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Safta’s Diaries: The Real Thing

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When she attended her granddaughter Shera’s graduation from Barnard and met Rabbi and Mrs. Teitz, who were there for their daughter Abbie’s graduation, she must have mentioned she was a student. Rabbi Teitz sent her a copy of the tractate printed especially for Daf Hashavua with numbered lines so that listeners could easily find the place.

She relished parts of homemaking – painting a porch, sewing and hanging curtains, baking and cooking for the Sabbath and holidays – and didn’t care for other parts. But she did not want to hire a maid, because she considered that a waste of money.

The Applemans used their money to advance Torah learning and Jewish life. Their joy was to build schools in Israel, to provide interest-free loans there, to give in every way to Israel. Their first thought when they sold a tract of land for six million dollars was the tzedakah they would give. They consistently helped members of both of their families.

She laughed when a neighbor told her she should buy new towels. This happened in the days when laundry was hung out to dry on clotheslines in backyards. She recorded that her towels may have been old, but at least they didn’t carry the name of the Hotel Sterling, a first-class kosher hotel in Miami Beach.

Two sources of delight shine through all the details: her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; and her club of women who spoke Hebrew. The women met on Shabbat afternoons to hear serious lectures in Hebrew and to enjoy the hospitality of the hostess for that month. The other members must have shared her enthusiasm because reports of the meetings always end with the women lingering for conversation.

I am impressed that the family granted permission to publish these diaries. Mrs. Appleman tells everything – quarrels and worries, as well as admirable traits in each of her children. Her second daughter, for example, studies a chapter of the Bible each day and often gives her mother a few hundred dollars to distribute for tzedakah; when this daughter speaks on behalf of Israel, people are inspired.

We all owe her and her siblings, and Shera and her siblings, who researched all the references, thanks for this genuine account of over thirty years of Torah-Zionist life. Some books are written to establish a person’s place in history. This book is itself history.

Dr. Rivkah Blau teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She is the author of “Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah: Rav Mordechai Pinchas Teitz, the Quintessential Rabbi.”

About the Author: Dr. Rivkah Blau is the author of “Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah,” a biography of Rav Mordechai Pinchas Teitz; the Hebrew translation is entitled “V’Samachta B’Chayekha."

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