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Marking the First Yahrtzeit of Linda Basch

It is hard to believe that June 19, 2015 or Bet Tamuz marks the first yahrtzeit of my beloved friend, Linda Leah Feldman Basch zt”l. The parsha the week Linda was niftar was Parshat Chukat. The amount of parallels in that parsha is quite haunting. The parsha opens discussing the porah adumah (red heifer). We read that the ashes are used for anyone in the tent when someone died in it. Right after we learn about the red cow for purification for death, we learn of the death of Miriam. The posuk says “And Miriam died there.” Miriam died by a kiss from Hashem. However, according to sefer Vedibarta Bam, because she was a woman this is not explicitly said. Miriam’s death is after the porah aduma, because the death of a righteous person atones for Bnei Yisrael, as does the red cow.

Later in the parsha in Chapter 20 we read of the passing of Aharon. Aharon ascended the mountain of Hor and died, knowing that his son Elazar was taking over the Kehuna. This comfort of knowing Elazar was going to be Kohen Gadol made Aharon happy at the time of his death. Moshe dressed Elazar and then with a kiss from Hashem, Aharon was niftar. The Baal Haturim comments that “Vayamat Aharon Shom” or “then Aharon died there,” which has the gematria or numerical equivalence to “Melamaid Ki Mait Binishika” meaning “this teaches that he died by a kiss.”

Linda, like Aharon, was in a happy state when Hashem called her back to Shamayim. Dressed in her finery at my daughter’s wedding, surrounded by her husband and friends, with flowers perhaps the likes of Gan Eden, dancing and happy she returned to her Father in Heaven. Similar to Aharon and Miriam, she received a kiss from Hashem and her soul left our world to Olam Habba escorted by her dear husband and friends. Linda loved celebrating with family and friends. Linda could not have orchestrated a better going away party for herself.

We learn in Parshat Chukat “Vayivku Et Aharon Shiloshim Yom Kol Bait Yisroel” or “All of the house of Israel wept for Aharon for thirty days.” This mourning was because Aharon had made peace between men and wives, and between man and his friend, and so all of Bnai Yisroel mourned for him. Our West Orange community has been mourning right along with the Basch family this year, for a woman who was a rodef shalom, one who loved and pursued peace.

In Pirkei Avot we learn “Hillel says be of the disciples of Aharon loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow men and bringing them closer to Torah.” Aharon not only believed in the concept of peace but was actively engaged in the pursuit of peace, as a Rodef Shalom. Our friend Linda epitomized the values of Aharon as she too did not like it if two people were fighting, or not talking to one another. She would go out of her way to restore peace between them.

Linda was a social worker. She worked as programs director for The Hebrew Institute in Riverdale for many years, implementing programs for seniors and the disabled. Chanukah, Purim or Thanksgiving festivities for thousands were no easy feat! She also planned rehabilitative and therapeutic programs helping over 500 developmentally disabled young adults. Linda would be found in the center of the dance floor scoping out the perimeter where she would bring in a person in a wheelchair who could not dance on their legs. She would dance with them by holding their hands as they sat in their chair. She knew how to make others feel included.

In our shul, Congregation AABJ&D, it was Linda who implemented the Chanukah programs, and the Shabbat meal before Pesach, so people could eat in the shul and not worry about bringing chometz into a cleaned for Pesach home. Many programs were brought to our shul due to Linda, who created inclusive festivities to unify the community. With few funds to work with, Linda would do most of the catering herself so we could charge members a meager admission to attend the programs.

Linda was an active member of the West Orange Chapter of AMIT, served as Vice President of the AABJ&D Sisterhood, served on the Board of Directors of AABJ&D, Chaired the Special Events Committee and assisted with the Adult Education Committee at AABJ&D. She was also honored in 2003 at the shul’s 37th Annual Dinner known to many as the “Bier Basch.”

Linda was part of a seudat shlishit group that I belong too. She was always available to give an off-the-cuff d’var Torah if a member had a yahrtzeit and wanted to do something in their loved one’s memory. The year she was niftar she decided our group should be learning Pirkei Avot as part of the meal. Her enthusiasm in reading and teaching the lessons of the sefer was contagious. Her love of Torah and drawing us as a group closer to Torah is like the disciples of Aharon.

Through various levels of sponsorship our shul community gathered together this year and sponsored the “Linda Basch Memorial Lecture Series.” The lecture series started on Tisha B’Av. We have had many speakers, including Debbie Akerman, LCSW, Rachel Pill, LCSW, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, rabbi of Congregation Beth Aaron, Teaneck and former assistant rabbi at Cong. AABJ&D, Rabbi Avi Weiss, rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, and for the yahrtzeit, Mrs. Susan Koss (Dworken), principal of Breuers and past principal of JKHA as well as a close friend of Linda and the Basch family.

We thank our many sponsors for the wonderful lectures they have brought to the shul over Shabbat or during the week, as the lectures spoke of the incredible woman Linda was. She was truly larger than life and because of this her absence is so palpable.

Linda leaves behind her dear husband Sol, son Chaim and her daughter in law Allison and their children Talia and Noam Simcha (named for Linda), Boomie, Charlie and Jodi. She is also survived by her brother Elihu and sister-in-law Marcia Feldman, and countless relatives.

West Orange is a community that really rallies together and I think the Basch family has been able to find solace in the love we have extended to them, and knowing that we share their loss.

By Andrea G. Bier

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