May 30, 2024
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May 30, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A few weeks weeks ago, I lost one of the very best friends I will ever have: my mom. ~ Judi Stern / יוטא בת יהושע.

Judi Stern, wife of nearly 65 years to my father, mother to my brother, sister and myself, unwavering giver of love, support and very occasionally gentle advice (invariably offered with apologies for “mixing in”).

Mom was creative, artistic and eloquent.

She designed her own wedding gown; like all her clothing, it was classy, distinctive, stylish and modest. She sewed all of our bedspreads with matching throw pillows, a chair cushion, numerous draperies for our various apartments over the years, dozens of beautiful baby blankets as gifts (with names hand-embroidered on one side). She hung wallpaper and did large, complicated needlepoints. When Mom served you food, the plate was always a presentation, vegetables laid out in a pattern, slices of cake cut and arranged just so. Whatever she did, she did with just a bit of personal flair, color, pizzazz.

My mother had an absolutely beautiful way with words, preserved in her many letters to family members over the years. Generous with emotions or praise, but never schmaltzy—because she was specific, lucid and right to the point; there could be no doubting the sincerity and intelligence behind such well-chosen words.

Her religiosity was simple, pure and all-encompassing: no cutting corners, no “shtick” and no arguing with God. In her unassuming way, she was a woman of tremendous faith. I cannot recall ever seeing her truly despondent—and that, in a nutshell, is bitachon.

Mom was a talented, funny, highly intelligent woman who ultimately channeled all her creativity, life-affirming energy and expansive love into her large extended family. Her love and respect for our father was always front and center. Beyond that, she maintained a direct, personal relationship with all her children, 23 grandchildren and their spouses, several dozen great-grandchildren and assorted neighbors, friends of her children and others who met her and sensed that amazing current of caring and interest: Here was someone who actually loved listening to what you have to say, what’s going on in school or at work, what bothers you, what you’re all about. That’s how Mom was: She lived for her family and she connected with people. This was her gift, and I’d like to think we all learned from her example.

Mom, I’d say I hope we’re making you proud—but you left no doubt on that subject. In recent years especially, you constantly told me how much nachat, pride and admiration you felt for the way Heshi, Fradi and I live—our marriages, our children, whatever we’ve been doing. A stranger might’ve thought you a typical proud Jewish mother who overdoes the praise, but you and I knew each other too well for that; you meant every word, and you wanted us to know it (and continue to live up to it). This generosity—for what child doesn’t crave hearing that from a parent?—this was just one of the things that was uniquely special about you, that we miss so very much.

For your many loved ones, this is a season of great sadness, loss and regret for future moments that we will not share with you—but we take some comfort in knowing you’re doing what you’ve always done so well: loving and supporting us all, the consummate meilitz yosher.

Much love, Sheya

By Josh (Sheya) Stern

Josh Stern is a writer living with his family in Springfield, NJ. His parents are longtime Brooklynites (Mom never lived anywhere else)—but, characteristically, they were thrilled for their children to have found a home, community and town that they love—even if it was across the river.

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