Froma Fallik z”l
Froma bat Ze’ev v’Zahavah
April 22nd 1949 – September 30th 2012
Today is the first day of Chol HaMoed Sukkot, the intermediate days of this joyful festival of Sukkot, also known as Chag HaAssif, the harvest festival, or festival of gathering. We are indeed gathered here, but not in joyful celebration, but as a community in grief and we are here to harvest, not our crops, but we are harvesting the incredible memories of a wonderful woman who has been taken from us. Sukkot is a holiday that teaches us to be present, to be fully in the Sukkah, not half in and half out, but inside and present with our whole body and soul. It one of the rare instances that the law goes according to Shammai and not Hillel, that we cannot be partly in our house and partly in the Sukkah. This is something that Froma has taught us all, right up to the end and continues to teach to us today; the great value of being in each moment no matter what it brings. Froma along with her beloved husband Josh, known by many as Shuki, went through a lot together, including some very painful challenges and Froma was always able to bring everyone into the moment with positivity, laughter (and what a laugh she had) and gratitude. Even this last devastating journey was one in which Froma cherished the time she had with everyone and found moments to laugh and to teach. Froma Fallik was an extraordinary and passionate educator right up to the end. She loved the children and adults that she taught and they loved her back. In her role as principal of our Hebrew School at Bonai Shalom, she has built an amazing legacy of young people who love their Judaism and an impressive group of teachers who have her full respect and love. A few weeks ago, Froma shared with me that she wanted nothing more than for our young people to be excited about being Jewish and that is the most powerful way that we can honor her memory. Froma was deeply grounded in her own Judaism and Jewish life with a strong attachment to the tradition and yet at the same time she was so liberated, with a modern spirit ahead of her time, like in her loving support of gay and lesbian issues. Josh told me that she used to say: “if it causes pain, it can’t be from God. We must be interpreting the Torah wrongly.” When Josh and Froma got married in 1974, a prominent Orthodox rabbi was to officiate the wedding and Froma asked for a double ring ceremony. He said that wasn’t possible. She said, “Rabbi, it has been such an honor having you as my rabbi and as the rabbi of my family all these years and I am so sorry that you won’t be able to officiate at our wedding.” He found a way and they had a double ring ceremony. She always wanted to combine her depth of Jewish belief and practice with a real need to be forward thinking and to allow for the humanity. Froma was a traditionalist and a humanitarian and whoever I spoke to; her life partner, her son, her siblings, nephew, cousins, friends and colleagues, the story of this remarkable woman is the same; passionate, present, positive, always interested in people whoever and wherever they are and a really good listener with the wisdom to give great advice.
Froma was born on April 22nd 1949 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey to parents Jean and William Braunstein from whom she inherited her strong values; a committed love of Judaism and a sense of justice and fairness, as well as that interest in people.
Froma’s sister Rosie talks with such love and such pride about her sister, having no problem declaring her the smartest of the three of them with her three masters’ degrees and her keen intellect. Froma had been a consultant, a librarian of the Boulder JCC and in the last years a school director of Bonai Shalom’s Hebrew School. Froma was her sister’s mentor her entire life and they adored each other. They protected each other and helped each other through all life’s crises. They sang their way through life and Froma always had her characteristic wisdom for her sister and was able to offer her the other perspective when it was needed. Rosie feels grateful for the gift of her 9 day visit, which went right up to her deep sleep. For her sister, Froma was like a saint and they were always very close.
Froma’s brother Marc remembers how much she loved Bradley Beach and swimming in the ocean with her father – she got to visit Bradley Beach with her sister last October. Froma was 4 years older than Marc and 5 grades higher and was always incredibly generous. When she was a sophomore in college and he was a freshman in high school, she offered for Marc to live with her in New York, which he remembers with great warmth. He comments that no matter what challenges she faced, Froma always kept hold of her values of family, community and education, along with her warm personality. She would even always laugh at Marc’s jokes! One summer she went on hunger strike at Camp Massad because she had heard that her brother had been injured back home in a baseball game and she wanted to go home to make sure he was alright. Froma was very focused and very loyal.
Her many friends remember how Froma was always there, always willing to listen and always willing to talk and to love, to laugh and offer that sharp advice and constant support. Yoni reflected to me that his relationship with his mom is not about big, big memories of huge gestures, but about the constant nature of their relationship. Even in the very darkest of times, she always had a positive attitude, finding the small miracles in everything. Yoni reflects that the best memories came out of the greatest challenges, like the sudden departure from Arizona to Boulder under very difficult circumstances, which turned into a fun road trip with his mom, listening to music, chatting, laughing and gathering pieces for Inspector Gadget at McDonalds along the way. “It was always about the little things the whole time and when you put them all together,” he said, “they make such a huge difference.” Froma has made a huge difference in the lives of so many of us. Not just the books, the films, the education, the laughter, the passion, the love of Judaism, but all of it together.
