What’s important to me? How do I define myself?
In my 20s I defined myself as a feminist, a woman and a teacher.
Later I added wife and mother.
What’s important to me? How do I define myself?
In my 20s I defined myself as a feminist, a woman and a teacher.
Later I added wife and mother.
I’m a special educator and Jewish educator! I devoted my non-synagogue professional life to teaching young children with severely delayed development, making sure that each student had the tools to express themselves by varied means of communication. And I’m proud to have helped develop, and am still active in, the Masorti (Conservative) Movement’s Bar Bat Mitzvah program for Children with Special Needs. I’m an active member of Hod ve-Hadar, the Masorti congregation in Kfar Sabah, and have taught MANY youth and adults synagogue skills and trained them for bar and bat mitzvah. I love leading services, reading Torah, Haftorah, teaching, and glowing with joy as I watch my “children” and “grandchildren” do the same. I get special pleasure from the fact that many of my former students have recorded for this website! Many of my friends have joined us and learned my version of trope to do the same. Nachat and appreciation for each and every one!
Volunteering is part of my life. In addition to my activities in the synagogue I have contributed to the community by making and delivering sandwiches to local schools, leading morning services in a pluralistic school, and managing a Forum for Women in Sport (in Hebrew).
When asked to define my “brand” of Judaism, it’s not a specific stream of Judaism, but all about egalitarian pluralism. I deeply believe that EVERYONE has the right and the privilege of being an active, contributing, enthusiastic member of a Jewish community.
Link to movie about Susie’s life https://vimeo.com/196797666 with Hebrew and English subtitles
What can you say about a person who has been a part of you for 48 years? Today this is beyond my capacity. I’m also used to speaking alongside a slide presentation, so it’s a bit complicated for me here. I’ll say more at the Shloshim.
Today I just want to tell you about two things that Susie said to me during these past weeks, and that are so characteristic of how Judaism and sport were an integral part of her life: One was how sorry she was that she would not be able to prepare Mika for her bat mitzvah—something she had been looking forward to for years. The second was that I had to promise her to preserve the family threesome at the Women’s Triathlon at the end of the month, even if it meant my having to swim instead of her.
Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about her first concern. But I did promise to take the second matter up with the director of the Women’s Triathlon (myself), who agreed to make an exception. So we will continue the family threesome: I will swim, Adi will bike, and our granddaughter, Mika, will run.
We also decided that the Herzliya Women’s Triathlon will now be named in memory of Tamar and Susie Dvoskin.
We are confident that the event on May 27 will be a living memorial for Tamar and for Susie. The slogan, “Every Woman a Winner”, will continue to resound within the community of women in Israel. You are all invited to join us at the Herzliya Women’s Triathlon, whether as participants or as cheerleaders.
We miss you, and you will be missed. By me, the family, by so many.
You had the privilege and the ability to reach out, to love, to devote, to influence and to empower the lives of thousands of people, in so many significant and diverse dimensions. Family, community, spirituality, education and sports – The special Bar/Bat Mitzvah, In conservative (Masorati) Judaism, and of course the Women’s Triathlon.
You had the rare privilege to love and be loved by so many, to hold so deep
friendships and community relationships. That is what we really are here for.
You did it with your unique capability to connect with the depth of all of our souls, to explore, to feel, to be part of us. You did that with your spiritual fortitude, force and ability to connect with the deepest emotions, even with pain.
Including physical pain. Pain that you endured for a great deal in recent years and months. And, deep spiritual pain, that you were in, ever since you lost Tamar, since we lost Tamar. Pain so intense that you’d look for greetings from Tamar everyday, and be deeply solaced when the greetings arrived.
Now, we’ll be seeking greetings from you.
Spiritual pain, also because of your enforced physical disability. You weren’t used to be constrained like that, you’re an athlete.
Every one of us, “ordinary” people, would not have been able to endure.
When I’d be asked how you are, I’d say that even your most challenging days were much richer in action than our best days. You’d always recover, bring yourself up, make the best of every available moment.
And this was your strength, your inspiration. Your ability to translate the most challenging hardships into positive action, combined with a deep personal connection. That is what positively swept and inspired all of us.
