The baby and the shhhhhofar service at Jewish Hospital

Rabbi Yosef Landa, director of Chabad of Greater St. Louis, sounds the shofar. Photo: Bill Motchan

By Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Anna Rose Tendler has a vivid memory of Sept. 17, 1982. She had just given birth to her daughter Suzanne, so it was a joyous occasion. Mother and daughter would spend a few more days recuperating at Jewish Hospital. That caused Anna Rose some tsouris. She was concerned she wouldn’t hear the sound of the shofar for the Jewish new year, which she never missed.

It was Rosh Hashanah, and she had just had her baby.

“My husband said, ‘I can’t believe you’re not going to hear the shofar,’ ” Tendler said. 

Tendler didn’t know it, but a young Rabbi Yosef Landa, regional director of Chabad of Greater St. Louis, was standing outside her hospital room. He knocked on the door.

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“The rabbi walked in and he said, ‘Can I blow shofar for you?’ ” Tendler recalled. “And I said, ‘Are you crazy! You’re going to wake up my baby! It’s too loud!’

“He said, ‘Oh, no, no, it’ll be soft, it’ll be nice,’ and I was so excited, and he blew the shofar so softly that I started crying because it was so meaningful, and my daughter could hear it and I was like, wow!”

Could it have been divine providence that Landa showed up, shofar in hand, at Tendler’s hospital room at just that instant? Perhaps, but he had a little guidance.

“When people checked into Jewish Hospital back then, they would declare their religion if they wanted to,” Landa said. “We were able to get a printout of that list. We didn’t just go to every room and bother every patient, but anybody who declared their religious preference to be Jewish, we visited them.”

In a twist of fate, Tendler crossed paths with Landa nearly 37 years after that encounter and reminded him of it. There was one more Landa-Tendler connection, but it involved Suzanne Tendler.

“Rabbi Landa’s wife, Shiffy, was teaching at Epstein Hebrew Academy, and my daughter was a student there, so it’s a small world,” Tendler said.

Back in the early ’80s, on Rosh Hashanah, Landa made the walk every year from Chabad in University City to Jewish Hospital, with a stop along the way at a pond in Forest Park to blow shofar and perform a brief tashlich service.

After arriving at 216 S. Kingshighway Blvd., the walking wasn’t over. He and a few associates had to meander through the labyrinth of Jewish Hospital to find Jewish patients scattered throughout the complex.

Landa was pleasantly surprised to run into Anna Rose Tendler and reminisce about his Rosh Hashanah hospital rounds.

“It’s nice when you know you did something for someone and they remember 38 years later,” he said. “That was really gratifying.”

Landa also recalls that during those visits to Jewish Hospital he needed to blow shofar at a lower volume.

“When we visited the patients, we asked if they wanted us to blow shofar and most of them did, so we blew very softly so we didn’t disturb everybody,” he said. “Blowing shofar softly is a whole new skill set, which of course is acceptable. And that’s what we did.”