Heidi Mae Bratt
Heidi Mae Bratt

Long Journey into the Day

A day in the life.

It was a recent Sunday and we had plans to attend a cousin’s engagement party in Brooklyn. That morning, a friend texted me, and sent an article that had appeared a few hours earlier on one of the Jewish websites about the death of a longtime Brooklyn rabbi. She wondered if he had been my childhood rabbi.

He had.

Rabbi David S. Halpern, of blessed memory, who created our shul, Flatbush Park Jewish Center, and built it to a very sizeable congregation, shepherded his flock for 64 years until he retired in 2012. He had been in his pulpit longer than any other rabbi in Brooklyn.

We rushed out, hoping to make the funeral on time. Thankfully, we did. The funeral took place at the Mill Basin synagogue. The crowd spilled out of the doors. Flatbush Park was the shul where I attended Hebrew school. It was the shul where my family davened. It was the shul where my younger brother, Ronald, was bar mitzvahed.

And it was Rabbi Halpern whose warmth and wisdom guided our family and touched tens of thousands of people throughout the years. Tall, soft-spoken, refined, and ever elegant, Rabbi Halpern was a Torah Renaissance man who commanded, in his low-key way, the love and respect loyal congregation. Rabbi Halpern was so eloquent; in just a few words he was able to capture the very essence of a person when he delivered a eulogy, or the very heart of a lesson when he gave a d’var Torah. I will miss him.

I was grateful that my children were able to be present at Rabbi Halpern’s funeral.

The day moved on, and we got to our cousin’s engagement party. Our cousin Jacob is marrying a lovely Paris-born woman, Florence. That branch of the family is very close. In fact, many of them live in the same building. Grandfather and grandmother; daughters, including Jacob’s mother, cousin Marcia; and Jacob’s aunt, Beth, and her son, Zachary, all live in separate apartments in the same building. The grandmother, whom I call Aunt Shirley, jokingly calls the building their “kibbutz.”

And I — not so jokingly —  ask her how she has managed to keep her children so close. It’s no surprise, though. Boundless warmth and love pour forth.

As were we at the party, friends and family ringed the tables in the back room of a new, chic Brooklyn kosher restaurant. We ate. We talked. We laughed. We congratulated the new couple and watched them as they started to embark a new phase of their adult life.

I was grateful that the children were able to be present at this engagement party.

We had one last stop in Brooklyn that Sunday.

We wanted to see and say goodbye to the newest member of our family, Michoel Yechial, my brother’s first grandchild. His parents, Yitzy and Leah, were leaving for an indeterminate stay in Israel, following the baby’s stateside birth a month earlier.

Shaina had crocheted a pair of booties and a hat (with little ears!) for him as a special gift. The young family was bound for Israel that night, so we had to see them. It was wonderful seeing the baby begin to smile. And how cute he looked in the new powder blue hat!

I was grateful that the children were able to be present at the farewell.

What a memorable Sunday, in which we were able to mark such milestones.

A funeral. A wedding. A birth.

It was a day in the life.

Perhaps, more like a lifetime in a day.



About the Author
Heidi Mae Bratt is an award-winning journalist and the editor of About Our Children, the parenting magazine for the Jewish Standard.