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We Are Family

Thursday, 31 July, 2014 - 10:31 am

Last week, on July 21, my grandfather Mordechai Schusterman’s baby brother, Yosef, passed away. Before I share some thoughts about the aftermath of his death, and its relevance to all of us, let me tell you a bit about him (written by his granddaughter Larissa F.).

Yosef Schusterman passed away after a long and arduous battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was a strong, brave, and charismatic man, defined by his unwavering strength of character and integrity, and renowned by all who knew him for his friendliness, his charm, and his generous, sociable nature. He was, up until his last few years (and even then!), a charmer, a soldier, an entrepreneur, a fount of wisdom, a ladies' man, a man of unshakable conviction, a man of respect, a man of dignity. A man who would shine his shoes every morning, who exuded self-respect and integrity with every up-buttoned button, with every made bed, with every reprimand to his grandchildren to stand up straight, with every firm, sincere handshake that he would give (clasping your hand tightly and warmly both both hands). Most of all, he was a soldier. At the precocious age of 16, he took it upon himself to give his older sister the slip and fake his age in order to join the Soviet army - not because he was a fan of the Soviet regime (who had continuously persecuted his religious family), but because he wanted to fight Nazis. This set the tone for the rest of his life. He fought, and almost died, against Nazism, against the Soviet regime when he risked his life by transporting his wife and three children to Israel - not knowing whether he would succeed or end up in a gulag. He then had to face the untimely death of his wife to cancer, two heart attacks, two bypass surgeries, and then finally the horrendous affliction that is Alzheimer's Disease. He died whilst Hamas rockets were falling down on his neighborhood - even his departure was marked by fireworks in his wake.

10255108_10152706071603949_5921907320875610692_n.jpgClearly, he was a strong, principled and loving man. My grandfather spoke of him lovingly and this is a picture of one of their few joyous reunions after not seeing each other for 30 years.  My Aunt Feige shared Yosef’s grandchildren’s email addresses for those who wanted to share condolences. These are my second cousins who I never met and I have never met their grandfather. However, we are family and I sent a condolence email. They were touched and we connected. It is like I’ve known them all my life (even though I wouldn’t recognize them on the street) and will for sure visit them on my next trip to Israel/Toronto/South Africa. It is the intrinsic family connection that no time or distance can erode. As the song goes-  we are family!

In the war in Israel, it is the same thing. We are all family of our brethren in the Holy Land. We all feel close and are doing what we can to help; a prayer or wrapping teffilin, Shabbat candles or up leveling our kosher.

We had a section created on our website special for this operation. Check it out here, do a mitzvah, reconnect even if it’s been more than 30 years… do it because we are family.

Have a good Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

P.S. no services at Harford Chabad this week

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