When you can, we all can.
And, indeed you could! What a life. An amazing partner, Danny, immigration to Israel, a Jewish legacy – the Tali school, the conservative movement, reaching out to hundreds of special education students, support groups, travelling around the world, a house full of trophies, the half Ironman, crossing the Kinneret swimmer… lengthwise. You’re a superstar, you touched us all.
Sometimes, as a son, I admit this was too much. To open up, to be exposed, I’d at times rather have gone through an FBI interrogation.
I apologise for any difficult moments and times. I love you.
You were a loving Mother, caring and supportive, you did an excellent job.
Look at what a great family you have, your grandchildren, all of us.
Like in the book, “The Giving Tree”, even in your final moments, when you weren’t comfortable anymore, you stretched up, and gave us love, comfort and support.
You last words to us, to Ahbah, Oded and I, were of love, “I love you! I love you!”.
Ahbah, were here for you, we’ll keep the family together, I know it’s a great loss, that it won’t be easy. I love you.
Thank you Emah. Thank you from all of us.
And thank you all, friends, partners, supporters, and inspired – The Masorati movement, special education, triathlon community, co-workers, family, friends, doctors, caregivers, therapists, healers, supporters, to all of Susie’s intricate circles.
Every Women is a Winner.
My mother used to shut us up. On Shabbat… She got sick of us complaining at every Shabbat dinner about everything bad that happened during the week, so she created a rule that we go around the table and each person states the BEST thing that happened that week.
I guess she always saw the best in us.
My mother made me work overtime. She did… I would have to go to private tutoring lessons and miss some of my favorite activities. But that’s what happens when you’re diagnosed with learning disabilities and your mother just happens to be a special education teacher.
Well I guess she was giving me exactly what I needed to succeed.
My mother beat me. Seriously! Once when we were driving in the car, she had to stop short to avoid hitting something or someone, and instinctively sent her right arm sideways to stop me from flying forward. She did that so well, she actually punched me in my stomach leaving me gasping for air for a few seconds.
Well I guess she was just protecting me.
My mother made me think she was really strange. Oh yes… Like this one promise she apparently had, which I had no recollection for, about saving my ponytail from my long hair days (I did have those days…) and to give it to the person I would marry. Noa got that “prize”.
Well I guess she was just unique.
My mother loved spying on us. And you thought my father was the secret agent… After her visits, she would leave notes all around the house in odd places, like the socks you always never use, a sweater while it’s summer now, on the 17th page of the notepad used for shopping lists and so many other places. She would leave messages there for us to find and giggle at, and lately also did this for our kids who got very excited about this.
Well I guess she always left us with the feeling of wanting more.
Emah, wherever you may be, I hope you’re opening a new triathlon club, continuing to see the best in every person, giving the warmest and biggest hugs people can only dream of, crying at the silliest of movies, leaving an incredible impact with every interaction you have and always leave us wanting more.
I love you and miss you.
I stand here today and look around me at the many people who came to accompany you on your final journey. You touched the lives of so many people; you formed warm and meaningful ties with all of them.
We have known each other for some 35 years, and we collaborated on many levels that were all dear to your heart.
And now I find myself trying to represent each and every one of those circles.
Hod ve-Hadar—our congregation. You were one of its pillars: the teacher who taught several generations to read Torah and Haftarah (I was one of the lucky ones), and you were especially proud of the young people whom you trained to carry on and teach others. You led services on Shabbat and holidays, as well as at the 6:30 Monday minyan, that was started thanks to you. And the Raanana minyan on Yom Kippur also benefited from your talents…
The Tamar Center, named in memory of your daughter, was built as part of our congregation and was a second home for you.
The Conservative movement’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for the Special Child, created 20 years ago by Judith Edelman-Green. We began teaching together at one single school; today the program exists in 30 schools and is shared with 250 children and their families every year. We taught together for several years, and for me that was an unforgettable experience.
You also took it upon yourself to train new teachers for the program; those teachers were fortunate to have learned from you. Marianela, the program coordinator, mentioned how supportive you were, both emotionally and professionally.
