoyed our time during the year getting to know him. We were also on the program with Ellen Babil, who will also come into the story later.

And then we went home and carried on with our lives.

A few years later, after we got married, Josh went to Ukraine and Israel for a three week seminar with his graduate school program. During the trip, he met a woman named Isha who was coordinating pieces of the program that he was on. They enjoyed hanging out together and became fast friends. As his trip ended, I met him in Israel. And while we were here, Josh and I went out to dinner with Isha. What we didn’t know was that Eric was coming along as well…to say hi to us and to have his first date with Isha!

It was a great evening, and we were sure that Isha and Eric would continue seeing each other. We returned to the States and to our lives, and we awaited their engagement announcement and then enjoyed hearing about the birth of their first baby, Maimon, soon after the birth of ours, Matan. Similarly, we became fast friends with Ellen and her boyfriend, Amos, who both went grad school with Josh. They would soon marry and we would stay in touch with them through the years as well.

And life went on for many years.

Fast forward to our Aliyah. Soon after returning to Israel, we got back in touch with Eric and Isha. We were acquaintances for a while, and then Josh actually took one of his first jobs in Israel working for Eric. Eventually, when Eric and Isha started looking for a larger house outside of Jerusalem, we helped them to find their home on our street. And we encouraged Ellen and Amos to make Israel their home, helping them to settle in Neve Daniel a few years after we did.

And on Sunday night, 20 years later, we all celebrated Maimon's bar mitzvah together. 

Matan and Maimon dancing the night away

Little did we know 20 years ago when we met Eric or 17 years ago when we accompanied Eric and Isha on their first date that our oldest sons would be best friends and that we would be building our lives intertwined in Neve Daniel.
Eric and Josh 20 years later

It was such a joy to dance, sing and enjoy with the family, and to marvel at where we all were 20 years ago, and how far we have all come together. Had you told me at 22 that I would be dancing with Isha and Ellen in Neve Daniel 20 years later at a son’s bar mitzvah, surrounded by our 15 collective children and our religiously committed lives, I would have had a great laugh.

The ladies: Ellen, Isha and me

But really, Hashem always gets the last laugh, doesn’t he?

And allowing Him to take us by the hand and having the faith to follow where He leads has truly been the biggest gift in our lives.

From Kibbutz Gezer to Boston, Potomac, and eventually Neve Daniel, it's been quite a ride for these 20 years. Here's to another 20, 40 and 60 years of health, happiness and friendships such as these with Hashem's guiding hand.