We hope it’s not too late to nominate our mother, Chaya Rachel Lerner, as one of the top 10 Jewish mothers (FYI, May 1). We think she is eminently deserving of the honor.
It’s not unusual for a mother to inspire her children or to be a role model to her family. It is unusual when she inspires an entire town, when she is an immediate role model to almost everyone she meets. Our mom, Chaya Rachel Lerner, falls into the latter category.
Our mom’s strength has always rallied us; she has stood up for us in every situation, except when it’s been our fault, and in those cases she has demanded more from us with the same ferocity. She has not only given us the right answers when we come to her for advice, but helped us to make sure we were asking the right questions and always encouraged us to look at the other side of the story.
Now her strength supports her community. She moved into Teaneck nearly 12 years ago and soon became an integral part of the town. She continuously educates, running from lecture series to learning group. She provides psychological counseling for those in need here, usually at well below breakeven rates and often for free. And though she was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, that has not slowed her down. She completes chemotherapy only to run to teach an adult education class or see a client. We, her children, ask her to relax, to slow down, but we know our request won’t get through: our mom is a born teacher, a natural helper, and she couldn’t stop giving even if she wanted to – even at a time where she needs to be given to.
And the community has responded in kind. Whenever she has been in the hospital or the illness has gotten worse, someone from the town shows up every night with dinner. A prayer vigil packed the local synagogue; a volunteer bake-a-thon, symbolic of her recovery, drew nearly 50 participants. Gifts come to the house, and a never-ending queue of people want to stop by, to see their friend, teacher, mentor, role model. And we get to skip waiting in line, blessed that she is our mother.