This year alone you managed to teach at two schools, and in mid-March, just a little over a month ago, you danced at the ceremony held at the Rabin School for autistic children.
You had strong ties with other institutions of the Conservative movement: the Noam youth movement, Kibbutz Hanaton, and Tamar’s army comrades, many of whom are here with us this morning.
Three years ago we, together with Judith, created “Kol-Kore” (in English, “Lift Up Your Voice”)—a website in Hebrew and in English that teaches people how to read Torah and Haftarah. The recordings were made lovingly by 35 women and had to pass your inspection (and you were very strict).
The website contains 10 teaching videos, both in English and in Hebrew, in which you explain how to teach the trope. The videographer, Judith and I were all stunned by how easy it was to tape you—Judith called you “One-Take Susie”.
A few hours ago I received a letter from Rabbi Gail Shuster Bouskila, who is currently overseas. She told me how proud she was to have taken part in the project, and how the website is one more layer in Susie’s legacy.
Another circle that you were a part of and was important to you—I was not part of this one, but I want to mention it here today—was the Rosh Hodesh group of women who meet at the beginning of every Hebrew month for prayer, discussion, creative activities and mutual support, and who were with you during difficult times in your life.
The Tali School in Hod HaSharon—you were among the founders, and Oren, Tamar and Oded were in the opening classes. You and Danny devoted your time and energies to making it happen, and you had a profound influence on the character of the school.
The world of special education—The Liman Kindergarten, where you worked for many years. Among other things, you supervised students of special education at the Beit Berl Teachers College. The circle of Gan Liman was closed two weeks ago, when you were in need of home nursing care. The nurse who came to take care of you was named Zippy, and you immediately recognized her as the mother of a little girl who had been in your kindergarten. Today that little girl is 30 years old.
I also want to represent myself—because beyond all our mutual circles, you were my friend. Many years ago we swore always to be frank with each other. We didn’t always agree, but we always were able to say what we thought, knowing that this would not affect our friendship. We spent a lot of time together, both good times and times of crisis.
I have a whole collection of triathlon t-shirts. Often when I am wearing one of them, people ask me about my sports activity. I am a bit embarrassed, but then I smile and explain that there are two ways to acquire a t-shirt: to take part in the triathlon or to be a friend of the organizer. I belong to the second category, but am proud and grateful for the years of our friendship.
You fought so courageously for so many years, against the cancer, against the pain. In between you led a preposterous schedule that made me tired just to think of it. Like many others, I wondered where you got the strength to carry on. Even this past week you removed the oxygen tubes and took a picture smiling with Dov, the household medical clown, and went for walks in the garden with Sharon and Talia.
Now I am offering you a final hug. Rest in peace. May your memory be for a blessing.
We met exactly 20 years ago, in May 1997, at the support group for parents who had tragically lost their children in various kinds of accidents.
In spite of the difficult circumstances, we all bonded together, thanks to some of your special personality traits:
• Hugs and kisses at every opportunity.
• The love, warmth and caring that radiate from you.
• Your ability to listen empathetically, to offer support; your boundless capacity to encourage and embrace.
• Your desire to understand the other person’s point of view, even when you disagreed.
• Your gentleness and your grit.
• Your ability to express your emotions without filters: sudden switches from laughter to sobbing, from smiles to tears. You allowed the pain, the crying, the tears and the longing to express themselves without restriction, without obstruction. We envied that in you.
• The brave and painful way you coped with the loss of Tamar and then with the cancer, always holding on to your optimism, your smile, your sense of humor—and always choosing to live a meaningful life.
• Your generosity towards every triathlete, new or seasoned, by coining the slogan: “Every Woman a Winner”. You were able to “infect” some of our members with your sports activities and to change their lives as a result.
And on a personal level: We are grateful to you for the moving and dignified wedding ceremony you conducted for our daughter on Mt. Carmel, as well as for the preparations, and the sensitive and delicate way you mentioned Ronen during the ceremony.
My dear Dvoskins, if only we could take on some of your pain, it would make things easier for us. But you can’t parcel out pain, and each of you will have to deal with it in your own way. It’s important to know and to remember that, along with the nearly unbearable pain, Susie is a great light for you. Each of you, and all of you together, can continue to walk in this great light of love and giving.
