First Person

First Person

Itai Lev Aryeh


Friendly. Heart. Lion.

Itai Lev Aryeh.

On September 21, my daughter DeDe Jacobs-Komisar gave birth to the second son born to her and her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Komisar.

We were so blessed as a family nearly four years ago, when DeDe’s oldest child and our first grandchild, Shalom Chaniah Tuvia, was born.

His baby brother Itai was named for his great aunt, Enid Jacobs Dame, or Ytta Sarah bat Michal and Tova Sheindel.

Ytta Sarah was a nationally known feminist poet. She wrote poems of medresh. She wrote of Eve and Lillith, the push and the pull of Jewish life for women in Jewish tradition.

She was an English professor at Rutgers and New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

Google Enid Dame, and you’ll learn the extent of her writings and how she used love, strength, humor, and sometimes anger to get her voice heard.

She marched on Washington against the Vietnam War and for civil rights. She was even arrested for protesting at an apartment building which in the 1960s refused to rent to blacks.

At the same time, she was the big sister who would shlep me to sporting events. She did so because my parents were working-class people, seemingly always on the job. She’d bring Chaucer and Kipling with her and sit with me in the bleachers watching the Yankees visiting the Orioles. She’d look up and hug me when I cheered. But then she’d be off in the sanctity of her favorite literature.

My sister bought me my first electric shaver. I had maybe two small hairs growing on my face and I shaved them like they were forming a beard. She bought it for me, because Enid always asked me questions, always wanted to know what I thought. And when I confessed to her my deepest fears about being a boy growing up in a world where physical prowess was something I could never live up to, she presented me with a shaver. She wanted me to have that beard because she want to help make me feel more grown up.

My sister was in love with my daughters, DeDe and Emily. DeDe shared with her aunt a love of literature and Judaism and found no peace in keeping silent about cruelty and injustice. DeDe has read and connected with her aunt’s friends, and her past.

Sadly, Enid died too young, at age 60, in 2003.

Enid’s spouse insisted on purchasing DeDe’s wedding dress, as a way to connect these two very similar neshamot.

The day after I turned 60, I sat in the beis medresh of New Haven’s historic Orchard Street shul. My daughter so closely resembles the traits of courage in her own writings and point of view of life that I know that my sister is somewhere looking on with pride.

On a warm Sunday morning after prayer, I wrapped myself in my tallit, and with a pillow on my lap I held my beloved new grandchild, trying my best to comfort him as the covenant of our people was completed.

Itai Lev Aryeh. You are named for a woman who deeply influenced your Ima and your Poppy, who happened to be Ytta Sarah’s little brother and always will take pride in that.

Friendly, with a strong heart and the courage of a lion. This was Ytta Sarah. You, my little grandson, will carry her memory to klal Yisroel. And like her, you will write your own story. Your medresh.

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