Sharing a Shabbat meal with family and friends gathered around the table is always a highlight of our week. A time to reflect on the week past, and then live in the present moment. A time to share a nourishing meal, recount stories, and sing together. This past week, we had the pleasure of having my Aunt Eve join us for Shabbat.
She arrived from Milwaukee, WI, on Friday morning, and after showing her some highlights of Berkeley (lunch on 4th Street, shopping at Monterey Market—with a whole aisle devoted to mushrooms!), we braided challahs together. Interestingly, these were the first challahs that she had ever made! As she said to me, “Challah-baking skipped a generation in our family—my mother made it for decades, and my daughter makes it now, but I never learned!”
As we walked around Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina, we talked about the passions that have informed her professional life. Born in Madison, WI, as a child of deaf parents (along with my dad, Harvey, who was a Guest Challah Bloggah this past fall), she eventually went to Gallaudet University (an international leader in the education of the Deaf and hard of hearing), where she pursued studies with her late husband Leo Dicker. Upon graduation, they returned to Wisconsin, where they pushed for American Sign Language to be actively included in educational programs for the Deaf and hard of hearing. This inclusion may seem commonplace now, but it was indeed seen as revolutionary at the time, as most instruction encouraged lip-reading rather than formal sign language. I asked her what made her want to “give back” to society through teaching, and she recounted two very powerful experiences. First, she shared with me that her father Abe had always showed generosity, compassion, and goodwill to those within the deaf community who had additional special needs. While many shunned such individuals, Abe showed by example how everyone, regardless of their “abilities,” was welcome with open arms in his home.
She also shared a story about her mother, Hilda. Mainstreamed in the public schools for her entire life (though she had significant hearing loss) she did reasonably well, considerieng how difficult it must have been to constantly rely on lip-reading. But during her senior year of high school, her English class read Shakespeare. As hard as she tried, the language proved to be too difficult to lip-read, and she quit school just a few credits shy of graduating. Years later, as Eve was touring Galluadet, she visited a class where they were using sign language to bring one of the Bard’s plays to life in the classroom. Tears welled up as she recalled in that moment her mother’s own struggles, and she decided to dedicate her life to enriching the educational, cultural, family, and work lives of those in the deaf community.
When Eve and I picked up Aviva on Friday afternoon, Aviva was a bit shy…for about five minutes! After we all delivered the week's extra challah to Chaparral House, she quickly warmed to Eve’s good nature, humor, easy rapport, and sense of wonder about Aviva’s world, and the next two days were full of bonding; books were read, games were played, and the land of make-believe was explored.
While Eve was able to participate in our own “Challah-it-Forward” initiative this week, I look forward to the day when Eve and Aviva can stroll around the Berkeley Marina on their own; Eve can tell this next generation the stories from her past, hopefully informing the stories that Aviva creates in her own time…