Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Gloria Aisenberg, 1931-2021
Baruch Dayan Emet (Praised be the Judge of Truth)
So sad to inform everyone of the passing of my mother-in-law, Gloria Aisenberg, a truly one-of-a-kind person, passionate about her family, her work as an educator, the Jewish people and life itself. She used to warn her daughter to "never marry a rabbi," but she welcomed this one into the family with open arms.
While others talked the talk, she walked the walk. At an age when others might have been retiring to the golf course, she escorted Jewish teens on annual trips to Lithuania. When others might have become complacent with what they had learned, she was constantly going to Jewish educator's conferences like CAJE to learn more, and she was always, always reading. She was so proud of being part of Brandeis' pioneer second graduating class and she embodied the iconoclastic culture that the school embodied - and in doing so aligned herself with Judaism's rebellious sprit (which is why we got along so well). To the very last days of her life, she never lost that feistiness.
At times it seemed that everyone, literally everyone in Worcester knew her (lunch at Friendly's often took hours) and that all of them - and their children - had been tutored by her for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. If you want to know why Mara is the best teacher on the planet, well, she learned from the best.
She is so utterly Worcester that she claimed to have dated Bob Cousy. We'll see if we hear from the Cooz now. But it is undeniable that her grandfather Zorach Halevi Hurwitz was a leading Hasidic rebbe of his time. She took great pride in her family heritage.
She took great pleasure in the time she spent with us in Stamford at TBE, often with my mother in tow (they were the Thelma and Louise of the Massachusetts Turnpike and I often said a silent prayer when they arrived). She could not wait to give huge hugs to Ethan and Dan, who were, as she put it "the light and sunshine of her life."
A private graveside funeral will be held on Tuesday. Public Zoom shivas will be held on Wednesday at 8 PM and next Sunday at 4. For Zoom shiva links, please contact Beth Silver at email@example.com
Below this announcement is Mara's Facebook posting in loving tribute to her mom.
May the mourners be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
It is with great sadness that I share the news that my mom Gloria Aisenberg passed away this weekend.
My mom was a feisty, brash, outspoken, opinionated woman. She considered herself a bit of a rebel. She was outgoing, extroverted, and gregarious. She was born and lived in Worcester, Massachusetts her entire life. At the time of her passing, she had lived in the same house for 60 years. She had deep roots in the community and was a well-known and popular figure. She was a teacher and tutor who was loved and cherished by multiple generations of children and their parents. It was impossible to go anywhere in Worcester without meeting someone who knew her, and she was never too rushed or busy to stop and chat with old acquaintances for awhile.
Mom was an intelligent, educated, cultured person. She was proud to be a member of the historic second graduating class of Brandeis University. She told many stories of well-known public figures and professors that she encountered there, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonard Bernstein, and the sociologist Max Lerner. She was a voracious reader, and went through one book after another. She was passionate about word puzzles. She loved classical music and opera, and music was always playing in the background in our home. She was an avid walker, and kept herself fit and youthful. She was also a world traveler. Her destinations included Israel, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Lithuania, Russia, Italy, France, England, and the Netherlands, in addition to the Western US states and several trips to California. She was widowed at a young age, but was fiercely independent. She continued to work and started an active new life after my dad's passing.
Mom was a devoted, adoring, and doting grandmother. She loved her grandchildren above everything else. She drove to Stamford for every birthday party and school event, and was always available to take care of my kids when I traveled or needed child care help. My boys could always count on their Grammy to take them to Friendly's, to a movie, for pizza, or to Chuck E. Cheese, which was never my favorite activity!
Mom was a strong person and a fighter. She overcame many health issues over the years. I always joked that she had nine lives. But she was not able to prevail this time. Seeing her struggles and her slow decline over the past couple of months has been heartbreaking. Giving up was not in my mom's personality or nature. But in the end she was too frail to fight anymore. I hope that she is now at peace. I take solace in the knowledge that she lived a very full life and will be remembered fondly by so many people whose lives she touched. I will miss our long daily FaceTime sessions, when she would ask about her grandchildren, play remotely with my dogs, and do her exercise regimen with me. We had started planning how she wanted to celebrate her upcoming 90th birthday in August. She had described the cake that she wanted.
I know that this has been a very difficult year for so many people, and that I am joining many others who have lost loved ones and are grieving and experiencing the same profound loss that I feel.