My Mother’s Gift

I loved my grandmother. I always thought of her as the typical Jewish grandmother. She worried and kvetched. She bragged about famous Jews as if she knew them. She used coupons to buy things at the
store whether she needed them or not. What she didn’t do was cook. At least well.

She also didn’t raise my mother and her sister with any connection to Judaism or Israel beyond a loose cultural affinity. They didn’t belong to a synagogue, they didn’t observe Shabbat or the holidays and they
never visited Israel.

Despite that – or because of it – my mother (with some help from my father) made Judaism an important part of our lives as soon as she had a family of her own. Our reform synagogue in New Jersey became a central element of our lives and I was even encouraged to spend a semester in Israel during my junior year of high school, which I did. My parents visited me there that semester. So did my grandparents. Their very first visits to Israel. That experience was transformational for me, as it was for my son who spent last semester on the very same program. And Israel was transformational for our entire family when we spent half a year there several years ago.

Thanks to my mother, I had the connection with Judaism and Israel to pass on to my kids. My Mom was deprived of this connection growing up, but she made sure that her children – and her grandchildren – had more than she did.


-David Eichenbaum