Many of you may or may not know my grandma Gilda died on the 7th of the Hebrew month of Kislev. And although it pains me she is no longer here I could have not asked for a better month for her to pass. Each Hebrew month has a theme and Kislev is by far one of my favorite Hebrew months. I think when G-d knew it was Gilda’s time, he knew this month and its meaning belonged to her.
During the Hebrew month of Kislev we focus on dreams and finding the light in our lives. As Jews, g-d gave us the month of Kislev to examine our heart’s desire and most of all find our purpose.
And if there is anything I am most thankful for from my grandmother it was her help in helping me find my purpose and being a constant sort of light in my life.
To those close to me, it was clear I had a very unique relationship with Grandma Gilda. SHe told me stories she didn’t even share with her children over the years. Gilda loved to talk to me about Israel.
We would spend hours pouring over old photos from her and Grandpa Lou’s trip to Israel. Over and over again she would tell me how fabulous this place was. A place at the time that was only a dream to me.
As I would sit on her bench in her kitchen she would touch a curl on my head and tell me how much I looked like “the Israelis.” Little did I know I needed her saying that more than anything at that point in my life - as a young girl who always felt she looked different from her blonde-haired blue-eyed peers in schools. As a young girl I needed more than ever to find my people and my purpose in the world.
Gilda would then go on sitting there, one arm on the benches back, the other on her thigh and repeat to me over and over again how Israel was the only place in the world where she felt completely safe.
Her exact words to me were “When you step off the plane - you can breathe.”
Fast forward a few years, I’m 18 and a freshmen in college, Gilda had me write a letter to my Grandpa’s cousin's in Israel whom they had stayed in touch with over the years. I soon boarded a plane to discover a piece of my that had been missing for a long time and when I stepped off that plane I knew exactly what she meant when she said “you can breathe.”
I don’t think Gilda ever knew but she would soon change the trajectory of my life and truly help me find a purpose in this world.
From her stories and encouragement to just go, go, go - always in her accent that I wasn’t sure when it came from, I went. I fell in love with Israel and the Jewish people.
And because of her, I have gone to Israel multiple times each year so I can breathe again.
And because of her, I have worked hard to have the opportunity to work for multiple Jewish organizations focused on Israel.
And because of her I have found the light in my life and my purpose here.
And at 27-years-old I’m working to build my career around trying to help other people fall in love with Israel just as my grandma helped me.
Which is why her yartzheit couldn’t fall on a better day in a better month. Gilda is truly a light in everyone's life.
From now on, Kislev is the month of Gilda. A time to make all those close to her appreciate the meaning in the world and the meaning in their own hearts and to most of all find the light in their lives.