Lauren B. Lev
Author, Teacher and Member, Hadassah Nassau

For March Women’s History / Empowerment Month – The Empowering Annette

Image courtesy of Hadassah.
Image courtesy of Hadassah.

When I first met my husband, he had many stories to share. Third generation in his Brooklyn, New York apartment, a rich history of studying and working in theatre including backstage adventures on Broadway and most importantly the legacy of his two remarkable parents, Annette and David.

Because they had unfortunately passed before I met Howard, I have often asked those who knew them well about their personality and perspective while selfishly wondering if they would have liked me and our approach to marriage and parenting their grandchildren.

But I have come to realize that the family heritage and sacrifice lives on in their memorable deeds. Woman to woman, I have come to see Annette as our family’s model of empowerment.

Annette was a polio survivor, in a wheelchair by the time her only child was born. Because both she and David were handicapped (in a time long before inclusiveness was even a word or federal law) she was concerned for her baby’s wellbeing and her ability to be the best parent she could.  So she ignored “no” and took nothing for granted.

This meant giving her son what the modest family could: holiday staycations in New York City, a memorable trip to Florida where her kid could learn to swim (despite his dad’s profound fear of water), restaurant meals and theatre when possible despite often being segregated or refused seating.

At home, with the assistance of a home health aide, Jewish customs and holidays were observed, complete with her lighting the Shabbat candles and teaching her son the prayers. (And the son grew up to support Hadassah, through the lifelong membership of his wife and daughter and his efforts in a Training Wheels program housed in his home.)

I am told that she cared and encouraged the people she loved, evident not by words but by the description of her actions by her neighbors and close relatives. According to Howard, she was a learned woman about society as well as current and historical events. Given her efforts it was evident that she possessed common sense and remained an insightful and focused woman with just a telephone to persuade the world that she needed something important for herself, or more likely, her family.

And the most admirable trait by far: people took notice of her – which could have been a detriment to some but turned out to be her superpower.

Annette was born in early November and was an exemplary Scorpio. By definition, The Times of described Scorpios as, “…people who are single-minded in their pursuit of their objectives which they set high. Scorpios don’t see or establish limitations in their life, and they won’t let anybody tell them that they can’t have what they desire…”

Annette and David are often discussed at our kitchen table, a couple near and dear to my heart for her ability to give direction and his ability to execute it well.

But most of all, when others falsely suggest that my husband’s childhood was “short changed,” I recognize their misguided, narrow thinking. After all, the wonderful man that guides me through our challenges together is testament to his mother’s hard-fought efforts to have access and dignity. Empowered to give him a “regular” life, Annette’s impact lives on in her son, her grandkids, and a most grateful me.

Lauren B. Lev is a member of the Hadassah Educators Council.

About the Author
Lauren B. Lev is a Life Member of Hadassah Nassau (Long Island, NY). She is a New York-based writer and direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing communications at the State University of New York/Fashion Institute of Technology. Lauren writes personal essays and features that have appeared in New York Newsday, and the East Meadow Herald under the weekly column "eLEVate the Conversation" from 2012 through 2022. She has written for the book, “Real Stories of Hadassah Life Changing Moments” and is the honored recipient of the Hadassah Nassau Region Woman of the Year Award for her work in developing the Special Needs version of the Hadassah Al Galgalim/Training Wheels program. This hands-on, inclusive program helps to ensure that young children nationwide can learn about the richness of their Jewish heritage.
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