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April 26, 2013

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PAGE 6B I By Rabbi Rachel Esserman The (Vestal, N.Y.) Reporter The adage "old age is not for sissies" doesn't exactly apply to Rachel Josefowitz Siegel because she believes all stages of-life offer unique opportunities if you're will- ing to grow and change. "Old is not a dirty word," she said in an email interview. "Embrace the process of aging and be willing to take charge of how you wish to spend this last stage of life. It will likely involve a series of changes and adaptations, perhaps even a change of liv- ing arrangements. Old age is not easy, but it can also be • a period of contentment and creativity." Siegel knows a great deal about the need for change and adjustment, something shewrites about in her latest work, "My Songs of Now and Then: A Memoir" (iUniverse), which, as she notes on the back cover, explores "the journeys of my life." The book contains short writings about a wide range of topics,-including her early years in Europe, her marriage and family, her return to school to become a psychotherapist after her By In today's society of Kim Kardashians, flighty celebri- ties, and the constant search for the best new thing, short- lived m .arriages seem to have become an accepted norm.. Long-lasting marriages are now an accomplishment, and as such, felt they should be celebrated. The couples below were born, grew, and built families in The journeys of her life children were grown, and her thoughts about feminism and Judaism. Siegel's deci- sion to record the material was prompted by a desire to share her family's history. "As I got older, I wanted my children and future gen- erations to know something about my life and the Jewish background of our family," she said. Born in Germany in 1924, Siegel's family moved to France in 1930 to escape the growing anti-Semitism of her birth country. In 1935, the family moved to Switzerland, although Sie- gel doesn't know the'reason behind her parents' choice. However, fearing Hitler would invade Switzerland, they decided to emigrate to - the United States. After their initial entry to the U.S., they spent nine months in Canada before receiving permission to re-enter the country with permanent immigrant status. This early experience of ˘tislocation did have an influence on the author's life. In one section of her book, Siegel mentions that her frequent migraines were most likely the result of the conflicts that occurred in a different time. These are their stories. Henry and Milliesince 1950 The first time they met, Millie shooed off Henry's advances. They reconnected later that year during the high holy days services at shul, and Millie finally agreed to go on a date. "She had a very sexy body and I thought she was rich," Henry jokes about why Millie caught 1st ChoiceJ-Iome Companion Services "Touching our Customer's lives one at a time" Best Prices Quality Services 555 Winderley Place Ste. 300 Maitland, FL. 32751 4 Call 321.594.3579 24 hrs./7 Days a Week www A Caring for you in your home Europe, the subtle and not- so-subtle anti-Semitism she experienced, and the knowl- edge that she would always be an outsider. However, there were also benefits to living in different countries at such a young age. "Looking back, I am grate- ful for my multilingual ability and my exposure to varied cultures," she noted. "It has made me more sen- sitive to the challenges of minorities. I am also deeply grateful for the privileges of full citizenship in the United States, giving me the right to vote, to openly practice my religion, be politically active and to speak my mind with- out fear of repercussions. I do not take these rights for granted." As for her early connection to Judaism, Siegel's parents were not religiously obser- vant, although they were "proudly Jewish," belonging to the local synagogue and attending services on the High Holidays. When the author married and moved to Ithaca, N.Y., with her husband, Ben, she had the opportunity to live her ver- sion of the American dream: one that would allow her to be fully American and fully Jewish. Siegel writes that she "became a Jewish American wife and mother, a member of the Jewish community, conveying Jewish values and American norms to our future children." She served as a faculty wife and did volunteer work until her children were grown and her husband's health began to fail. Then, in the early 1970s, Siegel returned to shool. Beginning her career later in life meant she could put a lifetime of practical knowl- edge to gooduse, "The wisdom accumulated as a wife and motherand the earlier experiences in com- munity volunteering, were invaluable in my work as a therapist," she noted. Feminism played a role in her Jewish connection and her work as a therapist. She writes of how the 1970s and '80s were "heady years; excitement and creativity ran high. It was sisterhood at its best, a honeymoon period among feminists. At the time, our need to connect with each other was stronger than our fieed to differentiate among us." This led her to advocate for "the inclusion of women in all aspects of HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 26, 2013 Keeping it golden his eye. Millie and Henry's rela- tiOnship is just like this, full of witty banter, playful poking, and laughter. At the core of it is a clear and deep sense of love, admiration, and respect for one another. "I just saw her as a very bright and sensitive kind of person, and one of the attributes is that our back- grounds are almost identical. We belonged to the same synagogue, went to the same high school, and shared a tremendous number of com- mon feelings about ideals and philosophy," Henry says. Millie says she and Henry weren't ready to get mar- ried,and they resisted her mother's pressure by claim- ing that there Were no avail- able apartments in the area. Her mother responded ly buying them an apartment. "That was a surprise," Millie Heritage Senior Special Get 10 hours of care FREE/* Call us-today for details 407-478-5469 www. florida h omecom pan ion .com State of FIorida AHCA License # NR 30211467 State of Fiorida AHCA License # 231012 Insured and bonded quipped. Henry touts their similar backgrounds as a major cause for the success of their marriage. "I know what she's thinking before she even realizes it," he says. Millie suggests that all newly married couples try to understand each other, and adapt to each other's communication styles. That they listen. "One of the rules in ore; house