Susie, a few days ago we met at your house, at your request, for a farewell meeting. For us and for you, this was an opportunity for a meaningful parting, as opposed to the sudden, unexpected, unplanned parting from our children.
We were very touched to hear from you that you were leaving this world without anger, with a sense of fulfillment, loving and beloved, giving and receiving, having lived a very meaningful life. We completely understood your desire to part from the poor quality of life and the suffering that had enveloped you. What a reconciliation, how peaceful and whole.
Go in peace, dear and beloved friend, and reconnect with your dear ones, especially your beloved Tamar.
I would like to end with these lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”:
“And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind,
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.”
…and with the song you requested:
Danny Dvoskin: Susie Dvoskin: Judaism, Zionism, Democracy, Socialism.
Writing a eulogy for someone who was part of your life for almost 50 years is a difficult task. And since in the past weeks since Susie’s passing we’ve spoken about many things, I want to focus on some aspects that I’m not sure most of you, even those close to her, know about. Judaism and Zionism were always part of her Susie’s life. She grew up in Los Angeles in a traditional home with deep ties to Zionism. After being in Israel during the Six Day War, Susie returned to Los Angeles to study special education, and led a group of young people, called “Chug Aliyah” , whose goal was to go on aliyah after completing their education. That’s where we met when we were invited by the Israeli Shaliach to come to a soccer game between an Israeli and an American team. I don’t remember the score, but from that point on we were never apart.
Susie never hesitated about whether or not to make Aliyah, only determining when we would do so. We decided to come on Aliyah upon completing our degrees. During that time, in 1973, while we were in Iowa, the Yom Kippur war broke out. One day later, I told Susie, that I planned to leave for Israel. She didn’t question my decision, even though Oren was less than 5 months old. It was clear to her that everything needed to be done to save the country. This was clear to her after we returned to Israel as well, each of the 4 periods I spent in Lebanon, as well as a few times in the territories. Susie always saw taking care of 3 young children as part of aliyah and Zionism.
Democracy: In August 1977, we planned to leave the United States and return to Israel. However, just a few months earlier, the Likud won the election and took over the government. I grew up on a kibbutz, with Yisrael Galili and other leaders of the Labor and Mapai party, and this was difficult for me (worse than Trump’s election). However, Susie, who grew up in a home that emphasized democracy, insisted that we not change our plans for aliyah. And so, we, together with Oren and Tamar arrived at the mercaz klitah in Lod, and from there, moved to Herzliya-
Socialism: Many people know about my kibbutz background, and my strong support for and membership in the Labor Party. But most don’t know that Susie was a true socialist. She was a member of the Labor Party, and even this week, received a text message from candidates for the leadership of the party. The one time we disagreed was in 1996, when Susie, against my judgement, voted for Meretz. This was because of Meretz’s platform regarding Judaism.
Very few of you know that our house was Raanana’s headquarters for Yitzhak Rabin in 1992, and we even received a prize from the Labor Party for our work. During all those difficult years, Susie insisted on attending every left- wing demonstration, and we would go to them with Shaz and Rinah. We were at the peace demonstration in 1995 when Rabin was assassinated..
On a personal note
Finally, on a bit more personal note, it is still difficult for me to grasp the fact that what we did together all these years is over. The trips around the world, Susie coming with me on work assignments, strange events like Yom Kippur in Rwanda, or being charmed when meeting African children, who were charmed by her as well as she tried to teach them games they had never played before. These experiences will never be repeated, only the memories and thousands of pictures remain but will never take the place of all the love that we had between us.
Dear Susie, how the time has passed from the moment when you were no longer with us, at least, not with us physically. I still don’t believe it, and I know it’s the same for other friends. I feel that you are off in the United States, visiting Oded or in the north with Oren, or that you are in some strange and faraway place with Danny in order to visit a new country or to spend time with him. Perhaps you went out early to swim in the sea, or you are at Shacharit services, or perhaps getting your hair cut in Tiberias.
But no. Nearly a month has passed. You are no longer with us and our hearts ache. Yet, you are present in everything, in every place.
