This summer has been my most difficult. I lost the person who brought me into this world, the one who guided me unwaveringly on my present path even though at times it was with some kicking and screaming. It wasn't until I had children of my own that I truly appreciated how amazing a woman my mother was. It also wasn’t until the shiva and the days that followed that I gained a more holistic view of who she was too. The spectrum of visitors and well wishers at the shiva was more diverse than I could have imagined. She touched the lives of so many different types of people within the South African community and was involved in so many different projects that it was difficult to keep up with the stories and anecdotes that people had come to share. My siblings and I had the rare privilege of spending my mother's last days with her. She was surrounded by all her children, grandchildren and loved ones. Till her last moments, she comforted us and gave us strength. My Mother had an uncanny ability to give advice and to lead without sounding like a preacher or making people feel like they were being judged. She often balanced this advice with a good dose of humor. At the Shloshim, The honorable Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein gave us a glimpse of his interactions with my mother. She was the President of the Federation of Synagogues of Women’s Guilds of South Africa and so sat on many committees and boards with him. He spoke about her Jewish Feminism and her unique character that was so connected with her Hebrew name, Devorah, that she was a leader who led with great dignity and strength and how she was not afraid to say what needed to be said. She was a humble person who did whatever was necessary no matter how small or trivial in order to get the job done.
One of the many Initiatives that my mother started, was the Jewish Women’s National Day of Prayer. The project began in 1994. My mother was a firm believer in the power of prayer and in the special gift that women have in their ability to create change and bring peace. I quote from my mother’s 1996 appeal for women to pledge a donation to any charity, recite PSALM 27, and then light shabbat candles on the Friday closest to Rosh Chodesh Elul, which falls out on August 29 2014. (This year it happens to fall on my mother's birthday).
“Our hope is that all Jewish women will stand together united by a common goal, to Petition the Almighty to lift us out of the turmoil, strife, sickness and pain that is so unfortunately part and parcel of our daily lives. We need G-d to bless all the inhabitants of our world with wisdom, understanding and true peace so that we can all live together in harmony.
We have linked our day of Prayer to Rosh Chodesh because Hashem granted the first day of every month as a holiday to women. Candle lighting is the unique woman’s mitzvah which gives a woman the opportunity to bring numerous blessings into her home. (Many have the custom that even girls from age 3 light one candle). The giving of charity/Tzedakah and the reciting of Psalms/Tehillim we are taught brings the Redemption closer. We have chosen Psalm 27 because it is the psalm that on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Jews all over the world will usher in the spirit of the Days of Awe, and will continue to recite it until Yom Kippur. Others have the custom to continue on until after Succoth. Elul, is a special time of the year. It is when we begin our “shape up” exercises. We begin our “ re Jew vination” programme in order to be ready for our own Jewish “ spiritual Olympics” , Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succoth.” My mother signed off all her newsletters and written correspondence with, with Torah Greetings, Devorah ( Dawn) Nates.
My siblings and I would like to continue the initiative that was so close to our mothers heart. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Jewish Women’s National Day of Prayer and the message is no less relevant today.
I am living in Israel now and I can think of no better way to perpetuate my beloved mother's memory, besides of course for thinking about her and talking about her, than by sharing her initiative and doing something that I know she would have loved to do herself. So, I bring the Jewish Women’s National Day of Prayer to Israel. My sister Rebbetzin Aviva Fox will be continuing this initiative in South Africa, my brother Dr Wayne Nates will be involving his community in Winnipeg, and my sister Ariella Kohn will involve her community in New York.
I humbly request the participation of the women of the ex-South African community and any other women who would like to join in, to give some charity, to say a prayer when they light shabbat candles this week.
Hopefully together, we can help light the road to peace.
“With Torah Greetings”