Voices of WRJ: Chayei Sarah
This March, I went on the WRJ Centennial Trip to Israel and Berlin with more than two dozen WRJ women from around North America. Some of these women I had met at District conventions, others at Assembly 2011, and some at my first WRJ Board meeting. Others, I had never met before. Yet,we became sisters. We celebrated, laughed, and sometimes cried together during this trip.
On May 21, my world changed dramatically, in ways that I could not imagine and reality could only scare me. Our son Jesse was diagnosed with Salivary Gland Carcinoma.
When I was asked to write for Voices about Parashat Chayei Sarah as a relatively new board member, I was honored and overwhelmed. As I celebrated the High Holidays and then read this portion, I was struck by how much Abraham’s life was changed and challenged time and time again. Was he as frightened as I am?
Chayei Sarah takes up Abraham’s life after the Akedah. He has moved to Canaan with his family. This portion speaks about Abraham buying the cave in Canaan for Sarah to be buried in, finding Isaac a wife, and through his children continuing Judaism from generation to generation.
As I write this, my husband Earl, our son Jesse and I are relocated to Houston, TX so Jesse can be treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Jesse was diagnosed on May 21. We were in Houston by June 11. We knew we were facing a long road of chemotherapy, radiation with more chemo, and ultimately, surgery.
To say we were scared would be an understatement. We were petrified for our son. We were frightened for ourselves and our ability to cope and help Jesse through this ordeal. We were in a new city and in the most difficult place in our lives.
When I realized I was going to Houston, I reached out to my Sisterhood family and the response was overwhelming. We were not going to be strangers. I have an incredible WRJ family in Houston as well as in Wisconsin, Canada, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, and New York just to name a few. The prayers, caring, support, and love all helped to make us feel like we could do anything.
We knew we had biologic family around the country and, in Houston that would support us. Our friends in Richmond would take care of everything we needed at home. And we would bring our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends with us in our hearts.
What we learned is that with our WRJ family we would never be strangers. WRJ sisters not only talk the talk, they walk the walk. The outpouring of emails, calls, and prayers continue to amaze us.
Like Abraham, we found a place to live, a family, and a community.
I see the generations of Sisterhood women, from Carrie O. Simon to Norma U. Levitt, Dolores Wilkenfeld and Judith M. Hertz to Rosanne Selfon, Lynn Magid Lazar, Blair Marks, and more from generation to generation. We complete the covenant with God to create a people for all times.
To quote Blair when I told her I knew I had Sisters in Houston, “Linda, you have sisters everywhere.”
We have strength and belief in Women of Reform Judaism and in Jesse successfully defeating the cancer.
Linda O. Ferguson is a WRJ North American Board Member, WRJ Mid-Atlantic District Vice President, and Past Sisterhood President at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond, VA.