You left us on the day Michal and I were at a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony in Omer. But you left us the strength to smile, to sing and to be happy. You were with us at Dvora’s ceremony in Herzliya. You taught Dvora how to relate to the pupils and how to bring out the best in them. You were with Yehudit at the ceremony for the Agam School. Everyone there knew you, because ten years ago you and Gila taught there. You were at the ceremony where we completed the writing of a Torah scroll. The staff was all together, and you hugged all of us.
And you will be with us every time we read from the scroll using the yad which was dedicated in your memory.
You were with Eden at her wedding; you made sure to send her a blessing. You were with me and with Gali when we went to meet the staff of the Gil School, staff that you worked with for many years who waited for your hugs. You were the link between the past and the present, when we sang the blessing – לעסוק בדברי תורה”” together with Judith at your shiva. You were with Gila and me when we came to take some of the equipment. We sat in your house, and you told me how it all began, showing me the pictures, the original games created. You were with all the winners at the triathlon and you will continue to be with us. You were among us yesterday at the Tikkun Shavuot in Hanaton which was dedicated to your memory. You were a winner.
We met 8 years ago. Zivah told me that one of my tasks in the bar/bat mitzvah program would be to accompany you to your lessons because you had cancer.I didn’t understand. When I looked at you, you looked healthier than me. When I met you before teaching, you had already prayed and swam, and I had just woken up, tired and weaker than you. You used to schedule your radiation treatments in order to get to the schools on time. And, I didn’t understand. Your detailed explanations, the side effects, and the medications finally caused me to understand that the disease was in your body and not at all in your soul.
From the first moment, you explained to me that you wore two hats: that of the triathlon, and the second, a kippah. You were proud of both, and the moment you wore each of them, you were totally committed to it.
I learned so many things from you. First of all, to have the faith that it is possible to help each and every person reach their fullest potential; the need for precise planning alongside flexibility; each thing at the right time. You taught me to ask for help, to encourage others and to thank them. You taught me dedication, how to smile, and you taught all of us how to hug. You were a best friend, caring and remembering what was important to each of us, every detail. You answered each email, even if you weren’t obliged to. You were there in our hearts, on the computer, with the smilee that you always added. You left things for us in the electrical cabinet, always with a picture of a smile.
My dearest Susie, you were an example for us all. You taught us to plant seeds, and buds grew from them, and slowly, slowly, the fruit grew, leading to more and more trees. Your knowledge and your teaching experience were shared with us all, so that we could become better teachers, and so that we could do more for our pupils.
The portion of the week, Nasso, includes the priestly blessing. A blessing with which you very much identified. You blessed your own children with this blessing, and were so moved when you received flowers from the staff with this blessing. You wanted to be blessed with the priestly blessing at your funeral, and you were.
You were most important to me on a personal level as well. You shared a name with my mother, and my daughter is named for my mother as well. We both lost a treasured person suddenly, with no warning. We shared lives in which we were able to merge our love of Judaism and special education, our love of organizing and putting things in order. Susie, I was privileged to know you; thanks to you, I too am a winner. In order to feel your presence, we will learn the blessing לעסוק בדברי תורה In sign language.
The warm hug, joy in life, unending energy, the good deeds without compromising
Our Susie : We missed you so, last Shabbat. Last Shabbat was the first Women’s Triathlon without you. Last Shabbat was the first time you didn’t ask “who is participating in the Women’s Triathlon for the first time”. Last Shabbat we all rose and stood up, because it was the first time without you.
The question “the first time” became a tradition each year, and it was a beautiful gesture. I remember…I remember how you asked that question at the first Women’s Triathlon in Tamar’s memory. I remember how I stood up bashfully, and a moment later stood with pride. I remember how you empowered each of us, and how we together coined the phrase “everyone a winner”.
Since then, tens and hundreds of women join us and stand up with pride at each ceremony. The Women’s Triathlon has become the jewel of all triathlons, the most beautiful one. The women’s triathlon became your life’s work!
Tamar and Oren were the first to love triathlons, and Tamar was the one who brought you into the world of triathlons – sports, training together, a chance for quality time together that you both loved. A sport, that after Tamar’s accident drew in the whole family.
