Mourning a mensch during COVID

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Mourning a mensch during COVID

One of the most tragic repercussions of COVID-19 is holding a funeral for someone during the pandemic

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Keith and beloved grandson Josh Berns

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My father-in-law Keith Alexander passed away on May 2 during the height of the COVID pandemic in Canada.

Three days later he had a COVID funeral.

There have been many stories in the past eight weeks about seniors isolated in long-term care and retirement homes – many of whom have declined, including my own parents, because of the inability to interact with their families or regular caregivers.

We are grateful Keith passed away in his sleep surrounded by caregivers and family who loved him.

Still to paraphrase the refrain of that traditional Passover song, “Dayenu” – All of that would have been enough.

But one of the most tragic repercussions of COVID-19 is holding a funeral for someone during the pandemic – whether they passed away from the Coronavirus itself or in the case of my 86-year-old father-in-law, from a general decline in his health.

It is near impossible to have closure on the passing of a loved one under the restrictions imposed by COVID.

But, much worse, is the inability to pay proper tribute to those who have left us.

It is heartbreaking to think that such an accomplished man like Keith Alexander left this world with less than a blip on the radar, what seemed like a 60-second distraction in the consciousness of those who adored him.

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My father-in-law was a tremendously brilliant and innovative entrepreneur who created no less than five companies in Toronto that gave many lifelong careers.

Despite everything he accomplished, he remained a down-to-earth guy.

He was also highly respected in the Jewish community – known for his tremendous love of Israel and for his philanthropy towards such causes as Israel Tennis, Beit Halochem, Shabtai Levi, a groundbreaking home in Haifa for children who become wards of the state and the Reena Foundation, which serves developmentally delayed and autistic children and adults.

Keith Alexander passed away on May 2 during the height of the COVID pandemic in Canada

There was no “kavod” granted to Keith with a traditional funeral, that would have surely been attended by hundreds of people.

Only nine people were permitted to attend the less than 30-minute graveside service – and my wife was forced to say goodbye to her dad without me by her side.

(Sadly the COVID restrictions appear to allow decision makers to inflict their will on who can attend, however misguided, instead of respecting the wishes of the person who passed.)

After Denise advocated more than once to Benjamin’s funeral chapel, I was allowed to drive her into the cemetery north of Toronto, wait for her to be masked and gloved like all those in attendance, and was then shooed back to the front gate to await the end of the funeral.

Denise was also able to convince the cemetery to allow more than two properly gloved mourners to shovel earth on his casket (the restriction before her intervention) to ensure it was completely covered.

There was no opportunity to engage in the post-funeral rituals – involving copious amounts of food (we are Jewish after all!), the ritual prayers, lots of stories about Keith and of course hugs of comfort from friends and extended family.

I mourned with Denise at home for a week as best we could.

We covered our mirrors with the soapy substance provided by Benjamins. We played no music in our home for a week.

We got up every morning before 7:30 a.m. to pray online as part of the daily minyan with the wonderful Rabbi Landsberg (who married us in a traditional Jewish ceremony in 2010) and Temple Emanu-El. The people online embraced and comforted Denise virtually.

Two evenings after the graveside service, we arranged for a shiva by Zoom – moderated by Rabbi Landsberg. For two hours, several of Denise’s dear friends came online to exchange stories about Keith and to send their condolences.

It was the best we could do under the circumstances.

Despite the heartbreak of not being able to say a proper good-bye, the one wonderful thing I know about Denise is that all her best qualities come from Keith – her loving nature, her generosity, infectious sense of humour and curiosity about the world around her.

Denise will always carry her father within her – and that is the best tribute to a legend.

Sue-Ann Levy is a veteran journalist, a columnist for Toronto Sun, and a columnist for TheJ.ca

 
 
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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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Passover for the broken-hearted

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Passover for the broken-hearted

A text came in right away from my mom: “we saw!” My heart ripped through my chest.

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Passover Essentials

Chani Jos

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MA NISHTANA HA PESACH HA-ZEH …

This Passover was different from all other Passovers. It was probably the same for you, too. Whomever you lived with, maybe your spouse or your immediate family, were your Seder guests. You might even have had Zoom guests. 

Me, I was alone. Seder for one. I am divorced, live alone, and my elderly parents couldn’t fly in from New York this year. I couldn’t live with them during the pandemic because they live in a small apartment, as most Manhattan apartments are, too tiny for three, and I had to stay here in Canada for my work.

You know what else was different? This year didn’t involve weeks-long fights about a certain guest, and on which days they should attend. I said weeks-long. Not embellishment. In a normal year, the usuals attend; they’re not the issue. That one aunt born in a German DP camp, in a walker; she comes. Mom’s friend that she never speaks to any other time of the year, but feels guilty not inviting, she comes. The fifty-something single, never-married cousin from Ottawa, him too. Not many of us left.

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But it’s that one guest, Jen. Her parents live just outside Chicago, in Palatine, and they’re 365-day-a-year bacon-eaters. No seder over there. Whatever — anything Jew-y to them might as well be like worshipping a flying spaghetti monster.  

So I invite her. My parents are double-plus unthrilled. I have to beg, plead, for a little sympathy from my parents, each year, for the past three. She never did anything wrong, never a hurtful word. She needs a Seder, and my door’s always open.

Her only “crime,” I suppose, was committed after my birthday dinner in February, 2017. My parents, pulling out of my driveway, spotted me and Jen locking lips through the front window. Then they knew.

A text came in right away from my mom: “we saw!” My heart ripped through my chest. I feared next time I saw my father – if I ever saw him again soon – he’d smack me across the face with his Talmud. (It wouldn’t be the first time, but that’s another story for my therapist)

Three years ago I met a wonderful woman at a downtown shul, and I was secure in knowing that the love was real. It took me a really long time to accept who I was. It was tough to admit to myself. Out of shame or disbelief? Religious sin? Because I want “normal”? Afraid of being shunned?

I’m relieved that this year, there was no theatrics with my mom. No convincing her that she won’t be made to feel ashamed by the community, when “everyone” finds out. No lip-service perfunctory promising to avoid “public displays of affection,” because she’s afraid of what people in shul will think. No more putting up with the pretending game at the Seder table, where they are obviously cringing inside. No full-table Seder.

This year was different from all other years; I wasn’t plagued with a hail of questions. Then again, I was alone.  

So… how was your Passover?
 

Chani Jos is excited to be a regular contributor to TheJ.ca, and has a lot to say about all things Jewish. She owns an electric scooter, a turtle, and wants everyone to know she just cancelled her Rogers account.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Get thej.ca a Pro Israel Voice by Email. Never miss a top story that effects you, your family & your community

cOMING SOON…….

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Subscribe Now

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Terms and Conditions

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© 2020 THEJ.CA, All Rights Reserved