Rita Rudnick – September 16, 2007

Rita was born in Sheteen Poland on October 29, 1947.  In July, 2007, Rita went back to Sheteen with her husband Marty for a reunion of people who had been kids in the 60s when they had to leave Poland because of government persecution and discrimination. It’s not a coincidence that Rita kept herself together through that trip. She was determined to make a full circle, to go home before she died. No matter how tired and sick she got, she made that trip in July. Imagine that resolve, that strength. When she came with her parents and her brother Mark to the U.S. in December 1963, Rita went to Hillhouse High School where she met a kid named Marty Rudnick. They took a math class together when she was 16 in Spring, 1964. In late 1965, they started dating. They were really high school sweethearts. All told we’re talking about 42 years. There were times that were challenging. They had a lot to deal with, including taking care of her parents Leon and Rachel. Rita was a good and responsible and dutiful daughter, and with Marty’s help she did everything for them. Through it all, this was an incredibly strong relationship, and just to prove it, as if it needed proving, Marty has been incredible during this last stage which must have been the most difficult thing he’s ever experienced in his life. Marty has stayed calm in a time of horrible stress and has been like a rock. Somehow, he never got exhausted even with those terrible nights.

Rita was a wonderful mother to her Michael and Larry. She was so proud of Michael and Laurie and their beautiful child Vladimir, who is 5-1/2 years old. The other day Vladimir came upstairs to the bedroom and waved goodbye to his Bubbie. And Rita would talk about how Larry, by becoming a teacher, had followed in his parents’ footsteps. Her sons had a great mother and she had great sons.

She went to U Conn and got a degree majoring in Russian. She received a Master’s degree at Southern in Special Ed, as well as a 6th year degree in administration and supervision. She taught at Dwight Elementary for 7 years, then in Special Ed in Fair Haven for 20 years, and was then in charge of the Fair Haven Parent Pupil Team for the last 6 or 7 years.

Rita was always close to her brother Mark, who passed away 8 years ago. She has remained close to his family Ilene, Sam, Nathan and David. We remember Mark with respect and affection today.

We also want to thank Sim and Laurie for their friendship including a timely visit last week and hosting a wonderful trip by Rita and Marty to the wild west two years ago.

Rita had close friendships with people, with special friends like Mary Ellen Mcdermott and Sue Silverberg.

And then there were her dear friends here at the Shul such as Michelle Murphy, Marcie Ressler and Shira Rosenblatt and others who drew close to her.

Rita was an active, constant participant in our services here. How she dragged herself out of bed to go to all of those morning Minyans, when she should have given herself some extra rest, I’ll never know. She went when Mark tragically passed away so early, when her father passed away, when her mother passed away, and in the years in between. I’ll never know how anyone can be so faithful and determined.

She was of small stature, of quiet demeanor, but her courage was huge, and her manner gracefully expressed a formidable personality. Some who saw Rita and her sweet demeanor might not know that this was a person who was as strong as she was sweet. She had a wonderful sense of herself and a fine sense of how things should be. She respected others and she had self-respect.

During this whole ordeal, she was always realistic without being fatalistic, brave beyond measure. I hope that no one else has to go through what she did, but if we do, I hope we can be just a little like Rita, with her quiet grace.

When our shul stated that the daughter of a Kohen or Levi could claim the heritage of her father, Rita proudly claimed that heritage. I can’t estimate how many times she said the berachot for the first aliyah. She chanted those blessings beautifully and with feeling. I’ll miss seeing this very much, more than I can say. I’ll miss seeing her with her friends in the back row. I’ll miss her. Our shul has lost part of us.

Rita’s family has lent a Torah to our shul for many years. It’s in the ark behind me; we just used it on Rosh Hashanah. It was hidden from the Nazis during World War II. Rita’s father Leon somehow acquired it, and it made its way to this sanctuary. It s a very precious gift from a world that was destroyed.

Rita, to me, is like that Torah, someone who escaped from a world full of hatred and came here to freedom and became a part of us.  Like the Torah will be in the Ark, she’ll be in our hearts.