After the accident, memorializing Tamar through the Women’s Triathlon was moving, it was natural, that in Acco near the date trees, you continued in Tamar’s path, continued doing what Tamar loved.
And you Susie, Danny, and your whole wonderful family transformed a small event into a life’s work, a glorious event, the best in the world of Triathlons. Everyone today identifies the Women’s Triathlon with Tamar and the Dvoskin family. And as of last week, it became the Triathlon in memory of Tamar and Susie Dvoskin.
Your efforts could be felt in every aspect of the triathlon. Susie, you were the “mother” of the triathlon. Over the past few years, you began a tradition of meeting with women to tell about, teach and empower this sport – triathlons in general, and women’s triathlons in particular. It worked.
Each time you interested new women and everyone who came was charmed by you. Whoever came always remained. It was impossible not to fall in love with this competition.
Reading the posts and feedback after each meeting was moving… a chance to learn a bit more, a chance to learn a bit about you.
Each of us has our own Susie, you were a model that inspired us all. In spite of all the difficulties and your illness, you always chose life, activity, love, people – you were a winner
Each of us had her own Susie, each had a special place in your heart – a hug, love, a piece of good advice, and friendship. You were a mother to each and every one of us, and gave each of us the feeling she was a winner, your winner.
A personal note:
Oren, we met in the army, now I can reveal that 21 years ago you were a soldier in my course. Tamar’s accident took place then. I remember the shiva visit, and the wonderful friendship that developed with the whole Dvoskin family – Susie, Danny, Oren and Oded.
We celebrated together. You were the guests of honor at my wedding. We rejoiced at Orena and Adi’s wedding. You were the first guests at our home when our first son was born, and of course you were on your way back from a triathlon. Could it have been otherwise?
We maintained our relationship, and it was fun to be part of the professional side of the Women’s Triathlon. It was a privilege and fun!
A month ago, on our way to the airport, yes, on our way to another triathlon competition, we managed to speak to Meidad, the man behind the Triathlon this year, it was almost 2:00 in the morning, and we spoke on the phone, about the triathlon and about you, Susie. We knew you were feeling poorly. But, I was overly optimistic, and said that I was sure that you would be with us at the upcoming triathlon, that this would give you the strength to continue and be with us a while longer. Five hours later we landed in Italy and received the unbelievable message form Oren, too soon for me, that you were no longer with us.
I couldn’t even call, talk, hug, say good bye, how strange, how difficult.
And Oren, being Oren, chose to continue to choose life, and ended our conversation, “Hadar, enjoy yourselves, drink a good expresso in memory of my mother, and get out there and run.” Of course he ended by writing “a big hug”. So like the Dvoskins, so like Susie.
Talking to Donny in the morning, from far away was difficult. What do you say? How do you hug from so far? How difficult it was.
And Donny, immediately was determined that the Women’s Triathlon would continue and would be your life’s work. That very evening, we updated the triathlon site and changed it to be the Women’s Triathlon in memory or Tamar and Susie Dvoskin
And, I, only wanted a hug.
So I think about you all the time and am inspired by you during sports and in all my life. I already miss you.
Susie – last Shabbat you sent us love, warmth, a smile, watching over us, the sea was calm and the competition was fantastic.
Susie, last Shabbat you were with each of us, in our thoughts, and in our hearts each of us has her own Susie, And we are committed to continuing the Triathlon as a way of life.
Susie, thank you for what you gave us, for what you taught us, for your personal example, inspiration, and friendship. Thank you for teaching each and every one of us to be a winner!
I first met Susie when she came to my house for a meeting of parents who were interested in creating what eventually became the Tali School (enhanced Jewish learning). My children were already in bed, and all the adults were chatting away, excited to get to know each other. But Susie had other ideas; she wanted to meet our children, the presumed beneficiaries of all this activity. So she went into their room and sat on one of the beds and chatted with them. Who does that???? All I can tell you is that it was the beginning of a life-long friendship, not only for us, but for Kinor and Ariel as well.
