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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Niagara Falls’

Remembering Shimie – The ‘Pied Piper’ Of Flatbush

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

I have never used my column to eulogize friends who have passed away, as their loss affected me and an inner circle of people who knew them – but not necessarily the community at large. But that is not the case for Shimie Silver, a”h, for without exaggerating, his circle of friends numbered in the thousands and transcended borders.

Without a doubt, expatriates from New York who now live in communities both near and far-flung, in the US, Canada, Israel, the Orient, and everywhere in between, reeled at the news that the brilliant light that was Shimie Silver had gone out. Though they might not have seen him for years, even decades, so strong was the impact he had on people that their world dimmed somewhat with the news of his petirah.

Shimie single-handedly enhanced the lives of hundreds, even thousands of men, women and children who came from every walk of life; individuals who represent the melting pot that is Brooklyn -Jewish and gentile, religious and secular, rich and poor, “cool” and not so cool.

No one was invisible to Shimie. Shimie personified ahavas Yisrael and showed exemplary respect for all of Hashem’s creations. We are taught that all human beings are made b’ tzelem Elohkim – in G-d’s image. Shimie took that lesson to heart, treating everyone – no matter who they were – or weren’t – with consideration and thoughtfulness, never forgetting that they were Hashem’s handiwork. He understood that looking down on someone because they were different or “outsiders” – not Jewish, not frum, not educated, socially awkward, poor etc. was disrespecting their Creator.

Shimie had unconditional love and respect for everyone, even for those who were problematic and would have deserved a cold shoulder. I once witnessed how he handled the anger-inducing comments of a close-minded individual whose disparaging remarks on a certain subject were based on ignorance fueled by religious fanaticism. I could tell Shimie was deeply perturbed, even furious by what he heard, but he eloquently, and in a calm, respectful tone pointed out the flaws in the other person’s reasoning. Shimie maintained his dignity and that of the other person and did not allow their opposing points of view to turn into a heated shouting match.

(I am convinced that if Shimie becomes aware of a Heavenly gezarah against Am Yisrael, he will, in his typical charming and persuasive manner, engage Hashem in a deferential but passionate debate to get Him to cancel it.)

But Shimie went beyond just being respectful to people. He brought simcha into their lives. There is a Judaic concept called “choteh v’machti” – a sinner who leads others to sin. For the sinner, it is not enough that he sins; he wants others to follow his ways. L’havdil, Shimie was a “smiler” – but it wasn’t enough for him to smile. He led others to smile and to be b’simcha. Shimie had a joy for life that he shared with everyone who crossed his path. It is said, misery likes company; in Shimie’s case, his joyfulness loved company, and even the most morose person was pulled into his vortex of happiness. In that sense, Shimie was the “pied piper” of Flatbush. He had this almost magical ability to pull people out of the crevices of their sadness and follow him in his celebration of life. To that end he would do his best to alleviate whatever it was that “ailed ” them – whether it was something as simple as lending a sympathetic ear; approaching a “wallflower” and showering her with compliments; networking for those who were financially down and out and helping them get a job. He internalized what Torah is all about – treating others how you would want to be treated – and having fun in the process. No matter what. Despite the many “curveballs” life threw his way- and some were “real doozies “- Shimie would not let them pull him down. He was that rare person who had a true hakaras hatov and hence was sameach bechelko.

Yet he didn’t see himself as being a big deal. During a long ago conversation, we talked about his days at Brooklyn College. He told me that at some point he decided to find out who was very popular on campus. To his utter shock, he found out that HE was.

Despite his very handsome looks, his impressive musical talents (playing his guitar and bongos at a very late night impromptu kumsitz in Niagara Falls many years ago almost got him arrested), his graceful, head-turning moves on the dance floor, his keen wit and his sharp intellect that produced insightful, enlightening, yet entertaining d’vreiTorah, Shimie had no idea how “cool” he was.

He was an anuv in the true sense of the world – someone who had a lot to “crow about ” but didn’t. Not because he refrained from bragging – but because he truly didn’t think he was special.

But everyone who came within his orbit was not clueless. They knew they were in the presence of someone “yotzeh min ha’klal. ” Someone extraordinary.

Shimie did not have any children in the traditional sense of the word, but if a parent is someone who offers unconditional love and acceptance; who does his best to enhance quality of life; who freely gives of his time, strength and resources to nurture the vulnerable; and who does his utmost to bring simcha to another – then Shimie left a legacy of thousands of “children” to mourn him, to remember him and to learn from his unwavering example of ahavas Yisrael and yiras Shamayim.

