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Salute To Moms
Readers respond to contest with heartfelt words about their marvelous mothers.
Among the more than 80 entries in our Mother’s Day essay contest, nearly all mentioned love: unconditional and complete. Most talked of lessons learned and moms who gave more than 100 percent to their children. Some talked of heartache endured and overcome. Perhaps too many attested to wonderful cleaning skills.
Yet among these common sentiments, some clear winners emerged — like the first-place-winning entry turned in by Rachel Leider of Farmington Hills. Simple, direct and full of admiration for a mother who helped her kids understand and come to terms with real life.
1rst Place Rachel Leider
Rachel’s mother is Elizabeth Leider of Farmington Hills. A court reporter by profession, Elizabeth likes to read, cook and go on walks. They are a close family, and that extends to Elizabeth’s parents, Cookie and Victor Koblin of West Bloomfield, her two sisters and their families.
Additionally, Elizabeth keeps active in the Jewish community by volunteering and attending various events and fundraisers.
“My mother is the most wonderful woman I know. Not only is she an exceptional mother, but she is a phenomenal female role model, caring friend and active community member. Everything she teaches me and my siblings, she embodies herself. She always tells us to be caring, honest, kind, tolerant, independent and ambitious, and we see her exemplify these characteristics every single day.
“Never does she criticize our decisions, grades, interests or friends. Every conflict becomes a conversation. There is never a need for yelling and fighting. She just wants to understand and do whatever she can to help us achieve happiness.
“As a family, we have dealt with a lot: divorce, depression, death and money struggles. Through it all, my mom has been honest and real. She shares her emotions and encourages us to talk about ours.
“Don’t get me wrong, she is a superhero of a mom, but part of that means that she never gave us a false understanding of the world. She let us understand what life is really like, while also showing us that optimism is essential in facing this crazy world.
“As she currently fights breast cancer, I am more blown away by my mom than I have ever been before. She has made it her mission to learn everything she can, stay positive, live her life to the fullest and continue to be the extraordinary mom that she is.”
2nd Place Jonah Weinbaum
Jonah is a sixth-grade student at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills. Along with other sixth- and fifth-grade language arts students of Lauren Sterling and Margery Jablin, he entered the contest. Here’s what he had to say about his mom, Lisa of Bloomfield Hills.
“What makes a good mother? A good mother loves you no matter what you do, listens to all you have to say and cares about what you believe. She can turn you from sad to happy in an instant. So is there a best mother? Is there a mother that does everything right? That knows what you want and when you want it? That understands you and listens to what you say? There’s only one answer, my mother.
She’s someone who can change who you are. My mother is a dietitian; she changes peoples’ lives every day. She has these amazing qualities that people can’t seem to get out of their head.
She’s sweet; she can turn the worst day into a lesson to learn from. I can tell her anything, and she’ll respect me no less than she did before. We listen to each other. She tells stories of when she lived in Israel, and we sit there and try to imagine what it was like. It’s almost as if in her brain she has a big book labeled ‘all the things my children like — Vol. 1 out of 1,000.’”
3rd Place Janis Sattler Fried
A Holocaust survivor, Katherine Rosenbaum Sattler, is a mother who always approaches life in a hopeful, upbeat manner. Here’s what her daughter, Janis Sattler Fried of West Bloomfield, says about her:
“My mother, born in Czechoslovakia, had what would now be considered an upscale life. That is, of course, until the Holocaust. My mother is an insightful person with Hungarian instincts. She is a woman who never finds salt in an experience but always frames it, verbally, in a hopeful and positively reassuring manner.
“My mother’s work in Ravensbruck [a women’s concentration camp in Germany] was to take off buttons, hems and bottoms of shoes in order to find money, coins, jewelry, etc. for the Germans. She found all of those, but also her own father’s coat, which verified that when he had gone to the ‘right’ after their three days’ journey to the camps in a cattle car, he had been gassed and burned. She did not tell her sister and mother.
“She did tell them, as they walked the death march, that they would be free in May, in time for their birthdays. She was right, they were freed; it was then that she burdened them with the sadness of her father’s death.
“She did her sister’s and mother’s ‘work’ in the camps when they were too weak. She begged an officer for a charred potato when her sister was very ill. She went off to find a farmer to get a chicken and vegetables to make chicken soup when they were liberated and housed in a school. Alone, after placing her mother and sister in a hospital, she went to Prague to find her brother. She got up at 5 a.m., took a train and walked to all of the Red Cross facilities, until she heard his voice and was able to reunite her family.
“She married an American, the only one in her family who did. He moved her from Los Angeles to Detroit. She raised a family with no family support that so many of us are grateful to have had. She saw little of her mother, sister, brother and two cousins who had survived and resided now in Los Angeles.