Now a quick zoom over to the final month. I drove Susie to Ichilov Hospital for radiation therapy, and also to make arrangements for the operation she was about to undertake. We were directed to a department that she had not been to before, and she spoke to the secretary about various aspects of the impending surgery. I sat in the waiting room and watched. As their conversation drew to an end, to my amazement, the secretary–until five minutes ago a complete stranger–stood up, walked around her desk and gave Susie a big bear hug–the kind of hug that Susie loved!
Just one more magical moment.
You will see more of those in the film that I was privileged to produce, together with Micha Adar, our videographer, and Shira Green, who edited the film. I think we were all touched by Susie’s magic, and hope you will be as well.
When are you going back?
One of my favorite stories about Susie is this: Susie spent a year in Israel in 1967. She fell in love with the country. So many of our parents took our love of Israel as a rejection of their values or of their lives, but Ethel Sachs, Susie’s mom, met her at the airport with a big sign and with determination. The sign read, “When are you going back?” I find this simply incredible.
With our hearts aching, as they have ever since Susie began to decline, I call upon us all to hold up a sign for her and to bless her on her way. “When are you going back?” Back to your parents, back to Tamar, back to your loved ones who have preceded you. When are you going back to the place which we call in the Torah, being called to your people and ancestors? Lechi lach, we bless you on your way to a place where you can fly further, without pain, agony, suffering, where there are no races to be won. For Susie, you have won them all.
I ask you to hold hands one with another to send togetherness and love to one another and to Danny, Oren, Adi, Oded, Noa, Mika, Sahar, Barak, Talia and Noga and Maor and to her sister Judy. When we did this at Tamar’s askara, Susie said she would like this at her funeral and we did, and we continue to do so.
Yes, we talked about her death, facing it face to face, even while she fought it. She said, “I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid of pain and disability.” And then she faced pain and disability with her wish to break through them, get beyond them.
No one could have done what she did. Triathlons with a crutch. Triathlons with a friend on each side and one behind her, like the song of angels surrounding us. Swimming kilometers when she could barely walk. Then wishing to do more. Signing up to teach one more year of the bar/bat mitzvah for the special child program. Going to Monday morning minyan even when sleep and exhaustion were an issue. The stamina. The determination. The word I keep hearing from the community is: INSPIRATION.
And how did Susie face death? With friendship. Enjoying the kindness and love of her friends. With a diary which was full. We had to wait in line to see her. Seeking out more mitzvot to do.
So what I want to say to encourage each of you at this parting, is imagine a huge Chanukah Menorah like the one at the Gala where Susie and Danny were honored two years ago. Light that in your soul. Know that when you light one candle from another, it does not detract from the intensity of the flame. Find good words to say to each other always. Judge each other kindly. React positively to emails no matter what. Response with interest to the other. Listen. Belly laugh. Hug and hug and hug and hug. Remember, “Arms are for hugging” as the bumper sticker says on Susie’s car. Let yourself be a more compassionate person. And write little notes of encouragement to your friends who need it. Leave hilarious messages on your cellphone. Celebrate every birthday.
Susie celebrated her everyday life. We forget that Susie had a day job. She worked as a ganenet at Maon Liman for children with moderate developmental disabilities. Gila and I had the privilege of doing a lot of work with Susie with children with special needs. She “susied” them, she magicked them. How? She simply saw the good in them and believed that they could do it. So they did it. That is such a beautiful way to be in this world. Simply see the good in people whom the world does not understand, believe in them, and know that they can do. Light a light. Hold up signs for each other “When are you going back?” “When are you going to your best place?” “When are you going to surpass yourself physically and mentally and spiritually?” Gila and Susie and I had a joke, together, we got a PhD, we got ordained to be a Rabbi, and we ran a half Iron Man. Friendship is feeling the same amount of achievement in your friend’s achievement as you do in your own.
