Mentor, guide, cheerleader or motivator, Rabbi Daniel Cohen possesses a unique blend of authenticity, wisdom and spiritual insight for contemporary society.

The Splendor of Her Soul: In Tribute to my Grandmother, Claire Umansky

Thank you to everyone for for all of your heartfelt tributes. I stand here today not as a Rabbi but as a grandson. 

There are so many stories we can share about Grandma. Today is only a small slice of her enduring impact in our lives. I know we will think about her always. The love she invested in us, her life lessons, both written and oral are so much a part of us. We are her legacy. 

It hit home this morning how blessed we are. A fellow Frank Forbes of the Stamford PD reintroduced himself to me. I met him at the funeral of a women in our community for whom he cared for many years. She was alone and to his eternal credit he adopted her into his family. Our community turned out in early September to escort her on her journey to the next world. Here we are are, thank God, generations of Grandma and Grandpa's descendants - four generations - all indelibly and eternally shaped by her. Her zest for for life, Yiddishkeit, love of family, tenacity, honesty, wisdom and so much more. She will always live on in us and so many she touched.  

It is hard to believe she is no longer physically present with us. She was our bridge to the past and road to our future. 

As much we knew the day was near, when I heard the news, I cried for her, our loss. She was a link to our roots, an earlier time. She knew a Europe and America beyond our imagination but came to this country with a dream and a spirit laying the foundations with Grandpa for all of us. She reminded us of the blessings of America, the golden medinah and the welcoming arms of Lady Liberty. As a child, we were raised by her on the vision of Emma Lazarus - give me your tired, poor and hungry. I will always treasure the letter she gave each of us on the bicentennial  of our country. 

Her love of America was coupled with her love of Israel. I am struck at how her love of Israel permeates our extended family for generations. The trip we took with Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Michael, Ima of blessed memory, David and Elie in our Bar Mitzvah years to Israel lit a spark within me which grew over the years. So much so that God willing, Grandma's first great grandchild, Adina, will be making aliyah. Who could have imagined? One trip, rippling across time..there are hundreds if not thousands of seeds Grandma planted in our lives that yield and will continue to yield fruit forever. 


We cannot summarize Grandma's life - the stories, the wisdom, are too numerous but one word did come to mind when I think about her. The word is Tiferet. It is a sefirah, a manifestation of God's presence on earth. What is it? It is translated as splendor and embodies the syntheses of Chesed - Kindness and Gevurah  - Strength. Reaching out in love and standing firm in principle - a balance of giving and withholding. In my mind, Grandma was Tiferet. 

She was a person who was strong in her convictions, a bundle of personality and spunk, and her kindness  knew few bounds. Her love of Grandpa was extraordinary. They were one and each exhibited such respect and love for each other. They were a team. Together, they showered all of us with their time, attention, love and wisdom. We were all so fortunate.  She pampered  us on our visits to Florida, serving us like royalty on her terrace. She wanted to even make sure we were sitting at the table so we could appreciate the beautiful view on the water way. 

She derived so much joy from nurturing the family, joining us on Pesach in Atlanta and in her later years on Rosh Hashanah. She was the model wife and although she ran a successful business based on her ingenuity and tenacity, she did her best to provide home cooked meals, take care of grandpa. She developed a relationship with each of us, her grandchildren, her greats as she would call them, her children, their spouses, her nieces and nephews, cousins..she was and is the matriarch or our family..she brought us all together..She and grandpa made always made the effort to be part of our lives. 

Her love was tempered by her honesty and frankness. Her gevurah, her strength. She let us and everyone know how she felt to guide us, motivate us to be our very best. We remember a time in a restaurant in Florida when the waiter asked - how is everything and Grandma answered - do you really want to know? She went on to offer helpful advice because she wanted them to improve - out of love. She was proud of us, our family and all of our accomplishments. It gave her such joy. When we were together with her, she would hold court..sharing her wisdom, opinions, stories. I loved it and will miss it..we all will - she was Tiferet - splendor  - a soul inufsed with love, kindness, generosity and balanced with strength, tenacity, determination, spunk and honesty. 

Grandma's passing is especially sad as Grandma and Granpa were another link to Ima. Grandma and Grandpa to their everlasting credit, after Ima's tragic passing, always made an extra effort to stay connected to us and be there for us. God works in mysterious ways..we will never understand..Grandma taught us about faith and God.  

My relationship with God deepened through Grandma. She would express her anger at God, the pain in her heart, all of ours, which will always remain but she found a way to carry my mother as we all did in spirit, to forge a life fitting of Ima's legacy. She taught me that having a relationship with God means you can question and believe, mourn and be in pain but garner the hope and strength to celebrate life. Even now, I cry because I miss my mom so much and grandma's passing makes that loss even more real. 

I want to conclude with a one final thought from this morning. At the end of the quiet mediation, I always offer a prayer for our family for good health and fulifllment, each person by name. When I came to grandma, I paused with a heavy heart, as I realized she was no longer physically present...the finality of her passing penerated my heart. Yet, 15 minutes later I cried again but as a budren began to lift. 

This week's Torah portion is Vayeshev, the one I read as a Bar Mitzvah on Thanksgiving morning in 1980 in Atlanta. I read the Torah in memory of my grandma and my mom. The vivid memory of my Ima and Grandma watching me shone bright in 1980 in my heart. I knew then as I do now that they are watching over us, Grandpa too. We know you are so proud of all of us, our devotion to Judaism, family, being our very best and seizing every opportunity to realize our potential and make the world better. We are forever grateful to you. 

Grandma, on behalf of Diane, our girls, everyone here..your caregivers, Michael and Sherri and their family, Jay and Peggy, Abba and Meryl, the relatives, cousins, friends, we love you so much. We will miss you always, your touch, the squeeze of your hand, you kiss, your love but know you led an exemplary life.  You gave your all in the over 100 years your hoiy soul blessed thi earth. I know you are now with Grandpa, your parents, Ima and all of our loved ones..May God watch over you in your journey and we know your will live in us for ever an ever. We already miss you so and love you forever. 

May the Force be with You!

The Rabbi and the Reverend

The Rabbi and the Reverend