is we never cuss. Sometimes we agree to disagree, but we never let the emotion get out of hand," George says. "And when you do get mad, you don't stay mad, you don't go to bed mad, because then you wake up and multiply your problems. You make up before it gets too far," Millie adds. George says that humor has played a big role in their ˘elationship. "He has none," Millie quickly interjects. "He has always been su- perior in whatever has to be done. He's taught himself all of these things, handyman tasks, and took care of our home," She says. Henry says that love means, "my wife comes first over everything. I look at things from the point of view of what will make her happy. If she's happy, I'm happy." "'Cause I can make him pretty miserable," Millie laughs. George and Adele--since 1955 The gift George ended up dancing with at a Jewish center dance was not the one he had meant to ask. Seeing three girls on a bench together, his eyes focused on Adele, and he approached to ask her to the dance floor, only to be interrupted midway by another girl who scooped him up and dragged him to the floor herself. George politely finished the dance, and then went up to Adele again, apologizing for dancingwith her friend, and Jewish ritual at home and in the synagogue." In addition, she co-edited three collections of Jewish women's essays: "Jewish Women in Therapy: Seen but Not Heard," "Celebrating the Lives of Jewish Women: Pat- terns in a Feminist Sampler" and "Jewish Mothers Tell Their Stories: Acts of Love and Courage" (all published by Haworth Press). These books allowed her to bring together important parts of her life: Judaism, psychology and feminism. The lessons feminism taught were also useful in her personal life. "The women's movement has made it pos- sible for me to move beyond the constraints of a subser- vient female and to develop my full potential," Siegel said. "Gender roles within my family have shifted, not. without times of stress, but to the benefit of both the men and women who are dear to me." Siegel admits that while she wants her family to know "the truth" about her life, she can only offer history from her own perspective, noting no one owns "the whole truth." For her, the important making clear that she was his only object. She agreed to dance with him, and that was thestart of their next 50 years together. Adele gave up her career as a registered nurse to join George in the family bakery business, and they worked seven days aweek, often until 10 or 11 o'clock at night, side by side for years. After the birth of their two daughters, George said they simply in- cluded them in their lives, never relying on babysitters. Everything they did, from vacations to visiting posh restaurants, they did as a family. George soon became a pilot, bought a small plane, and took his family on trips across the country, camp- ing underneath the wings at night. Whatever free time he and his wife had, they spent with the kids, and George says this was crucial to the happiness of their marriage and family. "Our time together was very precious, he says, "we never did anything without each other." George calls his wife "quite a lady." "When we were married I sort of took her hand and let her run. All I did was follow, honestly. I count my bless- ings to this day; if I did one smart thing in my life itwas marrying her." Tamara and Leonid-- since 1959 Tamara and Leonid met in Ukraine when they were 15 years old, when he'd walk her home from school every day. Due to his Jewish heritage, Leonid was rejected from university and was forced to join the army for three years. They wrote count- less letters to one another, but the phone in the Soviet Union in those days was a different story: Leonid would write to tell Tamara that on a certain day at a certain time, he would call the main phone line at the post office. thing is to value "the bits of truth that emerge as we learn about ourselves and .our universe, and as we move closer to the unattainable whole truth. That is true in therapy as well as in other areas, and it is an unending process. Scientists know that there is always more of the unknown to be explored while they examine and discover specific samples of truth in their work." Even in later life, Siegel has experienced change. Her husband died in 1990. In 2007, she moved to a retirement community in Ithaca. Throughout the past few years, she has had "to adjust to new limitations due to increasing health problems. Her positive attitude has helped her through these changes, as has the love and care shown by her children. "What I have come !m trea- sure in retirement and now in old age are the acts of love and caring that I exchange with those around me," Sie- gel writes. "A smile, a hug, a listening ear, an email, a good laugh or some tears, or just plain being together and feeling connected--that's what matters now." Tamara would then have to wait until the day and time, go to the post office, and wait for the attendant to call her name. If she was she late, or if another person's phone call lasted longer than expected, she and Leonid would have to start from scratch. For three years, they nurtured their budding relationship in this way, until Leonid finally came home and proposed. Honeymooning in Odessa, they decided to stay, and with no family in the area or means of living, began their marital home in the kitchen of a friend's apartment. Fifty years, two children, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild later, Tamara and Leonid say their sficcess is due to treating their marriage like a basket: gently weaving themselves together. When people come togeth- er, Tamara says, they come from two different families and influences, and they need to bend and integrate each other's personalities and styles into a new marriage and family. This is always the hardest part, she says. The kids, Tamara says joy- ously, are the bond between two spouses. "We're like two bricks, and the kids are the glue that holds us together." Leonid adds that there are always the minor things that make life difficult, but if you focus on the impor- tant-that you're together, that you love one another, and that you can each feel each other's hands for sup- port--that's what matters. Tamara's health recently took a turn for the.worse. "The first thing I did [in the hospital] was open my eyes to look to make sure he was there. When I saw he was i . calmed down. He's my hus- band and my friend, and I am that same constant support for him to ensure that he's happy, and he does the same for me."