“When I divorced, she was by my side. When, as a single mother, my daughter went through two nine-hour surgeries with a difficult recovery, she went with me. She left her life in Michigan for 15 days in July of 2002 and again from November to December 2002. First to go to California, and then to New York, where we were all alone. She gave my daughter a kiss and put her hand on her face, and said simply, ‘See you in a while. It will all be OK.’ My daughter, who had voiced the worry that during the second surgery she would flatline on the table, made it like a trouper.
“My mother is older now, but still drives, plays mahj, pan and bridge. She bakes and, although widowed, still smiles and takes any bitter story and makes you feel safe after her responses. Even when she was sick this winter, she said reassuringly, ‘I’ll get better.’
“Every time there are events, she bakes and brings over her famous (ask her friends) Hungarian strudel, cheesecake or lemon cake. My friends adore her and the Holocaust Memorial Center asks for her to be a speaker.
“My mother is my strength when life is hard and unfair. When my children are in need, she comes to my aide. My daughter is in pain, always, and the emergency visits were almost monthly at one point. Who was there with me? My mother. She is a mother, a friend and a positive speaker, all in one!”
Kathy Sattler of West Bloomfield epitomizes the essence of Mother’s Day, says Dr. Charles Silow, director of the Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families, a service of Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit.
“What’s amazing about her history is that she was with her mother and sister from the ghetto, to Auschwitz, a death march, Ravensbruck and Neustadt concentration camps,” he said. “Kathy made it her mission to keep her mother alive throughout. What a Mother’s Day story!”
In an interview for Silow’s program, Portraits of Honor, Sattler was asked: What do you think helped you to survive the Holocaust?
“If I was by myself I would not have survived,” she answered. “But I had to make sure my mom and my sister survived. I did everything in my power to keep them alive. It was very hard.”
Lisa Gooel of West Bloomfield was heralded by her four daughters who wrote this tribute to their special mom:
“Our mother is Lisa Gooel. She’s a one-of-a-kind, altruistic soul who proves time and time again that her family is her world.
“Growing up she taught us important things, most of which we learned by her example: right from wrong, to always believe in ourselves, to do our best, to like the kind of person we are … instilling within us values mothers so often do. But our mother is no ordinary mother, which is why we are no ordinary daughters, no ordinary family.
“We grew up thinking hiding and then seeking for Chanukah presents, 5:30 a.m. “Happy Birthday” choruses, taking half of our Halloween candy to the children’s hospital and sleeping six to a hotel room were how all traditional, Jewish-American families partook in family time or in celebrating holidays. But we eventually learned they were not traditionally American nor Jewish— but rather traditionally Mom’s ideas.
“Deeply rooted within every idea she’s ever had and every tradition she’s ever started, is love. And through the lens in which she sees things (which we’ve learned to see through as well) is a world that warmly welcomes that love.
“Our mom extends every bit of her loving, nurturing, spontaneous, creative self to create and keep a close-knit family, and her four daughters, wonderful hubby and pooch Rye-Rye know it and love her for it.
“Mom, you are the greatest woman in this world and in our hearts, and we love you dearly.
“Happy Mother’s Day!”— Lauren, Stephanie, Jenna and Michelle
Hillel Day School sixth-grader Maya Wolock of Beverly Hills honored her mom, Miriam:
“When I look into my mom’s eyes all I see is a heart so big it has to be folded 1,000 times.
She is the most inspirational, colorful, stylish flower in the vase of humanity. She does so much for me; I wish I could return the favor. She never ever throws fits of anger.
“She is so sweet sugar looks at her in awe. She is as funny as a clown, but without scaring little kids. She cooks like an angel, but the angels use her recipes. She looks like a model, but the models use her products. I love my mom, and there is no one who can beat her.”
Mike Beck of Dearborn admires how his mother, Lee Beck of West Bloomfield, rebounded with strength, bravery and adaptation after her husband died in 2000.
“I would have to say that I have always been close with my mother. OK, maybe borderline ‘mama’s boy.’ She has always done the classics. She made the meals. She cleaned the house. She worked. She took care of us when we were sick, and did the majority of the discipline.
“As we both got older, our relationship changed. We have become great friends. But it wasn’t until my father died that I realized just how strong and courageous my mother is.
“In February of 2000, my father, Jack Beck, was robbed and shot. Seven days later, he died. The entire time I remember thinking, ‘How is she gonna handle this?’ He paid the bills. He was the social one in their relationship. She didn’t even drive on the expressway. He handled most of the ‘big stuff.’