Cheryl Kupfer can be reached at magazine@jewishpress.com

Celebrating Jen

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

What a beautiful woman.  Really – in every sense of the word.  She was beautiful in appearance, beautiful in conduct, beautiful in spirits and wow, what a beautiful mother, wife and daughter.

There are so many people these days who ask the question “why do bad things happen to good people?”  This will not be the focus of this article.  Rather, I would like to share with my readers the essence of a remarkable person.

Jennifer was niftar (passed away) at the age of 39 after a thirteen-year battle with cancer.  According to her doctors, she should not have lived those thirteen years, but Jen had other ideas.  Jen was my niece, my wife’s brother’s youngest daughter.  It was almost thirty years ago, though it seems like yesterday, when our families got together in Niagara Falls.  In my mind’s eye, I can see Jen jumping up and down on the bed.  In fact, I believe we even have a picture of her doing so, somewhere in one of our many albums.

Jen was a fighter who would not take “no” for an answer.  She knew what she wanted and went after it.  She fought the fight of life, against all odds.  In doing so she leaves behind a remarkable legacy.  She met her husband when she was 31.  Because of her cancer treatment, it was suggested that the only way they could have children was by harvesting her eggs and using a surrogate mother.  Jen’s life reflects challenges with rewards.  When the harvested eggs did not take and the surrogate mother could not become pregnant, they decided to apply for adoption.  The adoption agency was overwhelmed with the wonderful traits of Jen and her husband and they soon became the proud parents of a little girl.  Shortly thereafter the surrogate mother became pregnant with the last harvested egg and they became the proud parents of a little boy.  Now they had two infants five months apart.  The children were her life and for her everything revolved around them.  In fact, when Jen went into the hospital for the last time, though she was already critically ill, she insisted on being able to leave in order to take her daughter to school for the her first day of kindergarten.  That was the kind of parent she was.

Why am I sharing this story with my readers?  Because Jen deserved the tribute and you deserve to gain from Jen’s story.  Her loss is our loss and her attributes should become our attributes – that of living a better life as a better spouse, child and parent.

Jen loved music.  At her funeral, her sister, a doctor, remembered her through Bette Midler’s song “Wind Beneath My Wings”.  How appropriate these words are as they reflect Jen’s love of others and of life.

 

“So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

 

One of my favorite old songs is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkle.  I can’t help thinking of this song as I remember Jen.  Hers were the attributes of love, being there for your friends when times get tough, relationships and caring.

 

“When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you “

In her death, Jen’s attributes can be a lesson for each of us.  Here are some of the descriptions of Jen given at her funeral.  She should be a mentor for each of us:

 

  • “UNSTOPPABLE.  And this, of course was the theme of HER life.”
  • “She came to my side and got me out of trouble on a regular basis….and this was the theme of OUR relationship”
  • “No hurdle too big for her”
  • “Gives you the shirt off her back”
  •  “Love and pride of her family”
  • “Thinking of others”
    • “Fun”
    • “Determination, tenacity, and her will to slay the dragon”
    • “Conviction, drive, determination, and inner strength”
    • “Persuasive in getting what she wanted”
    • “Message of love and a physical representation of hope, beauty, and pride”
    • “Confidante”
    • “Tenacity”
    • “Great mother”
    • “Didn’t question the wonderfulness of being here on earth”
    • “Celebrated life and fought for it like nothing you’ve ever seen”
    • “We all learned to live each day to the max and celebrate EVERY occasion”
    • “To know, know, know you is to love you”
    • “Fought a valiant fight”
    • “It is what it is.”
    • “Knew how to live life to its fullest and taught everyone else around her how to do just that”
    • “Her kids were her number one priority. Family was number 2. After that she had a long list”
    • “The key lesson that Jen taught us was to always try and not dwell on what is wrong with your life, but what is right with it. To plan your life and live it to the fullest, just like she did.”

 

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” –Henry Van Dyke.

My hope for my family, and you, my readers, is that you will be inspired by Jen.  Learn to love like Jen did. Love your children, your spouse, but equally, and maybe more so, love yourself.

 

Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada.  He is certified as an Anger Management trainer and conducts many therapeutic workshops.  Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives.  He is currently open to speaking engagements.  He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or eschild@regesh.com.  Visit www.regesh.com.  See our second website specific to our enhanced anger management clinic at www.regeshangerclinic.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/celebrating-jen/2010/10/20/

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