A Tribute to My Mom, Rose Newman, Z”L

Sometimes it feels like my mom is on a long vacation and she has no cell phone reception. I get the urge to call her, catch her up on my day, and hear about hers.

But then I remember.

She’s not on vacation and I can’t call her; she passed away about five months ago. We’ll never talk on the phone again.

The reality is slowly hitting home.

My mother, Rose Newman, z”l, was 67 years old when she passed away. Not long ago, she celebrated her 44th anniversary with my father who’s now 68. Not long ago, my family got together to celebrate Chanukah. My mom spent most of the day preparing for the party and cooking her famous latkes — the last time she’d ever cook for her whole family.

Allow me to share some words about my mother.

A Doer

Every Shabbos when I say the words, “Lechol Me SheOskim BeTzarchei Tzibbur BeEmuna,” I can’t help but think of my mom.

In my hometown community — Southfield, Michigan — it felt like my mom practically ran the shul. She supervised the maintenance staff, helped people plan simchas, handled shul mailings, welcomed new community members, served on the board, volunteered at countless events — the list goes on and on.

At my elementary school — Akiva Hebrew Day School — she served on the PTA board, chaperoned field trips, organized events, served hot lunches; again, the list goes on and on. It’s no surprise she was honored by both my school and the shul.

When I was growing up, my father was the Medical Director at the American Red Cross in Detroit. While he answered medical questions and wrote papers about improving the safety of blood donations, my mother helped collect the blood. She ran countless blood drives in the Jewish community, organizing the logistics and soliciting the donors. For weeks before each blood drive, she’d call dozens of people every night, inquiring about how they’re doing, checking in about their families, and eventually asking them if they can give blood. Her efforts likely saved thousands of lives.

While many people knew my mom was a ba’alat chessed, there were so many kindnesses that she did without fanfare, many that she did anonymously. Even her own children didn’t know — we only found out at the shiva. When a family friend couldn’t afford to go to college, my mom paid his tuition bills. When someone in the community was struggling to pay their bills, my mom showed up with a check.

Making Family Her First Priority

As much as my mom did for her community, she always put her family first. She’d drop anything for us. Her love and devotion to family was unparalleled.

My mom was the only child of Holocaust survivors, and she was acutely aware of the Jewish people’s losses. She made it her mission to rebuild. She married early and had four children — her first in 1979. She spent the rest of her life raising her family, giving each family member love and support, and eventually bonding with her grandchildren.

Her greatest joy in life was her children and grandchildren, which was something she made clear with both her words and actions. At my wedding — I’m the youngest of my siblings and was the last to get married — I remember watching her take in the scene and crying tears of joy. She shepped tremendous nachas each time a child or grandchild had a milestone.

She was, in many ways, the leader and connector of our family. If I wanted to know the family’s Pesach plans or what’s going on with one of my siblings, I’d call my mom. She always knew what was happening in each person’s life, and everyone felt comfortable confiding in her. She was the glue that turned our family into a family.

Being There for Newcomers

It says in the Torah, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” My mother lived this passuk. She was raised by immigrants and had a special place in her heart for those far from home.

When a family moved into our community from a far off place — be it France, Israel, or England — my mom did everything she could to make them feel at home. She’d go up to them in shul, welcome them to the community, and invite them for a Shabbos meal. When they needed someone to watch the kids for a few hours or had questions about where to buy groceries or find a good doctor, my mom was there to give them the lay of the land, helping them acclimate to a new place.

Making a Kiddush Hashem

When I was growing up, my mom was chatty with nearly everyone she interacted with — flight attendants, grocery store cashiers, shoe salesmen, janitors, office clerks, the customer service representative on the other end of the phone — you name it. This was sometimes frustrating as a kid, especially when I was in a rush to get somewhere or wanted my mom’s attention.

Only later on as an adult did I come to appreciate this quality in my mom. She never looked down on anyone and treated every single human being with dignity and respect. By being a genuine and friendly person, she was constantly making a Kiddush Hashem.

Saying Goodbye, By Saying Thank You

I never thought I’d be saying goodbye to my mom after a nine-year battle with peritoneal cancer. It felt like she’d just keep living forever and ever.

When the cancer was first discovered, the doctors didn’t give her much time. It was only because of her willingness to fight, a few incredible doctors, and Hashem’s help that she lived as long as she did. Those nine extra years were an amazing gift, one that my family and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Those nine years weren’t always easy though. Watching my mom go through round after round of chemotherapy, growing weaker after each one, was a struggle. She braved those nine years with so much strength, dignity, and resiliency.

In the end, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for a mom who was loving, generous, kind, and caring. I’m grateful for a mom who will forever be an example to me and so many others.

About the Author
Zev Newman is a Freelance Content Writer and Marketing Consultant that serves B2B and B2C companies around the world. His specialties include SEO, Content Writing, Social Media Management, and Digital Marketing Strategy.
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