Remember Susie’s passion for her prayer community. Those of you in it, let’s work to give to it the way in which Susie did. She put a lot of her passion there, teaching each of us to read from the Torah and Haftorah. Teaching each of us to lead services. Gila always asked her, “What is that taam I can’t sing?” So many of us went to her for a brush up before we sang anything in services. Cherish that she taught bar and bat mitzvah to so many of our children. Wonder how she taught Torah skills to young teachers. Be in awe how she empowered women in synagogue roles. So we can all do more, give more, offer more to the synagogue. Remember that she believed in song, the spirit, love and kindness and the personal in the service. She believed in actively welcoming newcomers, people looking for belonging and a community and a spiritual home. Susie visited the sick, while she was sick and her greatest wish was to end her life while performing one last mitzvah.
I always laughed about how “out of the closet” Susie was. When she went to a store selling Judaica, she would tell them that the tzitzit, kipah, tefillin was for her. “When are you going back?” to the authentic person that you are?
A word about the website, Lift Up Your Voice. It was a joy working with Susie and Gila to complete this so that Susie’s legacy of teaching can be preserved and used. Use it. Spread the word. Share it. Link with it. Listen to is and peruse it when you are lonely for Susie, you can see her there, hear her there, as well as on the lovely website which Noa created for the Women’s triathlon.
The next Masorti Women’s Study Day is in Susie’s honor on June 23rd in Jerusalem. If you have never attended this magnificent event, please come this time to study Torah in memory of Susie. In February we taught a class together called, “Women facing crisis, An Opportunity.” Her Torah was her life because she lived passionately.
Oh, and love your children fiercely and your grandchildren.
I have been extremely close, extremely loved, extremely blessed. My cup is full, my cup runneth over. That will light me up forever, until we are reunited.
And now in Susie’s memory, I would like to do a short teaching from the sources about friendship.
Learning to Love a Fellow Human Being
Rabbi Moshe Leib [of Sassov, a late 18th-century Ukrainian Hasidic master] told this story:
“How to love other persons is something I learned from a peasant. He was sitting in an inn with other peasants, drinking. For a long time he was as silent as all the rest, but when he was moved by wine, he asked one of the men seated beside him, ‘Tell me, do you love me or don’t you love me?’
“The other peasant replied, ‘I love you very much’.
“But the first peasant replied, ‘You say that you love me, but you do not know what I need. If you really loved me, you would know.’
“The other had not a word to say to this, and the peasant who had put the question fell silent again.
“But I understood. To know the needs of men and to bear the burden of their sorrow–that is the true love of men.”
Susie taught us all that one can mourn and one can cry, and one can talk about the deceased. We can share lives with realness. Susie chose life, but she chose life with the nuance of being real about pain and making her time on this earth matter.
— Martin Buber (1878-1965), a prolific author and influential Jewish thinker, was Professor of Social Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Reprinted from Tales of the Hasidim, vol. 2: The Later Masters (Schocken Books).
Noa Dvoskin (Susie’s daughter-in-law) at the shloshim held in Seattle
Susie was a role model for many people. She’d greet people with a hug, she was warm with anyone she was in contact with, she encouraged many women who wouldn’t dare – to dare participate in a triathlon, she taught kids with special needs to read Torah, and all these acts were done with a smile, she truly loved life.
For me she was also a role model, but not in those things. For me, she’s a role-model mom. Oded’s mom. The relationship Oded had with his mom was so special, I wanted to learn from it. I noticed this relationship from the day Oded and I met. In the movie we saw, I really liked how Susie said she was looking for a man who would always be there for his friends. I was looking for a man who would always be there for his mom. And later, when I had kids, I wanted them to learn from this relationship. I thought it was amazing.
Life goes on, but losing Susie has left a big hole in our day to day. Some things don’t get easier with time. In my mind Susie went abroad for a while and when she returns, she’ll surprise us with a suitcase full of presents. She’ll also send an email update, it’ll come soon, you’ll see, like she always does once a week or so to tell everyone how she’s doing. Nogah told me the other day – Savta Susie’s dead but I still see her in my dreams! She said it with a smile, in a tone of – what’s the big deal, I still see her, so what’s the fuss all about?! She’s right, Susie is still with us.
Whenever Susie came to visit us it was never just her, our house was full with many of her friends and family that came here to stay with us too. The house was always happy when she was here. That’s one thing I’ll really miss. So please, those on Skype, family and friends of Susie, continue to come, our house is open, it’s so fun for us to have you!