We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor and celebrate the life of Judy Goldstein, beloved mother, sister, grandmother and cherished friend. There’s a lot to say about Judy, and we’re going to say quite a bit, but I’ve been searching for the word that describes how I think of her. If you come from my generation, there is an ultimate compliment, and this is what I want to say about Judy: She was cool. Cool, for those who are not in my generation, means that the person has something, some special, indefinable quality that makes you like and respect her. So what I want to do with my time during this service is not merely to repeat what you can read in her very beautiful obituary but to try to explain why I think Judy Goldstein, who has passed away at the age of 87, was so cool.
Think first about a child who was born in Vladivostok, Russia and transplanted to China and then Berlin where she lived from ages 2 to 11 in the twenties and thirties during the rise of Nazism and then eventually to Boston where she went to school. We all think we’re traumatized when our parents moved from one neighborhood to another in the same town. But while Judy was the victim of a history in which Jewish people were persecuted and her family had to migrate just to survive, she rolled with it and if anything was even prouder of her Jewishness than those who did not suffer for it. That’s cool.
Think about a woman who was way ahead of her time in terms of being a businesswoman. I mean, she was Businesswoman of the Year in Washington. Their photography shop at 1742 Pennsylvania Ave., Potomac Photo Supply, even served the White House. She would drive right up to the White House. That was cool.
Think about a woman who lost her beloved husband Arthur when he was only 50 and kept going for all of these years with drive and purpose and had a wonderful life. That’s strength.
Judy was extremely active in her synagogue in Washington, Temple Sinai. She ran Ongei Shabbat and she was the President of the Sisterhood and was even Woman of the Year. A person open to everyone was also proud and active in her own specific community. That’s an interesting combination.
Judy not only felt a strong sense of civic duty; she worked for campaigns, she was an advocate, a coordinator, a programmer. She cared deeply about environmental causes long before it was cool.
She had an incredible sense of humor. Her “Greenbelt Grabbag” articles, written with the byline Punchin Judy, took everyday stuff and came up with a funny twist. She lectured me a few weeks ago that she and I have two different senses of humor. My sense of humor is to tell a joke or crack a pun. She said that she didn’t like puns. Her humor, she said, is to be witty and smart inside the conversation. In other words, she insisted that her sense of humor was superior to mine. The lady was lying on her deathbed, so I didn’t fight too hard. But since she never gave an inch down to the end, I don’t see why I should either. Punchin’ Judy, her pen name, was really a pun name. So I just want to tell Judy that we’re going to debate this some more.
Think about a person who was open to everyone. Before our time, when there is a kind of pressure to accept everyone, she was always like this. I saw an old movie the other night called To Each his Own. It’s about a woman who faces the mores of her time and succumbs to societal stereotypes and pressures. Judy did not have to come to a decision to be open to everyone; it’s just how she was, naturally, organically; she was so cool that being a friend to everyone was just who she was. The person could be a Hell’s Angel named Paco whom she brought into her home after his motorcycle accident. Whoever you were, whatever you were, you were fine in her eyes. We would congratulate ourselves if we would be so accepting for a day or so.
Think about a person who would come to this sanctuary wearing a Washington Redskins cap in order to please a rabbi who, like her, was an ardent fan. How cool is that.
We would like to thank those who have made such an effort to be here today, including family and friends from the Washington area. We would like to mention Tony and other friends from Davenport-Dunbar and friends from King St. We would like to mention cousin Alan and Marla and the Comparts. We would like to thanks Linda and Hopi from Greenbelt.
How cool was it that Judy took Louise into her home when she was a teenager and made her another daughter. And Louise has always been close and dear to her.
We mourn today with her brother Ed and thank him for everything he has meant to Judy. We remember Judy’s brother Bob who passed away not long ago, and we thank his wife Jane for being so important in creating a wonderful extended family.
There is no way to explain how important Alison was to her grandmother. How cool was it that Judy loved her granddaughter so much that she transplanted herself to Connecticut so that Alison would have someone to watch her after school.
We mourn with Jonathan. She had a very special relationship with him, took care of him, cared intensely about him, stood up for him, loved him without conditions.
Ed truly became her son. If you had seen Ed by her bedside, you would never have known that she had not given birth to him. Ed lives part of his life by the numbers, but when it came down to his love for Judy, he was all heart.
I don’t know how to describe Judy’s relationship with Karen. I don’t even know how to begin to try to describe what they had. But one thing I can mention is that there was something that happened, which is that Karen became for her mother what her mother was for others, her protector, her white knight. Karen has been what every parent wants in a child. I think that Karen wouldn’t mind me saying that so much of what and who she is comes directly from her mother. And that, for me, is a great comfort, that Judy goes on in Karen. Karen is her mother and … We are all combinations of our genes and our experiences. But Judy was such a great model that she was part of Karen’s experience of life in the best sense. We thank Karen for everything, but the real thanks is that Karen can say, whether she knows this or not: I did everything anyone could have done.
And another thing that Judy was cool about, the last thing she was cool about, was dying. I talked to her several times during this last stage and she was as clear as a bell: I am ready to go, I am more than ready to go, I don’t want to live like this, I want to make sure that my family is ok with it and I want to go. I have lived a long good life and this is my time or maybe even a little beyond it. The day has been a long one and a good one and now I need to sleep. This lady was so cool that she taught her loved ones how to live and then she told them how to die.
To Karen and Ed and Alison and Ed and Louise and the whole family, we bid you G-d’s comfort at this sad time. We miss her already. May she rest in peace.