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A Tribute to my Grandmother

Thursday, 20 December, 2012 - 12:37 pm

Just a few days before Chanukah, our family suffered the loss of my grandmother, Rebbetzin Miriam Gordon. Bubby Gordon had been living with my parents since the fall of 2011 and many of you came to know her during that time.

My grandmother was born in the Haarlem section of New York shortly after her parents immigrated to the USA from Russia. Her family was one of the first Chabad Chasidic families to come across the pond. Her father, Rabbi Eliyohu Simpson was a prominent figure in the Chabad movement – serving in important roles under three Rebbes during his lifespan. The home in which she was raised was permeated with the teachings and ways of Chabad. When the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe visited the US in 1929, he stayed in their home for much of the time. When the Rebbe returned to the US to live in 1940, Rabbi Simpson became part of his close inner circle. My grandmother shared with me her memories of being taken out of school to go to the pier to greet the Previous Rebbe upon his arrival. She had been privy to things for which the greatest Chassidim would give anything to have experienced.

Upon her marriage to my grandfather, Rabbi Sholom Gordon, in 1945, they were sent by the Previous Rebbe to Springfield, MA to start a Jewish school and then a few years later to Newark, NJ, where he served as Rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Zion for over 50 years until his passing. My grandparents were very dedicated to cause of Torah and Mitzvot and had little regard for personal comfort. As newlyweds they lived a one room apartment in Springfield. When a Meshulach (a charity collector) came to town – he would stay with them in their one room place – divided by a sheet hanging in the middle.

In addition to raising her children, my grandmother was very involved in the Newark (and later Maplewood), NJ Mikvah and women’s Chevra Kaddisha. Their home was open to all kinds of guests that were not welcome anywhere else. My mother has memories of her parents caring for the strangest needy people – sometimes to her and her siblings’ chagrin.

My grandmother lived a very full life and was blessed by Hashem to see her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren following in the ways of their family. She was always busy with many projects and activities on behalf of numerous Jewish institutions.

However, at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, in my opinion, the central focus of her life, more than all of the other projects and activities, was being there for my grandfather and making sure that everything was in place for him to do his important work. He was a Rabbi, teacher and chaplain at two hospitals, Beth Israel and St. Barnabas. His day began before 5 AM and ended well after the last Minyan and class at the Shul. She saw to all of his needs thereby ensuring that he was able to go about his day and work – without concern. She approached this task with the same sense of holy purpose that high-Priest in the temple would approach bringing the incense on Yom Kippur. In his eyes she was an equal partner in everything he did, for without her he could have never accomplished all that he did.

Of all the things I will remember about her, this is the one that leaves greatest impression. It reminds me of the Talmud’s account of Rabbi Akiva declaring to his disciples “what is mine and yours is really hers,” that their ability to achieve greatness in Torah was due to his wife’s dedication.

Bubby Gordon certainly leaves a legacy for her family and all who were touched by her life. We are proud to be following in her footsteps.

Mazel Tov to Harry Borowski upon his engagement to Tova Shimunova.

Heartfelt condolences to Borenstein family upon the passing of Mrs. Isak (Pola) Borenstein. My family and I enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Borenstein’s genuine friendship and we will miss her.

The Torah Academy family mourns the passing of Mr. Sherman Wayne Arnold, longtime principal of the school. Our thoughts are with his dedicated wife, Mrs. Ann Arnold. Mr. Arnold left an indelible mark upon the lives of his students. When the news of his passing came yesterday, their Facebook accounts were filled with warm words and memories of this gentle man who was loved by all.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


Comments on: A Tribute to my Grandmother

Annette Gielchinsky wrote...

Having lived in Maplewood I was fortunate to have known your grandmother.
She was one of the people who helped my family become frum.
She had a sererne way of talking weather it was about an Avon product or a topic of Yiddishkeit.