In 1973, Froma and Josh met on his kibbutz in Israel for the first time. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He was injured in the army and was sent back to the kibbutz on crutches to heal. As soon as they saw each other, they knew that they were soul mates before they even spoke. They started talking then and never stopped until a few days ago. They always spoke about everything – their deepest feelings, movies, Judaism. Everything. When they started dating, Josh’s mom fell in love with Froma and adopted her on the kibbutz. Josh said, “but, what if we break up?” She said “nu, don’t break up.” They didn’t. Froma used to hitch hike to the army base every single day with food for Josh and would sometimes wait 8 or 9 hours until he came. Josh says that it was a very intense relationship from the beginning and she always did everything the whole way. Two weeks after they met she said, “I love kids, I love dogs, I love Judaism and I love you. Are you in or are you out? Because if you are in, it’s all the way.” And they were. Right up to the very last moments. A little while ago after a radiation session, they were really in despair facing the fullness of how bad the situation was and how much worse it was going to get, when she fell in the parking lot. She did not have the strength to get up and Josh could not get her into the car. Remembering what one of the home care nurses taught them, they pushed against each other, hip to hip and it worked. As they were standing, Froma whispered “Ezer c’negdo,” the phrase in the Torah describing Adam and Eve’s soul mate relationship, literally meaning help against each other. Froma even managed to turn this desperate situation into a moment of teaching and a moment of laughter. Josh says that she was always able to see the silver lining in everything. The Sunday night less than two weeks ago that she was moved from home to the hospice was a very difficult night for everyone with a couple of falls leading to the transfer and it was all so upsetting. Josh remembers in amazement that once she was in the ambulance, she started chatting to the ambulance guys and soon they were laughing together, laughing all the way to the hospice, probably knowing that she wouldn’t leave. That night Froma wrote a list of books that she wanted Josh to get from the library. Josh feels very fortunate that they always knew they were meant for each other and said that Froma always felt that there were a bunch of her ancestors and bunch of his ancestors pushing them together.
The love and devotion that both Josh and Yoni have shown throughout this whole process is so moving and so inspiring and there was great love and dignity up to the end. Josh would not leave Froma’s side for a moment in those last few days, talking and singing and being so fully present, not half in and half out and Froma died in Josh’s arms. It was just the two of them and Yoni agrees that was just how it was meant to be. At a certain point, Froma said “whatever time we have left together I don’t want to spend it throwing up and you cleaning up after me.” She decided to stop treatment before Josh might have, not as giving up a fight, but as a way to continue to live each moment.
Although Froma shared with me that “acceptance is not a constant location,” she had a remarkable capacity to accept her situation as gracefully as she could and, in this, continued to teach us as she always had.
I feel so blessed and so privileged to have known Froma as a friend and a colleague and we had a great relationship. Like all of us here, I am so very sad at this loss. I don’t understand how or why such a good woman who faced so many challenges in her life already, had to go through this, but I do understand how much we need each other right now. Not to make sense of it, but to hold each other, to comfort and heal each other. I also know how much Froma loved her family, her community and her friends. I know how much she loved all of the beautiful children in our Hebrew School, whose voices we are going to hear soon and I know how much you all loved her and the outpouring of cards, of blessings, of people offering to help has been unbelievable. I feel like I know too what Froma most wants from us now. To live each moment with presence and gratitude, as she did. To teach and to learn, to continue our love of Judaism and of humanity. That’s how we honor her memory and her legacy. Our holy cycle of Torah readings ends and immediately restarts next week with the holiday of Simchat Torah. The Torah ends with the death of Moses, the greatest leader the Jewish people ever knew and the Torah is his legacy. We say farewell to a great leader in our community and we honor her leadership by starting the cycle over again.
To all of you mourners, we say hamakom y’nachem – may God’s presence in this time and place where it is so hard to feel it, embrace you all with love and comfort, like a Sukkah. Josh (Shuki) loving, devoted husband, sons and daughters Nomi, Rachel and Yoni, son-in-law Yoel and grandchildren Esther, Moishy, Tzipi and Sarah. Sister Rosalie, brother Marc and their spouses Claudia and Mark, and the many nieces, nephews, cousins and so many close friends, students, colleagues, may we find strength and comfort in God and in each other and may Froma’s great love and great legacy continue to live on in each of us.
Due to the Holidays, shiva is delayed until next Tuesday night and finishes the following Monday morning. Please respect the family’s need for privacy between now and the shiva next week. There will be minyanim at the Fallik’s home, 830 McIntire at the following times:
Tuesday 9th 8:00 pm
Wednesday 10th 7:30 am 6:15 pm
Thursday 11th 7:00 am 6:15 pm
Friday 12th 7:30 am
Saturday 13th 8:00 pm
Sunday 14th 8:00 am 6:15 pm
Monday 15th 7:00 pm
Editor’s Note: According to Jewish law, worn out holy books and texts with the name of God may not be destroyed, but must be stored (in a Geniza) or buried. As a sign of mutual great respect, they may be buried with a Torah scholar (according to Talmud Megillah 26b). Froma, a woman who loved books and was an accomplished librarian as well as a Jewish educator and scholar, was buried with holy books and texts from both the Congregation Bonai Shalom and Congregation Har HaShem Genizas with help from the dozen or so rabbis who attended.