So Irene was talking to a friend, and she just got quiet, and she was gone. She died like she lived, always in the middle of a conversation. But it’s hard, because we feel like we still have so much to say. Today is the day we get to say some of these things.
Irene was born in Brooklyn, NY. on April 6, 1933. She was the daughter of Jacob and Lillian Kahn.
She went to school and then met Sid. They first met when he was 32 and Irene was 15. Sid was driving a convertible. She was so young that Sid didn’t look at her. Four years later in December 1953, they danced the night away. Sid told Irene, “I’ll give you a call when the snow melts.” And he did. By the way, I’ve never understood that story: Did they live at the North Pole? Anyway, they were married 57 ½ years. Over those years, they had a number of wedding rings. But none more meaningful at least in my mind than the ones they were wearing at the end of Sid’s life. Irene had picked one up at a toy store for about three dollars and Sid said he’d like a matching one. The point is that a love like this is symbolized by those three-dollar rings, because it wasn’t the value of the ring, it was the value of their love for each other that made those rings beautiful expressions and symbols. They traveled a lot, to Israel, Spain, Italy Canada and Maine, often traveling with friends in the summers. Right to the end of Sid’s life, they were together. In that last stage, Irene took him every place no matter how hard it was.
Irene and Sid raised their children Robin, Steven and Larry in a very happy home. They were raised with modest means but Irene felt blessed to have every thing she had. She didn’t worry about what she didn’t have and she appreciated everything she did have
She became an incredible matriarch of a large family. She loved each member of her family as much anyone could have. She was the beloved mother of Robin and Ken, Steven and Hannah and Larry and Kate. You’ll hear what kind of mother she was in a moment.
And you’ll hear what kind of grandmother she was to Emily, Jamie and Paul, Todd, William, Haley, Ricky, Matthew, Katherine and Benjamin. She was Nammy. She was their biggest fan and their Cheerleader.
She was very involved in the community, in organizations like Bnai Brith, and the Temple Beth Sholom Sisterhood.
She was the chairperson of the Ridge Top Club Membership comm., which in its day was like controlling tickets to the White House State Dinner.
She was honored by the National Council of Jewish Women.
In recent years, she was involved in the Literacy program
She was a Gym goer
She was Bridge champion because she was quite ruthless at bridge
People would gravitate to her. Steven once left her sitting at his club and came back after a little while to find her holding court and talking to everyone.
How would she feel about what happened on Friday? She did not want this to happen but I think she would be ok with it. She did not want to be a burden. She was herself but she was tired. Although she went on after Sid passed on, she never really recovered. Time does not always heal. Sometimes, time makes things harder.
She was very close with a lot of people and with a lot of families
She got true Joy out of your joys and she felt real sorrow when you were sad. My mother, who lives in Maryland, somehow, without me even knowing it, had her own relationship with Irene; they somehow had their own connection. When I called her to tell her the sad news, she said that if there were a Yiddish word for the opposite of a yenta, Irene would be that word. A yenta is a busybody who wants to know all your personal business. I asked Rabbi Google and I looked in a Yiddish dictionary and could not find the right word. Irene was not a gossip but she was interested in the important things in life. When you talked to her, you felt like you were the single most important person the world.
I don’t have a Yiddish word, but an English word that describes her – Genuine. She had true compassion and empathy and sympathy. She was genuinely interested in you, your feelings, your family.
She had such a great marriage and such an unbelievably great family and children and in law children and grandchildren that something emanated from her center, her core, and when you talked to her you felt all of that coming straight to you from her center.
A lot of people are stunned and shocked and reeling because of the suddenness of Irene’s passing. The sentence I keep hearing is: “But I just saw her! I just talked to her!” When I told my kids that Irene has passed away, they said that they had just seen her at a show Todd did in New Haven a couple of weeks ago. But when I mentioned this to the family, they explained that Nammy had not been there that night. So then I wondered, “Why did my kids think she was there?” And I realized that it was because she had always been there, at every single thing throughout the years, every get-together, and so though they were wrong in this case, they somehow felt her presence at that show anyway.
This is how I think it’s going to be for all of us from now on. We’re going to feel her presence at everything. In a way, sadly, she won’t be there. But in all sorts of ways, of course she’ll be there, at every wedding and graduation and show and bris and babynaming, at every dinner and party, every time this family is together. So don’t worry. She’s a part of who we are. Always will be.
To Robin and Larry and Steven and the whole family, we wish you G-d’s comfort at this sad time. She was a righteous woman. May she rest in peace. Let us say Amen.