Nechama Gittel Chaya bat Chana (as she likes people to refer to her), or Norma Kuras, is an 82-year-old breast cancer survivor. When the doctors found a malignant tumor in her esophagus, they recommended a complex operation. But her recovery took longer than expected, and then more tumors were found. She is now awaiting a place in a hospice.
Nechama Gittel Chaya bat Chana made aliyah a few years ago to be with her daughters, granddaughter and great-grandchildren here in Petach Tikva. Until she got sick, Nechama helped organize our weekly Shabbat shiur (class). She came to Jewish observance late in life, and never picked up much Hebrew. But whenever I gave the shiur, I prepared extra carefully just for Nechama Gittel bat Chaya. She read everything in English that she could find, and always asked the most challenging questions.
Before her recent illness, Nechama Gittel Chaya bat Chana was vibrant and active—going to classes, babysitting her great-grandchildren, and corresponding with friends of all ages. Her hospitalization hasn’t lessened her sensitivity to the needs of others. When I was visiting, she reminded her daughter to get a bat mitzvah gift for the daughter of a women in the shiur, and interrupted our conversation to suggest her aide take a much-needed nap.
She also asked me about the challah project that our friend Yosefa is organizing this week. The idea is that a large number of women should say a prayer for her recovery while doing the mitzvah of hafrashat challah (separation of challah). You can see the explanation and video at Yosefa’s site. I hope you’ll join in if you can.