A Tribute to my Bubby- Mrs. Dusia Rivkin

Sunday, 29 March, 2020 - 7:15 pm

There is a verse in Lamentations “the crown of our head has fallen,” referring to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Today our family proclaims “the crown of our head has fallen” with the passing of my grandmother, Mrs. Dusia Rivkin, known to us as Bubby Rivkin. She was a true matriarch who presided over a family spanning five generations. She had hundreds of descendants, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, each of whom she knew by name.

COVID-19 has taken the lives of thousands worldwide (she was not one of them). It has caused many more to be ill (may G-d grant them healing speedily). But there are other fallouts of this dreaded disease and the scourge of isolation that it brought along for the ride. Some of the most challenging, are the weddings that must be scaled back for safety. A bride who dreamt here whole life about her wedding day, must suffice with a minyan of people present while others dance and cheer from a distance. Another painful fallout of Coronavirus are the funerals. Today it felt like the twilight zone. We watched our beloved Bubby’s funeral on Zoom, as people in Hazmat suits escorted her to her place of honor in the Chabad cemetery adjacent to the Rebbe’s Ohel. My father and his brother had to watch from afar as their brother-in-law said Kaddish for their own mother. A woman, whose circle of family, friends and acquaintances numbered in the thousands, who deserved a royal send off to the world of truth, was accompanied by a handful of family members and friends healthy enough to attend, each spaced six feet apart from the other. This is G-d’s will and we accept it with love, but it was still painful to behold.

Bubby Rivkin was born into a prominent Chabad family, to Reb Mendel and Hinda Deitsch, in Russia, a decade into the Communist revolution. Her parents were extremely charitable and hospitable people. Their home was open to hundreds of hungry people who came to eat, in Charkov, and later in Uzbekistan to where they fled ahead of the Nazi onslaught. She absorbed the values of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus by osmosis just being around that household. As a teenager who was blessed with fair hair and blue eyes, she was often used a courier to transmit funds to keep the underground Yeshiva running in that part of Russia. Her groom was nearly snatched by the Russian secret police from under their chupah, if not for a friend “greasing the palm” of the agent who showed up at the wedding. When they finally left Russian and eventually made it to the United States, it was a difficult beginning like so many other immigrants.

With time they established themselves and built their family and life in the Crown Heights community of Brooklyn. My grandparents were very dedicated Chassidim, whose every move in life was undertaken with the Rebbe’s guidance and blessing. Those ideals around which their lives were centered, were imparted to their children and family. My grandparents were involved in many worthy endeavors at the Rebbe’s urging. The example that they showed, has inspired each and every one of us to emulate their devotion to the same cause.

My grandparents were the superglue of our family. They worked tirelessly to ensure that our family stayed close despite being all over the world. Their home was constantly filled with grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins and relatives, who found a welcoming environment to hang around.

I had a unique relationship with my grandparents because I lived in their home for many years, while attending school in New York. They were there for me as surrogate parents as I grew from a child to a teenager to an adult. They saw me off on my first (and only) foray into dating when I went to meet Malkie – driving my grandfather’s car. They made sure my suit was pressed and my shoes were polished… Each morning after our meetings, they would wake me up to find out how things were progressing. My grandfather refused to leave for work until he heard that all was well. Malkie and I lived next door to them after our marriage, and spent many Shabbos dinners at their home. When we moved to New Orleans, they remained super involved in every aspect of our lives. They were intimately involved in the lives of our children.

After my grandfather’s illness and passing twelve years ago my grandmother was left to preside over the family alone. Though she never truly got over his passing, she filled that role with grace and elegance. My children knew her as Bubby Bubby (to distinguish from the other Bubby Rivkin, my mother). She knew everything about their lives. Whenever I would speak to her on the phone or in person, she would complement the ones who were in NY for school.

My grandparents loved our New Orleans Chabad community. They supported and encouraged the work of Chabad here in any way they could. Many of the Chabad New Orleans folks came to regard her as their Bubby also, a role she embraced.

My last conversation with Bubby was on Purim morning. We chatted about Purim at Chabad in New Orleans and my family. I wish I had known that it would be the last time. Her health took a turn for the worse soon after. We saw each other on a family zoom conference when we gathered to pray for members of the family who were unwell.

She was a person who meant so much, to so many. She touched the lives of a wide range of people, who all remember her fondly for her kindness and insight. I still cannot believe that she is no longer with us physically. People like that are supposed to be in your life forever. I pray that our family will make her and my grandfather proud of the way we are continuing the life that they modeled for us. May Hashem send us the ultimate comfort with the coming of Moshiach speedily, when we will once again be reunited with all of our loved ones who have passed.

Comments on: A Tribute to my Bubby- Mrs. Dusia Rivkin

Nancy A. Mazur wrote...

Dayan Emes, May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.