At my Bat Mitzvah, I saw one of my grandmothers sitting and I didn’t see her often so. I went over to give her a hug. In spite of Hurricane Gloria and the lovely power outages that came with her, my party was in full swing and everyone was having a good time. I had been thinking about what was to happen next for me in my Jewish journey as a Levin, so I asked her a serious question.
“Nana, do you think instead of sending me to Israel like everyone else, could you send me to Hawaii?”
She turned to look at me, was silent for a second and then laughed like I had never heard her laugh before. She laughed and laughed. I could tell that perhaps I had made a mistake and moved on. According to my other grandmother, whom she grabbed right after to share my question with, she thought it was hilarious. That was one of the last good belly laughs she had, and she passed that following November.
I have yet to make that trip to Israel. Never made it to Hawaii either, but I would take Israel over Hawaii any day. The passion and love my grandmother Helen Levin had for the state of Israel was so immense, I still can feel it even now, thirty years later. She traveled there often, and did a lot of work to help implement humanitarian efforts. She and both of my grandfathers- Bob Levin, then Max Moskow, donated to Hadassah hospital. When the State was just beginning she sold bonds to raise money to support the efforts. She told me stories of the children there, and of the places that she hoped I would see one day. She told me how lucky I was to be born in a world where there was an Israel, a homeland for Jews.
To me, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I remember telling her she could have been a movie star like Bette Davis. She thought that was pretty funny too. Because I didn’t see her often, the moments I did spend with her are even more special. They are so precious to me and as each day passes, as I start to forget the sound of her voice, they become even more. I will never forget is her passion for Israel and her determination that every grandchild will see the country she loved so much.
Nana, I know that if you were here with me today that you probably would be shaking your head or maybe disappointed in the decisions I have made. I know that many in our family look at me very differently these days and there are days I struggle with that. What I do know is that in spite of my failings you would be immensely proud of this incredible young woman who is traveling to your favorite place tomorrow morning. She will lay her eyes on the same places you held dear to your heart, and I know you will be beside her standing in the desert. I may not have been able to get there but my daughter will, and hopefully the other two after her when they get old enough. Izzie already has a heart sister in Jerusalem whom we cannot wait to meet someday. This heart sister named Tehilla, who is thriving because of that hospital you helped fund so many years ago. You are still touching my life in ways I could never have imagined.
I love you Nana Helen, I was so blessed to have had you in my life for those short 13 years. Thank you for passing this incredible love to me for a place I have yet to see, so I could pass this on to my daughters.