Victoria’s Secrets: From sadness to joy

The Bnos Menachem school in Brooklyn

I was stunned, saddened and shocked to hear of the hate-filled murderer who used an assault rifle and shot people during their worship service at a Chabad house outside San Diego. Then it happened again on May 8, when yet another madman with a gun shot students at a Colorado school, with one student murdered.

The Chabad movement in Judaism began under the guidance of the revered Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. The rebbe was the inspiration of the Lubavitcher movement, which sent people to every corner of the world to help Jews celebrate their religion.

The rabbi where the horrific shooting occurred almost two weeks ago is actually from Brooklyn and a disciple of the late rebbe, whose work began in Crown Heights.

I recently met Rabbi Marty, a member of the Lubavitcher movement who invited me to visit his “pride and joy,” Bnos Menachem, a girls’ school devoted to training generations of students to become leaders in their community. Making my way through the majestic wide streets of Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, I found the handsome school building on East New York Avenue.

Bnos Menachem was created originally for 90 students, but through its great success has grown to a school educating girls from preschool to high school. As a former teacher myself, I was impressed as I toured the building and its technology smart classrooms.

It was a surprise to learn that the building also housed a handsome, crystal chandeliered ballroom that can hold catered kosher parties for up to 800 people! Such a smart way to raise dollars from a business within a business.

The Chabad Lubavitch schools inspire millions of people through over 3,300 centers around the globe. And it all began here in our great city!

Their peaceful, great works are a stark contrast to the violent hatred that visited Chabad Poway on April 27. It comes as no surprise that the killer was armed with the same kind of assault rifle used in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, and so many other mass shootings in America.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. It’s been more than 20 years since the shocking Columbine High School massacre, and we’ve seen one mass shooting after another in the years following. Yet no laws have changed in our country to keep assault weapons out of civilians’ hands. Meanwhile, New Zealand quickly passed gun control laws after its own shocking mass shootings at two mosques.

Let’s get on the phone and keep the pressure on our elected officials to do something. Tell them, “Enough is enough!”

spring magnolia and blue sky

The splendor of spring

From Investors Bank’s Morning Juice newsletter comes this excerpt from “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles” by Joyce Styron Madsen.

Is there anything more symbolic of spring, more emblematic of new life and renewal, than fruit trees bursting into blossom after a long Midwest winter? Sometimes, the only thought that sustains me through those dreaded months of shorter days and frigid temperatures is the certainty that the glory of spring will eventually return.

That’s why, every fall, after the leaves have shriveled and the brilliant green of the garden has yielded to a dull, lifeless brown, I faithfully plant spring bulbs. Hope springs eternal, even in the Midwest. Thoughts of pastel blooms nodding in the gentle breeze enable me to overlook my chilled fingers and the lengthening shadows as I bury each bulb, wrapped in a winter “overcoat” of bone meal and rich soil. This climate definitely challenges my capacity for delayed gratification.

One fall, in addition to planting bulbs, my husband and I decided to add a pair of apricot trees to our yard. I could almost smell the sweetness of the blossoms and see the flower-laden branches reaching toward the sun. We weren’t really concerned with harvesting a bountiful crop of apricots; it was the beauty of the blossoms that we anticipated.

That spring, while the apricot trees developed tiny, healthy-looking leaves, there were no blossoms, no heavenly aroma, no shower of petals as a brisk breeze suddenly stirred. We knew that it might take a few years for the blossoming to start. The rest of the garden was glorious, though, so we didn’t mind waiting for nature to take its course with the apricot trees.

The second spring was a repeat of the previous one: still no flowering. The following year, the same thing. After nearly a dozen years, the trees became something of a joke: our “mock” apricot trees. In spite of fertilizing and pruning and treating them with the appropriate organic nutrients year after year, it seemed as though they had no intention of ever flowering.

And then one spring, in spite of the garden’s pastel blues and pinks and purples, my world went dark. My husband died unexpectedly, shattering my world and everything in it. The brilliance of nature and the glory of spring seemed to mock me in my black cloud of grief.

Slowly, I realized that the blossoming, growing flowers and trees surrounding me might provide some consolation. I would try to appreciate the springtime that my husband and I had always treasured, as a tribute to him and the long hours he had invested in beautifying our surroundings.

A few mornings later, I took my coffee outside and watched the butterflies flit from tulip to tulip. Then I glanced to my right. Overnight, the apricot trees had burst into a riot of frothy blossoms. My heart skipped a beat. Clutching my coffee mug, I sat down on the garden bench before my knees buckled.

As the spring and summer progressed, tiny green buds of fruit began to form. The nurturing warmth of the sun developed them into ripened gold. When I picked each blushing apricot, I felt as though I was harvesting a tiny miracle. Day after day, I collected the fruit, and, before long, I had a refrigerator full of jam and a freezer loaded with preserves. For months to come, I savored the taste of summer each time I opened a jar.

The apricot trees never bloomed again. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised. The blossoms were there when I needed them the most, to remind me of the promise of spring, of rebirth and eternal hope — and everlasting love.

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