email thoughts

The email below was written by Reena Ribalow, a poet and writer who lives in Jerusalem.  She is the niece of Martha Hadassah and cousin to Leah, Shira, and Nommi. 


Dear Meirs, Levins and Belcourts,

It’s been hard to even gather my thoughts to write to you. Martha’s going seemed to take a part of me, as well; also, it deepened and reawakened the loss of my father. The two were so intertwined by love, history, respect: their bond was largely unspoken, but so palpable it had a life of its own. It was something with which I grew up, showing how deep and unwavering love can be. One of my more consoling thoughts was– now my father has company. They are together again, as they were in their small Bronx bedroom (where he told her a monster would eat her toes if they were uncovered, and she could never sleep with uncovered toes for the rest of her life).

I read the hespedim, which were truly lovely, and communicated the abiding love your mother had for you, and you for her. But I must admit, I cried at Alexander’s hesped, which was so tangible and so infused with the reality of what it meant to be in the circle of Martha’s love.

I also knew years of generosity, accomplishment, devotion, and just plain fun.  Although she was a superstar Rebbetzin: a woman of elegance and erudition: a monumentally devoted mother, daughter, sister and aunt–I remember a lot of giggling and an ability to let go and revel in the absurdity of things. I specifically remember a car containing Savta (Rose Ribalow), my mother (Shoshana Ribalow), Martha, a few of the cousins and myself, trying to cross a massive puddle on a road in Queens. Of course, the car got stuck, and we all had to wade through the waist-high water. Martha emerged, holding a bakery box aloft over her head, shouting, “I’ve got the cake”, whereupon she burst into giggles: this set off the rest of us, and watching her make her way through the water, cake above her head like a Jewish Statue of Liberty, transformed what might have been a traumatic memory into a warm and life-affirming one.

I feel your mother as the ultimate Jewish woman, who bound you with threads of love and would never let you go. She was, for myself and Meir, a root source of warmth and recognition throughout our lives.  She accomplished so much and was so much: but the ultimate accomplishment of Martha and Judah was the completeness and totality of the family they created. All of you– Leah, Shira and Nommi: Larry, Jimmy and David: and all the grandchildren, are a legacy which shines with their inner light. You all contain sacred fragments of their shattered vessel. All of them are here– Menachem Ribalow, Rose Ribalow, Harold Ribalow, Martha and Judah– in us and burn so bright, it feels as if they have not been extinguished.

The Sioux Indians say: “Count no man fortunate, until he has died a good death.” I think of your mother surrounded by every one of her children and grandchildren. I think of how Meir described a daughter holding each hand throughout those last days. I think of how you described to me the telling of stories, the singing of songs, having Tani speak Yiddish, and telling her she was going to her no-longer-lost-family. This is a death of the few, one in which blessings shine on your path into the dark. It is one she deserved, and one which could only transpire because she brought all that it embodies into the world, and blessed all of us with her very being.

With all my love,



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This is a tribute to Rabbi Judah Nadich z"l and Martha Hadassah Ribalow Nadich z"l, created and maintained by their family. If you have a memory or thought to share, please submit it to nadichblog at gmail dot com.

Entries in the 'eulogies,' 'kavanot,' and 'writings' categories may be reprinted and distributed for noncommercial purposes if proper credit is given. Please let us know if you plan to use any text from these categories.

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