“After the funeral, I noticed she was managing to hold it together. We talked and she said, ‘I am not gonna let myself go.’ A month past and she told me to hand her the checkbook and let her handle the bills herself.
“In the next two years, both my brother and I got married. There she was going table to table thanking the guests and being a great host. That was never her role. My dad used to handle that. But she showed a lot of courage and stood strong by herself.
“Mom began to volunteer her time to a couple charity organizations. She remains very social and even opened herself up to dating again.
“Over the last few years, she has had a nerve issue with her back that at times becomes quite painful. But she marches on and continues to be brave every time life throws her a curve.
“If you had asked me to describe my mom 15 years ago, adjectives like strong, courageous or brave probably wouldn’t have come up. Today, they are the first words I think of.
I love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!”
Risa VanDerAue of Farmington Hills and her sister Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield write of the strength, compassion and support from their mother, Yolanda Tisdale of West Bloomfield.
“Our mother, Yolanda, is so much more than she appears. As mothers ourselves, we now marvel at how our mom managed to pick us up every day from school, make dinner five nights a week get us to all our activities and make the warmest, most welcoming Jewish home you could imagine. All that time, while leading with her heart and keeping her arms wide open, she hid a strength that amazes us every day. Unfortunately, life would force her to rely upon it over and over.
“Risa was in a coma, and our mom smoothed her sheets, sung quietly to her and still had the energy to be a mother to me. Our mom hid her cancer from us until I was ordained. She didn’t want to take away from my achievement. When my sister and I both mourned the loss of our daughters, her granddaughters, she held us up, literally and figuratively, and somehow puts her grief to good use, showing us how to be strong in the face of the unthinkable.
“Somehow, our mom has enough strength to carry our entire family. We pray, in the future, she doesn’t have to rely on it quite as much.”
Sara Seid of Franklin, a Hillel sixth-grader, wrote about her mom, Michelle Seid, and the influence she has had on her.
“My mother has always inspired me. She has influenced me, too. My mother is the only person I can trust aside from my father!
“My mom is a registered nurse for labor and delivery, which made me think about my future. When I was little, I just wanted to help people just like she did. I go to my mom for absolutely everything. From math homework to school issues, my mom is the one.
“When I see her, I see a happy, fun-loving, kind and caring person. My mom makes time for her kids and husband. My mother (at least I’m pretty sure) is Super Mom, doing chores and cooking and watching out for us. I don’t know how I could ever make it up to her.
“She has taught me so much about life and how to live it. She has given me the finer things in life and all the love in the world. I am so proud and happy to call her my mother. She is not just a mother but a friend and companion. Because there is nothing like knowing that your mom is there for you with all of her love.”
Logan Morof of Beverly Hills is a fifth-grader at Hillel. In addition to his mom’s awesome spaghetti, Logan loves that his mom, Nicole Morof, is best at being a friend.
“When I think of mom, enjoyment comes to my mind. My mom always says that it’s the little things in life that count and that’s really the truth. It’s the things like playing tennis or watching movies that make the best memories. That’s where moms come in.
“Your mom can be the best cook or the best at her job, but mine is the best at being a friend. She is my tennis buddy, my movie go-to gal and, of course, my loving mom.
“She makes dinner a delight, and the best food she makes is spaghetti. The greatest spaghetti is always my mom’s; it’s a treat to have!
“When she drives me around in the car, we have the best, most fun chats about what’s going on in our lives. We talk about friends; we talk about scary events, fun ones, too, and we talk about everything under the sun.
“My mom always sets high standards for me and for her. We always achieve our goals or try our hardest to get to them. We always have a good time, and that’s why I love my mom.”
Eitan Shere of West Bloomfield is fifth-grader at Hillel. He wrote with humor about the virtues of his well-known mom, Rabbi Rachel Shere of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills.
“My mother is really a great woman. Now, I know, you’ve probably heard of the famous Rabbi Rachel Shere. That’s great and all, but I love her for a mother, not a rabbi.
“She takes good care of me and my two brothers and my dog, Simcha. Whether it’s baking, storytelling, playing or helping with homework, my mom is ALWAYS on the job. I don’t care if she grows old and is in a nursing home and I’m a famous gazillionaire, I will still go to help her out every day of every week of every month.
“She takes us on amazing trips, like to New York, California and Israel. Her heart is big, her kindness is unlimited and, overall, she is a great rabbi. Now, I know that I said I love her for a mother, not a rabbi, but learning the insights of the Torah with her is the most fun thing!
“But here’s a shout out to all you mothers out there, who worked hard to raise your kids to be the wonderful people they are, and I want to end this passage with one word: Thanks.” ■
By Keri Cohen, Story Development Editor