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Ora Kevelson, z”l

Ora Kevelson deserves to be remembered.

We met over a decade ago, I can’t remember if it was my husband who lost his teudat zehut, or if she lost hers, but this was what caused our paths to meet and we got to talking about her last name; I remembered that my husband and I were married in a synagogue in Brooklyn with that name. The bond was set.

Ora was born in Yokneam over 80 years ago, but grew up in Brooklyn. She married and divorced young, then moved to Israel in the 1970s. Making Raanana her home, she never remarried or had children.

I’ll be honest, I was never sure if what Ora told me was 100% true, but that was what made her so special and what taught me an invaluable lesson in life: sometimes, the truth doesn’t matter, but the emotion. I always — always — felt uplifted after meeting with Ora. She truly, like her name, lightened up my day. I did not visit her often, I will admit, and these last few years she was not well, ultimately alternating between hospital stays and assisted living. But no matter how ill she was, something about her caused me to always leave my visits feeling good. Without even trying, just by being the pure person she was, she uplifted my soul. It didn’t matter what she said, it was how she said it, why she said it, when she said it.

Ora loved bright colors. She dressed neatly, simply, and modestly and always matched her clothes with her head covering. She took great pride in her outward appearance.

And she always inquired about my son Michael who would phone her and listen. And listen. And listen.

I remember a few visits ago I brought her a stuffed animal cat that I had bought in Ikea, since I remembered that she loved cats and had to give them up when she moved out of her home. She smiled, pet, and hugged it with the innocence of a little child. I think I was happier than she was.

The last time I visited her, just before Purim a few weeks ago, I brought along a book of Hassidic stories with black and white pictures. I had bought that book decades ago and for some reason kept it, though it collected dust. Knowing that Ora loved Hassidut, especially Chabad, I asked her if she would like me to read to her. She smiled and listened. Again. And again. Perhaps some of the pictures brought back memories. Our bond tightened.

Ora loved cheesecake, in fact, I had looked around for a piece to bring the last time I visited, but was unsuccessful. I have a feeling that from now on cheesecake will have a new meaning for me.

Ora loved to help others. She collected and shared the flyers that are distributed in synagogues, especially those of Chabad, and visited retirement homes back in the days when she was mobile. She gave and gave, always thinking of others. Never expecting in return. However she was forever grateful to those who went out of their way to respect and assist her, especially Leah and Moshe. She talked about you all the time.

The day she died I cried on my way to work, and I cried on the way to the funeral — because she deserved to have someone cry over her death. She had no survivors. However, I have vowed to smile from now on, in memory of her special smile, and the innocent and pure sparkle in her eyes. Thinking of her I will remember what is truly important in life.

May Ora’s memory be for a blessing. יהי זכרה ברוך

About the Author
Alissa Burstein is an over-educated mother, wife and cat lover living in the center of Israel. With a PhD in education, she currently works at the Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in an administrative capacity. Yoga and good coffee (and cats!) keep her somewhat sane.
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