I first met Karin Zuckerman in 1984. We were at JFK Airport traveling to Israel on Nativ 4.
It was my first trip to Israel.
She was there many other times I came back, too.
I know that was year we both remember. It made us different people. She came from a yeshiva and was joining us, USY kids, for our our year in Israel. Already, she was the red headed Zionist with strong opinions many know her to be to this day. Unstoppable.
I admit I was scared of her, she was so "in your face" I found it abrasive and frightening. She was someone who she knew how she felt and didn't hesitate to say what she was thinking. I valued my own thoughts and was not hesitant to speak my mind but she was one over powering personality. She was that girl who wore skirts on our hikes. We wore shorts (shorter than I would like to admit today--I probably would not admit it to my own daughters). She was a challenger. She is a fighter. That gingi spirit wearing long maroon skirts in Uja Aqueduct. I am not sure if I hold a memory or a photographic image in my mind. I can see her then, just as I did every morning at Tefillot.
Then we returned from that fateful year of learning (we learned so much more that year, it would be unfair to call it study). We were all changed for sure, and all of us enhanced for sure.
Certainly Karin who was by then, I think Rivka (but perhaps still with less dagesh on the A at the end or maybe I just wasn't listening). There we were four more years at Barnard. She up and ready to daven at Netz (and I didn't get it) I was busy holding a on to the liberal party politics at Columbia's Progessive Zionist Caucaus. We didn't speak much during those years, I think. She was involved in one area of the Jewish Zionist collegiate activities spectrum and I in another. Yet, honestly we were not so different at all. In effect, we did not see eye to eye, but we were both using our eyes and our minds. I think the red hair might have got in our way.
We graduated Barnard and she left America with my friends and made aliyah.
I got married and moved to Canada. I made aliyah to the Great White North for four years.
My friends would keep my updated on what was happening in RivkA's life, but I didn't have contact with her despite my frequent trips to Jerusalem to see my family.
I made yeridah back to the states ( but it wasn't home).
Then, her daughter and my niece grew and suddenly (it seemed like that to me) went to school together. My niece went to school with RivkA's kid. And my kids are growing up in America.
And she would teach my nieces how to swim at the pool. And my sister would tell me about RivkA and she was an amazing swim teacher (which I never got to see for myself). Who would have guessed that I could have been swimming with RivkA all those all those early morning swims at Barnard before shachrit when instead I swam with my Progressive Zionist buddy?
Wow. This really is one tiny, tiny Jewish world, I thought, by the time our paths had been crossing for 20 years. It is closer to 25 right now. Amazing.
So I had my four children and she hers (three, I think--pardon me, I really know about the one who is my nieces' age and the one who is best friend's with Shaiya's son--Shaiya was among those that made aliyah when I didn't). Shaiya's son's best friend.
Now really isn't that something? He was in the Progressive Zionist Caucus.
She got cancer, Debbie told me, and I got divorced after 15 years of marriage.
I moved my family back to Philadelphia and finally returned two summers ago for a vacation on my own to Jerusalem.
I made plans to meet her. I wanted to see RivkA, the plans didn't work out. She was elsewhere. She was tired. It didn't happen. Fatefully we said we hoped we could do it next time I came back. Sad.
I did see all those people who had made aliyah when I didn't and many told me about RivkA. I saw Alexis, Lisa, Charlie, Debbie, Josh, Jessica, and even Shaiya. And most of them knew RivkA. Many many people knew RivkA. If you met her you couldn't forget her. Memorable.
And since my sister told me about her blog I have been reading that blog, everyday. religiously.
Just as I have her in prayers daily, I have been praying for her strength and a miracle. A real miracle.
I cheered when reached her milestone of being in Israel longer than in America.
I don't think I'll live to see that milestone. I 'm not there yet and this RivkA and I are 44 years old.
I also silently daily thank her for introducing me to the whole blog-o-sphere and many other blogs that I read. THis has added much to my life. Thank you.
I also started a this blog and she was very encouraging. Thank you.
I have known her for a long time. We shared much in parallel experiences. I am so sorry we never got together that summer.
I was hoping she would be there at the airport when I finally make aliyah.
My youngest (Angel Baby) has 8 more years until she finishes high school.
That is what I am planning to do after her graduation.
I hope she comes with me.
If I am lucky, maybe Nefesh B'Nefesh will still be around...
I think that RivkA might not meet me at the airport.
I will see her when I get there.
She is everywhere in Israel.
But right now, I hope she is not in pain.
She suffered a lot of pain. No pain, RivkA.
Strength and courage from all those strong heartfelt beliefs of yours.
And now I am saying Tehilim because that is what I can do.
RivkA bat Teirtzel, you are in my thoughts.