Her childhood was spent in trailer parks throughout the country and was completely devoid of any religious observance, but decades later Sara Teitler said she always knew Hashem was watching over her and keeping her out of harm’s way.
The oldest of two girls in a family that rarely stayed in one place for any length of time, young Sara shared a close bond with her mother, while her father was both brilliant and controlling. Mrs. Teitler admits that she had a difficult childhood, never being able to put down roots or to forge long lasting friendships because the family relocated with alarming frequency.
Being raised in a Jewish home without any religious practice was not uncommon in those days, noted Mrs. Teitler.
“My father, may he rest in peace, went to cheder when he was little but in those days many Jews just wanted to assimilate and be like everyone else,” she said.
Despite not having any religious identity, Mrs. Teitler recalls that she and her younger sister were both beaten up at the trailer parks where they lived for being Jewish.
“I never had a Passover Seder in my life,” recalled Mrs. Teitler. “My mother wanted a religious life but it was so hard because we traveled from place to place. I know she was embarrassed because we lived in a trailer park and Jewish people just don’t live in trailer parks. G-d bless my parents; they did the best they could.”
Over time Mrs. Teitler’s father parlayed his stock market savviness into significant financial holdings, putting an end to the family’s wanderings. They settled down in New Rochelle in a beautifully spacious home, where they had two maids and lived next door to renowned operatic tenor Jan Peerce.
“We went from poverty to riches, from one extreme to another,” noted Mrs. Teitler.
Yet even their improved financial situation couldn’t save her parents’ marriage and they divorced, although they maintained a close relationship. Mrs. Teitler’s life was rocked yet again when her sister Devorah died at age 22 from complications of diabetes.
Feeling the same providential hand that she had felt guiding her throughout her childhood, one of the first things Mrs. Teitler did after getting married was join the local synagogue.
“I craved an identity and I knew I wanted a place to worship,” said Mrs. Teitler. “It happened to be a Reform synagogue and that was how I raised my children. I was doing so much from a religious perspective. At the time, I really didn’t know what Judaism was all about.”
It was years later, when her oldest daughter Linden was working as a copywriter in New York City, that Mrs. Teitler discovered yet another facet of Judaism.
“She got tired of all the parties and the cocktails at her job and she called me for advice,” said Mrs. Teitler. “I told her to go to the synagogue. So she went to the nearest one, Lincoln Square Synagogue, and that was where she met her husband. Today they live in Jerusalem and are totally Orthodox.”
Once her oldest daughter began practicing Orthodox Judaism, the rest of the family became more familiar with a greater level of religious observance, so it wasn’t as much of an adjustment when her second daughter Dana also found herself embracing Orthodoxy, after meeting her husband Barry through a chance encounter that, ironically, was orchestrated by Mrs. Teitler.
“It was July 4th and Dana had been going through a hard time, so I took her to Central Park and a nice looking guy rides by on his bicycle,” recalled Mrs. Teitler. “I thought he was kind of cute so I stopped him and said hello. I introduced him to Dana and that was how she and Barry met.”
Today Mrs. Teitler has ten grandchildren and great-grandchildren. While she is equally proud of all of her family members, eight of her grandchildren are being raised in Orthodox homes in Jerusalem and Monsey.
“I think that is quite a story coming from someone who never once celebrated a Jewish holiday growing up,” mused Mrs. Teitler.
Looking back at the journey of her life, Mrs. Teitler, a professional writer, felt compelled to share her life experiences with the world, in a coming-of-age story that is loosely based on her life. She published Trailer Park Girl in January 2017 in the hopes of inspiring young adults, particularly those whose lives haven’t always been rosy. The book is available on Amazon and she hopes that its message will spread far and wide.
“So many kids are bullied and pushed around in school and I wanted them to understand that everyone has something special inside of them,” said Mrs. Teitler.
Because it was the knowledge that she was somehow safeguarded by a higher power that sustained her during her darkest times, Mrs. Teitler also wanted to spread the message that Hashem was with her from her earliest days and continues to shelter her from harm even now, decades later.
“Spiritually, I feel very close to Hashem,” said Mrs. Teitler. “I have always felt that Hashem was guiding me, before I even understood anything about religion. It was always so comforting to me to know all through my life that I was being protected and that someone was watching over me.”