A true Jewish star

Gert Gold (seated) holds great-grandson Shaine Arnold. Surrounding Gold are daughter Marsha Schuman (right), and grand-daughters Renee Grodsky (left)and Lisa Arnold (center).  

By Marsha Schuman

When you think of the word “star” many images might come to mind — the stars in the sky, a Hollywood star, or perhaps the six-sided Magen Davidon the Israeli flag. When I think of a Jewish star, only one image comes to mind: my mother, Gertrude Gold, who died on Sept. 16, 2014 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

It robbed her of not only living her daily life but sadly it also robbed her of the memories of what she contributed to so many during her lifetime of more than nine decades.  

Most people love their mothers, but what made my mom especially extraordinary was her gregarious personality and giving heart. My mother put others needs before her own. She didn’t consider herself special or exceptional for the acts of kindness she performed. It was merely her way of living and giving — for my mother, those two words were inseparable. She was brought up to be helpful to those who were in need, but it was her nature to be loving.

Like the six points of a traditional Jewish star with each point reaching out, my mother’s life also reached out to family, her community, Jewish traditions, fundraising, socializing to put a smile on many faces and infinite acts of loving kindness.

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At age 19, she worked as a secretarial supervisor to support her immigrant mother, since her father died suddenly of a heart attack. Mom went on to sell war bonds in the ’40s, where she met my Dad, Dwight Gold.

She was acknowledged by the March of Dimes All-Star Revue in the early ’50s, but her true passion for giving was to the foster children of Israel. In a 2007 speech she gave at a women’s luncheon to honor those who had been in Pioneer Women (now NA’AMAT USA) for longer than 60 years, mom spoke these words: 

“We started out meeting in the evenings, at the Forest Park Hotel. What stands out in my mind is that we used to dress up, and wore hats and gloves in 1947.  But the reason we came to gather as women was to help the immigrants start a new life …by us in the United States … raising money for their new beginnings. They called us Pioneer Women, because we were like our ancestors, at the beginning, the pioneers who blazed a trail for others to exist and have a new and better way of life.  We were and are a very dedicated group of women.

My special dedication and area of interest was Foster Parents for the children of Israel. Israel was not even a country when we started out. Along the way, I have made some wonderful friends whom I cherish . . . We don’t wear hats and gloves anymore, but that is not important. What has stayed the same, is our dedicated cause and our organization NA’AMAT, to help Israel grow through our efforts to continuously raise money to make this small wonderful country blossom.” 

In 2011, a special award was created in my mother’s honor from NA’AMAT USA (Formerly Pioneer Women) for a “Day Care Center Scholarship in Israel” for her years of devoted service to Pioneer Women.

At age 85, when my mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, she came to me crying. I asked what was wrong. She explained that many of her friends had died and she no longer knew how to raise money for Israel. Together we put out invitations to the community for Great Ladies in Their Eighties, where she and two other octogenarians demonstrated old-world cooking recipes, which were tasted and shared by 40 women, raising money for Israeli children.

In 2012, on Mom’s 90th birthday, she was recognized by the Missouri Senate: “It is with special pleasure that the members of the Missouri Senate acknowledge a momentous occasion in the life of one the Show-Me’ state most beloved citizens.” 

Mom once told me that she was grateful for the various awards, but her the real sense of pride and accomplishment came from the people who benefited. 

My mother’s last words came from a deep place making up her utmost being She was not coherent except when she spoke out loud from this dreamlike state. As I sat by her bedside I heard her say, “I’m in love.” I poignantly asked without expecting an answer, “Who are in love with?” To my complete surprise mom replied, “I love everybody.” Those were the last words I heard her speak. I hope we all will learn from the words my mom, Gertrude Gold, spoke.