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Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

A Chanukah Legacy of Love and Dedication

While the rest of the world was celebrating the fourth night and day of Chanukah, 25 years ago my personal celebration came to a halt as I heard the news that my role model, my anchor, my counselor, my coach and most of all my beloved father, Esir ben Avraham Benyamin, died from a sudden heart attack. The instant disconnect from focusing on candle lighting to funeral preparations was also complicated by a more significant issue – and that was how to break the news to my mother , Feigel bat Tuvia Nisan z”l that her soulmate of 52 years and primary caregiver during her advanced stage of Alzheimer’s had departed.

And, as I start observing the 25th yahrzeit tonight, it is the memory of that heartbreaking disclosure that remains with me and provides the most significant recollection of just what my parents’ marriage symbolized and is noteworthy to share.

A Tzaddik in the Making

Backing up a bit, my father, who was born on April 30, 1912 (Iyar 13,5672) was raised in Dallas, Texas until his death on December 27, 1997 (28 Kislev 5757). He attended public school through high school and received a law degree from Southern Methodist University (SMU) and practiced law for fifty years.

One of ten children born to parents who settled in Dallas from living in Poland, my father could be described best by his own inscription in his high school journal which read:

“I would that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me.”

And that expression in a nutshell described the man who I most admired whose character traits encompassed humility, integrity, honesty, leadership, dedication, positivity, intelligence, and most of all a loving heart that exuded warmth, vitality and a giving nature and most of all was exhibited by a selfless devotion to his family and most of all my mother.

Marriage Made in Heaven

My parents were married on February 27, 1945 in Dallas Texas,  and to me they had a storybook marriage of 52 years,  The shidduch maker was actually the uncle who with his wife raised my mother after the loss of her own parents when she two (death of father) and four years old (death of mother).

Being one of four children, I had the privilege of being in a family whose parents showered me with love and affection and support and showed by example what values are the most important to possess. It was clear that my father adored my mother and she was equally dedicated to his needs.

In addition to being outstanding parents, they had an equal dedication to the local synagogue where my father assumed the mantle from his father of leadership being a President for twelve years and gabbai for 25 years.  My mother was likewise involved as President of the Sisterhood and being the welcome committee for any new face that would walk into the synagogue.

Secret to a Happy Marriage

A primary catalyst for the creation of the non profit Together in Happiness/B’Yachad B’Osher in 2011 was my desire to have a forum for sharing those characteristics that I had the good fortune to witness as a child of such extraordinary parents.

My inaugural speech at the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel in 2011 which was dedicated to the loving memory of Feigel bat Tuvia Nisan and Esir ben Avraham Benyamin provided such an opportunity as demonstrated in the words below and link:

“The model that I have had in front of my eyes as I embarked on this journey to plan this conference was the 52 years of marriage of my parents who showed me by example what is the special recipe of a happy marriage- one that is built on a foundation of mutual respect, trust and communication, shared goals, love and commitment to each other and family values and appreciation for the gift each had found in the other.”

Here is the link to the speech:

https://youtu.be/kdjXK8NVgy0

A Chanukah Message for All of Us

I grew up in a home where there were no differences in Jews – every Jew was the same no matter whether he was Ashkenazi, Sephardim, dati lo dati – all.

My home was always a center where a stranger was always welcome and loving hearts were open to the family and to the greater Jewish community that they volunteered to help build.

Both my parents understood that Israel was the Jewish homeland and they gave their full support to my decision to make aliya with my small family and connect with the Jewish people. They taught me that the unity of Jews is so important. And most of all, my parents inspired me to have a dream – that building a  happy and healthy Jewish marriage and home is the single most important goal in their lives –If they were alive today they would encourage me to do everything possible to keep families together in happiness and work to find solutions to prevent the rising divorces.

My own Chanukah Dedication

It has taken me twenty five years of yahrzeit observances to come to terms why my father had to die on Shabbat Chanukah – the apex of the holiday. I have come to the conclusion that he needed to pass the torch to the next generation to advocate for the kind of marriage that he and my mother had.

Despite physical challenges in their older years, the support that they had for each other was an inspiration.

They would advise couples to find ways to grow together and deal with adversity with a positive outlook.

This is the motivation that has driven me to pursue the path of marriage education despite the fact that I am not a mental health professional and instead a business woman and for the last ten years a marriage educator.

I feel compelled in testimony to my parents to keep the lights of a healthy marriage burning in as many hearts and minds as possible as that is the legacy of my beloved father on the twenty fifth yahrzeit.

We all could take on this torch and imagine how many homes that we can kindle with love and dedication for our future survival.

A link to the dedication to my parents on the website of the amuta Together in Happiness/B’Yachad B’Osher is below:

In Memory

Wishing you a Chanukah Sameah.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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