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‘Legions Whose Lives She Touched’ Mark Shloshim of Rochelle Shoretz

Tenafly—On Tuesday, June 30, friends, family and colleagues gathered to commemorate the shloshim of Rochelle Shoretz, A”H, executive director and founder of Sharsheret.

“If each of us achieved in a lifetime what Rochelle achieved in 14 years, the world would be a different place,” wrote one person in an online tribute.

A national nonprofit organization that provides educational services and support for Jewish women struggling with breast cancer, Sharsheret was started as a result of Shoretz’s vision, spirit and drive.

“It was actually a perfect tribute to Rochelle,” said Director of Business Operations Elana Silber, in an interview with the Jewish Link. “It was the most respectful way to honor how we will be taking her vision into the future.”

Two hundred people attended the event live in New Jersey at the Jewish Community Center on the Palisades, 150 watched the live stream online and an additional group gathered in Miami. The tributes included those from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, bestselling author Brad Meltzer and 18 others, including Shoretz’s siblings, who read tributes that had been posted about her online.

Sharsheret means “link” in Hebrew and that describes Sharsheret’s purpose in a nutshell—a way for women to link together. Shoretz, who passed away at age 42 after years of battling breast cancer, explained to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2003 that she started Sharsheret because “there were a lot of offers to help with meals and transport my kids, but I really wanted to speak to another young mom who was going to have to explain to her kids that she was going to lose her hair to chemo.”

Shoretz used to say how “it’s amazing to see what can grow from a few passionate women.” And grow it did. Once a small grassroots organization, Sharsheret today has an annual budget of $2.25 million, 11 national programs, and a seat on the Federal Advisory Board on Breast Cancer and Young Women.

Among her legacies are also two sons, Shlomo and Dovid, who also spoke movingly about their mother at the shloshim. “Whatever Mom was doing, she did it 100 percent,” said Shlomo. “Whether is was creating a life-changing organization, raising her kids or running a triathlon, she was totally focused and didn’t let anything get in her way…She was always willing to take up new challenges, even when it meant swimming in uncharted waters.”

Her son, Dovid, remarked how everyone complimented his mother’s courage. “Mom always found it odd when people called her brave. She said she didn’t choose cancer. So what was she doing that was so brave? The bravery of Mom was that when she was thrown into a challenging situation, she rose to the occasion and changed the world.

“My mother’s passion was contagious and her joyful presence was clearly felt wherever she went. She would always refer to Sharsheret’s staff and volunteers as superstars.”

Before starting Sharsheret, Shoretz worked as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Ginsberg appeared at the shloshim in a video tribute, commemorating the impact Rochelle has had on her life. “Beyond her keen intelligence, Rochelle was personable, witty, passionate about learning and deeply concerned about the world around her,” remarked Ginsberg. “When the dreaded disease recurred, Rochelle’s will to carry on with her life and her full engagement in Sharsheret were beyond inspiring. Her courage was indomitable, she refused to give way to despair and redoubled her efforts to uplift others battling cancer. Rochelle will be missed by legions whose lives she touched. We have a store of memories of her bright spirit. May those memories encourage us to follow in her way, to love life, and whatever the obstacles, to exert our best efforts to advance worthy causes outside ourselves.”

“Why’d I like her? She made me laugh,” wrote Brad Meltzer, bestselling author and close friend of Shoretz’s from law school. “No matter how much I write, I’ll never capture her…Strong, fearless and always herself—that’s what great women are made of.”

While Shoretz was living with stage 4 breast cancer, she would still work tirelessly to make sure Sharsheret was running on full force. Her sister, Dalia Shoretz Nagel, remarked how Shoretz used to say “Sharsheret is keeping me alive.” Now that she has passed away, Sharsheret and the countless she has impacted have pledged to keep her memory alive in this world and for generations to come.

To watch the shloshim recordings and for more information on Sharsheret and their support programs, go to www.sharsheret.org.

By Bracha Leah Palatnik

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