Moved by young woman’s compassion

Elizabeth Hersh is Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel (TE), and a blogger on the Jewish Light’s website (stljewishlight.com/chaplain).

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

During our Sunday morning family service at Religious School, I took a chance or perhaps an opportunity, to share that it was my father’s yahrzeit. He had died six years ago that weekend. I simply stated that I was thinking about my dad and wanted to say his name amongst my Temple Emanuel family, a place I knew I would feel supported in my grief and memories.

And so the morning continued with the regular classroom routines. I happened to stop and chat with two of our ninth graders who were patiently waiting to speak to our director of education. The young woman reached over to me, taking my hand into her hands, and with the warmest and most sympathetic tone and kindness radiating from her tone, expressed condolences about my dad.

I caught my breath as I was deeply moved by her words and actions. Words stumbled out of my mouth that it had been six years. She immediately responded that it did not matter, it was my dad and a loss. 

It isn’t often we celebrate the compassion, the insight, the gift of humanity from a high school student. Too often we are tuned into the heinous acts of that generation. This particular student is single-handedly trying to spear-head the Room at the Inn project for our congregation. She has accomplished in-depth research and has dedicated herself and her family to staff the social action project. She is one of my heroes.

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On this particular morning, I was fortunate to be the recipient of one of the many gifts of her heart. May my father’s memory always be for a blessing.