Terumah 5783 – Bibi and My Mum

By: Susan Moger

The first 2 verses of Parashat Terumah read: G-d spoke to Moses, saying:  Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts for me from every person whose heart is so moved.

By asking for donations, Tzidaka, G-d invites everyone in the community–rich and poor, old and young, wise and innocent–to participate in building the meeting place where the Israelites would gather to encounter G-d. By asking for donations of the heart, G-d makes it clear that all donations–whatever their size or monetary value–are to be valued as equally precious because they come from the heart–and that makes them more valuable than anything money could buy.

These first 2 verses are similar to the way Kehillat Chaverim Shabbat services work. Everyone is invited to participate in whatever way their hearts move them and every kind of participation is a precious gift to the community. It doesn’t matter if we read Torah, provide the location for us to meet, lead a service, open the ark, give a dvar, set up tables, or arrive on time to make the minyan, we are all giving our community a gift by being here.

The gift I have brought to the Kehillah today is the story of a precious memory I received from my Mum, Father, brother, our house, neighborhood, and also from Benjamin Netanyahu. This week my heart moved me to share this memory with the community as a gift of sorts.

Fast Facts: In the 1970’s the Israel Government sent Benjamin Netanyahu under the name of Ben Nitay to the US to get his undergraduate and Master’s Degree at MIT. Part of his agreement was to be available to speak to the community.  He completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture and management at MIT.

Who knows Fred’s wife’s first and last name, please say it. (Her name is Esther Nathan). My parents were named Esther and Nathan. My parent lived to 120. Our address was 120 Woodchester Dr., Chestnut Hill, Newton. At the time the street was 100% Jewish, referred to as the guilded ghetto. Of course walking distance to the conservative shul, my father would not buy a house that wasn’t.  My Mother was a Zionist and also the American and Zionist Affairs chairperson in Boston Hadassah for many years.  At the time Hadassah was more about education of Israel and less about being social and other issues like it is now. It has always been strong on fundraising for the Hadassah Medical Center and Youth Aliyah, which was a favorite project of my Mum. She would speak, be interviewed on the radio, and arrange for speakers. My parents went on an Israel Bonds Leadership tour to Israel in 1973 and met with David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, among other leaders

Continuing with fast/fun facts:  My father put himself through Harvard and Harvard Law with partial scholarship and working as a tutor for Harvard student who spent the semester on yachts at Newport. Perhaps the tutoring business led Harvard to later institute an attendance requirement. He said he would tutor students differently if they wanted an A or a B or a C.

My cousin Michael went to Tufts Medical School and became a doctor. My brother Robert, had learning difficulty, but was able to pass the real estate broker test on the first try.

In 1976 while working on his Master’s Degree at MIT, my mother called Ben Nitay, a name on the Hadassah speaker’s list and arranged for Ben to come to our home one evening to speak at a Hadassah meeting. My Mum invited the young student for dinner at our home before the meeting. He took public transportation to Newton from Cambridge and my Mum picked him up. I was not there, I already graduated college, moved to LA, working by day, disco dancing by night. My brother, father and Mum had dinner with Ben followed by a Hadassah meeting at our home where Ben spoke. My mother did not like his politics, and it was a memorable evening.  Then in June 1976 Ben was on his way to get a doctorate in political science when his older brother Yonatan died in a commando raid that freed passengers on a hijacked plane in Entebbe, Uganda and Ben returned to Israel.  It also marked the beginning of his career in politics, mere weeks after dining at our home with the family.  Netanyahu was the son of a Cornell professor and spent a good part of his early life in the US.

I wrote a midrash, as any midrash it is based on facts and is plausible, but may or may not have happened. There is a midrash about Moses and the 10 commandments with a comic twist. G-d asked different people in the day, will you take my commandment and G-d was asked what is included and G-d replied thou shalt not kill, they said no we make our living by killing. G-d asked another people will you take my commandment and was asked what was included and G-d said though shalt not steal and their reply was no we make a living from stealing. Then G-d asked Moses will you take my commandment and Moses asked how much? G-d replied they are free and Moses replied well then, we will take 10.  Is this true? Perhaps it is or perhaps not.

My midrash. My mother introduced Ben to my father, saying Ben, this is my husband Nathan, a Harvard lawyer. Nathan, the Israel Government sent Ben to MIT to get his Master’s Degree. My father, this will reveal things about him and also the great rivalry between Harvard and MIT, which my father always referred to as Tech, said upon meeting Ben, if my nephew Michael could go to Tufts and become a doctor, if my son Robert could pass the real estate broker’s exam on the first try, Oh, well. So the Israel government sent you to Tech to get your Master’s degree, well then you could be the Prime Minister of Israel and the rest is history. Is this a true midrash? We don’t know but it may be. However, the only living person we can ask, if he remembers, is busy answering questions of a very different nature in Israel.

This year our community of Kehillat Chaverim will be 10 years old. So, it seems appropriate to celebrate by bringing gifts–not material gifts, but gifts of ways we can contribute and enrich our services.

Is there some new thing in shul you’ve thought you might like to do one day? Why not try it this year? Thereby you will participate in our Kehillat Chaverim 10th Anniversary Challenge.  What are the donations you will give us, not of money, but of participation in our services that need you. I challenge you to do it. I plan to relearn the Torah trope, stay tuned to see if you can tell of my efforts to do so.

Yet again my dvar takes us back to the 1970s. This will be the final visit to the 1970s in my dvars, not that I have no more 1970s stories, but there are no more 1970s stories of mine suitable to be told in shul. Please rise and turn to p. 488 and we will sign Hatikvah. Shabbat shalom, Peace in Israel. Peace in the Ukraine. (holding up peace sign), Peace Out.

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