Eulogy Remarks for Elaine Singer

Rabbi Gary Creditor of Temple Beth-El gave the hesped at Mom’s funeral yesterday. He kindly sent me a copy of his remarks, which I wanted to post here for those who couldn’t be at the funeral.

Eulogy Remarks for Elaine Singer
April 30th, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

From many diverse ways I had the pleasure of knowing Elaine Singer. We shared the simchas of the family from Cliff and Michael and through their children. I saw her occasionally in synagogue and other times at the JCC or other events. I enjoyed our repartee, her sense of humor and funny comments. We also remarked on growing older and its attendant ailments. But she would give me a special look and comment. I think that she mostly respected that I was a Rabbi in what comments she shared with me. I have been distressed to know that she was ailing and now at her passing. But I take comfort in knowing that she was blessed in life in many ways and from many people, that she gave blessings, fun, enjoyment and love to many, and bestowed a measure of goodness to the world, her family and her friends. These treasures and qualities are eternal, and their merit accompany her neshama to heaven.

Elaine was born in here Richmond and she attended Thomas Jefferson High School like so many of her generation, and also Richmond Professional Institute, now Virginia Commonwealth University. She was a very intelligent and capable woman, perhaps just a little ahead of her time. In listening to Cliff and Michael in the office and to David speaking from Los Gatos, I learned that Elaine was a very remarkable and special person. In many ways, she was born to serve. She was the faithful daughter of Abraham and Ethyl Winer, extremely devoted to them and took care of them. She was blessed with her brother Harold who predeceased her and his wife Dubby, and her brother Leonard in Denver, to whom we send our condolences. Her mother died first and her father significantly later, and she was constant in her attention. Elaine was a single mom before it became truly recognized. She devoted herself to raising Cliff and David with everything that was necessary. Through these years and onwards she worked in the family grocery business on Oregon Hill, as did so many Jews of that generation, then at Virginia Elevator Company, and finally at Ethyl Corporation, where she was the secretary in the audit department. Her capabilities were recognized by her bosses and co-workers alike. In another time and age, she could have risen very high in that company or any other, such as were her talents and abilities. Though she kept in touch with friends from work, retirement was the happiest day of her life, and much richly deserved. Between serving her parents, working and serving her sons, her life was totally absorbed and left little time for anything else. She acquitted herself of her self-assumed responsibilities with distinction and aplomb. The three agreed that proper adjectives to describe Elaine’s sense of humor would be salty and spicy. That may be true, yet I see these as the qualities of her soul that enabled her to face up to the challenges of life and triumph, to persevere and succeed, to see her grandchildren and friends, and shep much nachas from them and from life. Elaine Singer was a very special lady.

Elaine definitely had a few special qualities. In 1964, having gotten lost and wound up in Ashland, it became her first and last times that she every drove on an interstate! In her youth she was a dancer, that being her major at RPI, and she loved ice skating as well. It was for that reason that she enjoyed watching her granddaughters’ performances and attended so much of their school functions. She kept kosher all her life and never ate treif, with a strong Jewish identity and component of her soul. She was supportive of many things in Jewish life and affairs. At one time she got her hands on a computer and she used it extensively. Cliff said that 80% of her email to him were her jokes, many of which were not too good and not fit for public recitation, at least by me. Perhaps one of the great stories that typify Elaine and her life is the following. Trying to send something to Cliff she just typed CSinger at [redacted]. But instead of getting Cliff, she got a stranger, Carol Singer, with whom she promptly struck up a lively correspondence. From this accidental meeting blossomed a great friendship. Just a few days ago, Carol sent the following to Elaine:

Hi, Elaine,

I just have to tell you how much your newsy letters and your silly jokes have always meant to me. Through your heartwarming letters, I have come to know and enjoy your family. All of the love and pride you have for your family has always come through loud and clear. I’ve enjoyed looking at all the picture albums you’ve emailed to me. We’ve spent a lot of time bragging about our children, too. I have been too busy to tell you about my wonderful 15-month-old grandson. You’re right, grandchildren are something special. I love it when he sleeps at my house sometimes on the weekends.

I have to thank you for all the Jewish jokes you are always sending my way. I forward many of them to my brother, who, as you know, is a Gabbai at his Temple in Pennsylvania.

Now you hurry and get well so you can lighten my day with your sense of humor.

Carol Singer.

That is quintessential Elaine. Now she will brighten up our lives through memory and perhaps some special type of communication, this time, just from further away and through a different medium. May it still bring joy to our hearts.

Elaine was blessed with a large and loving family with whom she stayed in touch throughout the years. She was extremely generous to family and friends and also lived to give advice. She was truly blessed with four grandchildren, the girls Allison and Meri, and the boys Cory, here in Richmond, and Jeffrey in Los Gatos. All of you have very special and wonderful memories of your grandmother to carry with you throughout all your lives. Being girls was enough to make you special and she kvelled at your achievements. She admired Cory who is supposedly just like Cliff was in his youth, and a small car in her doll house for him to find, necessitating she have a large supply to induce a return visit by him to discover more. Jeffrey loves coins and Elaine kept a subscription for him, one that just came this past Wednesday. Three years ago, making a real effort after her surgery, she attended Jeffrey’s Bar Mitzvah and enjoyed it immensely, meeting Jeffrey in his environment and meeting the family and friends in California. In 1978, though not a happy traveler, she did come on a trip to Israel.

Yet as David and Cliff spoke about their mother, I heard an echo of yesterday’s Torah portion. Specifically, it refers to two words: tahor – pure, and tamey – impure. We are instructed to follow out rituals as well as to refrain from certain animals, because they are impure, for whatever reason, and only eat from the tahor, the pure, and follow that behavioral trait throughout our lives. David framed it very beautifully when he said that there were things that their mother did not teach them to do, though it would have been so easy to do so.

Though having a difficult life, with particular misfortunes in the beginning, that made the entire journey ever more difficult, she did not teach them to hate. Though she grew up in the 1920’s and onwards, and Cliff and David were born during the tempestuous times in the South in the 1950’s, Elaine did not teach them to become racists. She always preached that everyone was a person and should be treated accordingly.

Elaine Singer was remarkable and made people better by her values, her wisdom and her words. In her way she blessed us and brought a drop of God’s precious salvation to the world. Now her neshama resides in a kingdom of eternal peace, without pain and suffering. And if, in the mysterious sounds of heaven, we may imagine that we are hearing a divine guffaw, then let us also imagine that it is caused by Elaine, sharing one of her jokes with God and eliciting such a heavenly response. May that memory bring a smile to our faces and warm our hearts.

I personally imagine Elaine being a little testy that I have spoken this long, but her family gave me a lot of very good material. That is how God made her, and now in His all embracing arms, may she rest in eternal peace. Amen.