Tova Feldstein was born on July 27, 1987, our second child. Although many of the folks who knew her later in life didn’t realize it, she was born with a congenital heart defect, which was corrected with two open heart surgeries, at age six months and ten years. However, it never prevented her from achieving her goals.
She was named after my grandmother, Gittel, and we chose to use the Hebrew equivalent, Tova, when selecting her first name. And if ever there was a name that matched a personality, it was Tova. She had a good heart, a good personality, and spread goodness wherever she went. Her final post on her legendary positive Facebook posts was, “Happy Monday!”
We were quite fortunate that Tova was able to attend a special ed program at Westchester Day School, and then the P’tach program at Yeshiva University’s High School for Girls. School was always very difficult for her, but she persevered and earned a high school degree, something quite frankly we never thought she could achieve. However, the biggest surprise was when Tova –determined to earn an associate’s degree in early childhood education—took part-time courses at Norwalk Community College … and after eight years obtained her associate’s degree.
After she graduated high school, we weren’t sure what she would be doing. We encouraged her to volunteer for a program at the JCC called Jump Start, an early intervention program for 2-4-year-old children with special needs. She gained many education skills and was eventually offered a part-time paid job at Jump Start, which she was extremely proud of.
She worked at Jump Start for 17 years, and it was truly her second family. Sue McGraw was her mentor there, and she helped Tova gain the confidence to be a special ed instructor and pursue a college degree.
Some of you might know that Sharon and I were in Florida when Tova was taken to the hospital. Tova called us in distress, telling us that something wasn’t right and she wasn’t feeling well. We encouraged her to call a friend to take her to the hospital, and Bernadette from Jump Start came to the rescue. Bernadette, how can we ever thank you enough for taking care of Tova when we were 1,000 miles away. And when Tova got to the hospital, and was put on a ventilator when her heart stopped beating, she called all of Tova’s Jump Start colleagues, who set up a vigil in front of the ICU praying for Tova’s recovery. We will never forget the kindness that Tova’s Jump Start family displayed. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
One of the many hobbies that Tova enjoyed was photography. She loved taking photos of people … of places … and she had an amazing eye for what would make for a good photo. Perhaps the photos she was most famous for were sunrise and sunset photos, which she regularly posted on Facebook. Sometimes when I went to weekday minyan in the morning I would notice a pretty sunrise…and would text Tova to take a photo and post it, which she invariably did. Tova, who am I going to tell to take photos of the pretty sunrises I see, now that you are gone?
Tova loved to play board games, and Shabbat afternoons usually included a few games of Rummikub between Tova, Sharon, and myself. Although she always had difficulty in math, and sometimes couldn’t even count change correctly, she somehow excelled in the number game of Rummikub. Tova, who am I going to play Rummikub with on Shabbat afternoons now that you are gone – Rummikub for two people is just no fun.
Tova loved to attend synagogue, both the Young Israel and Agudath Sholom, on both Friday night and Shabbat morning. If she attended one shul, and I attended the other, she would always ask me, “So, who was in shul?” She didn’t want to miss out on anything that was happening in the community. Tova, who’s going to ask me about who was in shul now that you have left us?
Tova was enamored of her older brother Yosef, and always made time for her two nieces and nephew, as she was often the babysitter of choice. She was the quintessential aunt, always bringing treats to the kids and coming up with special activities for them. Tova’s last weekend on earth was spent watching Sarit and Emma – the kids loved her, and she loved them right back. Tova would have made a great mom – one of my biggest regrets in life was that she was never able to get married and have kids. How much happier I would have been if 500 people would have gathered in this sanctuary for Tova’s wedding instead of her funeral.
Still I will celebrate the good times we had with Tova in her all-too-short life, and the smiles and the goodness that she brought to everything she touched and everyone she met.
One of the pieces of jewelry that Tova cherished was one that her brother Yosef purchased for her in Israel – it was inscribed with the words “Gam Zu l’Tova”, this too is for the best. Tova always looked for the good in everything, and it was an appropriate phrase for our dear daughter. And although it is extremely difficult for me to comprehend, perhaps there will be some good that eventually will come from her untimely passing.
T’hei nishmata tzerura bitzror hachayim – may her soul be bound in the bond of life. We love you, Tova