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Evelyn Rosenblum died July 11, 2013, in Boston. She was 85 years old.
As a young married woman looking for teaching work in Ohio, Evy had been told it was futile to apply outside of Cleveland, because Jews weren’t hired. She was also told it was futile to look for work inside of Cleveland, because married women weren’t hired.
So Evy and her husband founded a synagogue, and she founded a religious school, in a part of Cleveland that had never had either. Eventually, she began to teach about Judaism to school groups, women’s groups, all kinds of non-Jewish groups. Educating ran in her bones: one grandfather had been a Torah scribe in Lithuania.
Few people can be quiet and charismatic at the same time. Evy riveted an audience by speaking softly and focusing utterly — whether it was on a large group, a small grandchild, or her husband, who liked to chew smiley-faces into pancakes at their family dinners.
Grandchildren got special Evy attention. During vacations with her, one toy would appear from the basement every day. Often the exact same toy had appeared a year earlier, but the anticipation was still thrilling.
Instead of gifts on birthdays and Chanukah, Evy sent the grandchildren photos, of mountains of canned goods she was donating in their honor to the food pantry. She was a stalwart food pantry volunteer: the Greeter. After Alzheimer’s disease set in, Evy the Greeter didn't recognize the clients anymore. But they recognized her.
In a way, she diagnosed herself. When she was in her mid-seventies, she called her son-in-law, a neuropsychiatrist, and asked him to bring his instruments. She had caught herself writing the same check twice. Her deficits were so subtle it took him hours to find any.
She was matter-of-fact about impending dementia. Sometimes it devolves into paranoia and rage, but Evy’s calm giving grew purer. When she could no longer remember or speak, she still reveled in quiet usefulness: offering someone a napkin for finger food, or a tissue if they sneezed, or a hat in the snow — only offering them five times.
As a girl, Evy had loved to dance, but was so thin that a well-intentioned doctor ordered her to stop. Decades later, she rediscovered the joy of folk dance with her husband. And decades after that, the family danced in a circle for her around her hospice bed, while she waved her hands to the music.
Did you know Evelyn Rosenblum? Share your memories in the comments section.
This segment aired on December 16, 2014.
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