Moms, whether living or of blessed memory, have given advice that lives on in our heads and hearts. Our clergy give and receive advice too, so we wondered what advice some Atlanta clergy receive from their moms about the pandemic or a perspective on life. Here’s what they had to say:
Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner of Temple Beth Tikvah said her mother Peggy Locke “is never shy about sharing her advice.” She lives in a California retirement home and has four industrious daughters of which the rabbi is the eldest. “In a recent conversation with my mother [during the pandemic] she said, ‘I hear a tiredness in your voice; are you sleeping enough and taking your vitamins?’ I wasn’t following the counsel I’d been giving to others. My job is to help people cultivate their faith, be less afraid and find the tikvah, hope. But a sense of urgency to provide for our separated community had me sitting at the computer all day, forgetting to eat, drink water, or go outside.”
Shuval-Weiner reflected on time spent with her mother before she had siblings. “My mother introduced me to the world of creation, showing me the veins on a leaf, moving ground cover to discover what was underneath. Today, I still regenerate out in nature. It nourishes my soul and makes me even more able to do my work.”
She added, “Text messages from my mother also give me strength. At times, like a kid again, I’d like to run into my mother’s arms. I’m looking forward to a real hug from Mom.”
Rabbi Michael Bernstein of Congregation Gesher L’Torah said his mother Anne Bernstein doesn’t really give him advice about the pandemic. “She knows that [wife] Tracie and I are already cautious people. She’s not worrying about us. It’s the reverse.” The Conservative rabbi jokes, “I’m always thinking about my parents, but I leave the worrying and telling them what to do to my sister.
“We grew up shielded from too much risk or excitement. The most dangerous thing we did in our family was talking while eating white fish.”
The rabbi honors his mother’s advice, though, about rectifying rifts as soon as possible. “Mom always says, ‘Clear friction, apologize, and make things right.’”
He also agrees with Mom that “love and family are all that matters. It’s the foundation of life. Don’t take any of it for granted.”
Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein of Congregation Dor Tamid said, “My mother asks for my advice more than the other way around.” Pam Ottenstein knows her son is well-informed about COVID-19 by talking to professionals and relies on him for updates.
She reminds the Reform rabbi to care for himself as he balances his clergy role with family life.
“I’ve been stepping back and looking for moments of blessing and gratitude,” he said. “Our family was running in different directions. Now, we have quality time to go on walks and play with the dog. I’d like to hold on to this perspective and balance.”
Frances Hutner, mother of Dor Tamid cantorial soloist Michael Zuspan, lives in Israel. “They were on lockdown before we were. We talk often and, rather than advisor, she’s an inspiration.” She suggested doing a Zoom Passover seder. Zuspan created a special haggadah and, not only invited family and friends from all over the world but included community members who wouldn’t have attended a seder.
Unfortunately, Hutner was hospitalized that morning with a non-COVID-related illness from which, gratefully, she has recovered. Zuspan advised his mom not to partake in the hospital seder and kept checking to be sure everyone was wearing masks. “I was nagging and nudging, not advising,” he said. “The role reversal has allowed me to see her in ways I never knew her before. There are hidden gifts in our relationship now. It’s a real blessing.”
Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman, director of Chabad Intown, told us that sadly, his mother Rochel Leah Schusterman died when he was 12 years old. The second of 11 children, he was too young to recall advice, but he said his life has been informed by his mother’s example. “My mother was a profound and selfless leader of the community who lived her life in dedication to others.” This has shaped his belief that balance is needed between attention focused inward and outward, the rabbi said. “Self-care, alone, is not life’s mission. People may be struggling with finances, health or anxiety, but we all must live in the struggle. Thinking about others is liberating. It takes the focus off your own struggles.”
- Dr. Terry Segal
- mother's day
- Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner
- Peggy Locke
- Rabbi Michael Bernstein
- temple beth tikvah
- Congregation Gesher L'Torah
- Anne Bernstein
- Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein
- Congregation Dor Tamid
- Pam Ottenstein
- Frances Hutner
- Michael Zuspan
- Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman
- Rochel Leah Schusterman
- Chabad Intown