By Alan Teperow
How sad and tragic to have learned this morning about the sudden and untimely death of our good friend, Anita. Like all of you, I am in shock.
In the absence of any way to make sense of the tragedy, we have no alternative but to accept this unimaginable loss by showing gratitude for Anita’s magnificent soul and selfless deeds. A true eishet chayil, Anita set an example for us all about loving humanity and following in God’s ways.
My first memory of Anita goes back to her teenage years as an active member of United Synagogue Youth (USY) from Peabody; I was a youth director in Milton and Abe Morhaim – a member of SCM’s Board – was her rabbi. Even then I could tell that this was a very special young lady, mature beyond her years, intensely devoted to her family and her Judaism.
Fast forwarding through our years of USY involvement, college and Zamir Chorale of Boston, I was thrilled to find Anita anxious to be active in the Jewish community beyond her synagogue, finding her rightful place here at the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. Upon hearing today’s tragic news, one of our earlier Presidents, Dick Wissoker, just called and reminded me that Anita’s first involvement here was on a Task Force on Synagogue Affiliation – before she even belonged to a synagogue. Anita often said that our slogan “Be A Part, Not Apart” encouraged her to join Temple Beth Avodah as a young couple, with her beloved Sid.
Anita has been one of SCM’s most active leaders ever, joining and leading many committees, task groups and strategic planning processes. She has also attended nearly every program offered by the organization, from NYC Unity Missions to weekend Shabbatonim, from Annual Meetings to Birnbaum lectures. Commiserating just minutes ago with Marilin Lipman, SCM’s Assistant Director, what struck us is not how many activities Anita attended or committees she led, but the ways in which she has affected people’s lives.
As President of SCM, Anita wrote individualized notes to show her gratitude for someone’s involvement and regularly made personal calls on to reach out on behalf of the Synagogue Council. She visited people in their homes during shiva, taught trope to individuals wishing to learn how to read Torah for our annual Shabbaton, became a mentor to many women who were pursuing greater Jewish involvement, and was a gracious and articulate spokesperson for our organization. She pursued a Masters degree in Jewish education at Hebrew College and was the class valedictorian, delivering her commencement speech in Hebrew.
I have witnessed first hand how, as a new member at Temple Emanuel, Anita quickly stepped up and took on many major (behind the scenes) responsibilities at the synagogue. I emphasize “behind the scenes” because Anita just wanted to be helpful, with no fanfare and no formal title. She became an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor, helped with special needs kids and their families, visited the sick and infirm in their apartments or nursing homes, drove elderly members to shul every Shabbat, helped people with special needs get their food at Kiddush, led shiva minyanim, and so much more.
Most importantly, to me anyway, is that Anita was the wonderful shadchan who introduced me to my lovely wife, Suzanne.
Now several years after her presidency, Anita has continued to be involved in SCM. How surprised we were to learn that she and Sid would be leaving Boston, selling their Brookline condo, and moving to Santa Fe to begin a new life. After much packing, schlepping and exhaustion, Anita was finally prepared to go, with a cheery disposition and great anticipation. We said goodbye at SCM’s Board meeting in June and then at shul shortly before their departure.
What a sad irony that so many of us were able to say goodbye to Anita – never considering for a moment that this would be a final goodbye. I remember the exact date of their departure, June 12th, because it was the day after SCM’s Annual Tribute Celebration. Anita was so apologetic that she would be missing this event, one she had attended year in and year out, because of its proximity to their moving day. Under the circumstances, we agreed jokingly that this year’s excuse was acceptable but that Anita would be back next year for my going-away party in June.
So, after 45+ years of knowing and loving Anita, I must say goodbye. Thank you, dear friend, for your acts of chesed, your love of Judaism, your devotion to the Synagogue Council, and your deep and abiding friendship.