Birthday Musings / Remembering Mrs. Inge Elsas

Friday, 27 April, 2012 - 12:07 pm

By Divine Providence the birthdays of my wife and two of our children are being celebrated this week. Celebrating birthdays is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Jewish world. King Solomon noted in Kohelet “Better the day of death then the day of birth.” For when a person passes we know what their life was like and we can “celebrate” it, but at birth it is still unknown. In fact one of the only birthdays mentioned in the Torah is that of Pharaoh. So what exactly are we excited about.

I think we can get some insight from the Rebbe’s birthday blessing. Usually we say Happy Birthday or many happy returns, which really only focus on the day itself and the fact that the person is still alive. The Rebbe’s wish is Shnas Hatzlacha – have a year of success. Here the emphasis is not just on the day itself but also on the year of which it is the head. Birthdays then, are like a personal mini Rosh Hashanah. Indeed it is a time to contemplate what was achieved over the past year as well as what needs to be accomplished in the year to come. Celebrating a birthday sets the tone for how the year will go. The potential to soar and accomplish so much this year is before the person – we are confident that the opportunity will be utilized. So happy birthday Malkie, Sholom and Devorah Leah, have a successful year!

On a more somber note, our family is still reeling from the news of the passing of Inge Elsas. She was our neighbor for seven years and our friend for another seven after that. Mrs. Elsas was one of the first people we met when we moved (back) to New Orleans in 1998. She lived downstairs. Within moments of meeting her we realized that we were very lucky to have her as a neighbor. She loved our children and acted as a bubby to them – and they loved her in return. She watched them grow and participated in their special moments. We spent many holidays together – socializing in our backyard Sukkah, lighting Chanukah candles together and more. The children spent many hours on her S. Liberty St. porch even after we moved. She sang with them, planted with them, played with them and taught them so many life lessons. We were privileged to participate in the quilt that was created for her a few years ago. She proudly brought it to our home to show it to us after she received it. Mrs. Elsas spoke at our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and was a featured speaker at another daughter’s graduation. She never missed a Simcha – most recently she attended our son’s upshernish.

We always marveled at Inge’s attitude to life. She was youngest and busiest 96 year old you will ever know. To book some time on her calendar was a feat. She got herself around and served as an amazing role model to the elderly. She attended meetings and events despite not being able to drive. The street car drivers all knew and loved her. She had so many friends who felt honored to give her a ride. She never stopped learning or teaching. Her love for Judaism was exceptional. Each year the Chanukah Mobile Menorah Parade would detour past her home so she could come out and wave as we drove by. These last few years, after she moved to St. Charles Ave, she would stand out in front of her apartment complex and watch.

This past Sunday night at the Holocaust Memorial event, I saw Mrs. Elsas from afar. After the program I jumped out of my seat to go over and say hello. Due to the volume of people, moving through the room was not easy and she was gone by the time I got there. I felt bad but I figured I would see her somewhere else soon. Alas…. just a few days later we heard that Mrs. Elsas has passed away. Farewell Mrs. Elsas. May G-d watch over your soul as you enter the next phase of your busy life in Heaven.

My family joins me in extending our sympathies to her children Mimi, Loyd, and Byron, her niece Irene, and the many relatives and friends who are mourning the loss of this incredible person, Mrs. Inge Elsas, whose memory is a blessing.

Mazel Tov to Avi and Susannah (Palmer) Schild upon the birth of their son, Gavriel Noam. Congratulations to the grandparents Richard and Maria Palmer.

The ladies Pirkei Avot class will be held at 5:30 on Shabbat afternoon at 919 Broadway. Simultaneously there will be a Mesibos Shabbos – Shabbat program for children at Chabad House – 1216 Broadway.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Comments on: Birthday Musings / Remembering Mrs. Inge Elsas
There are no comments.