A Lifetime Dedicated to Community
Remember and Honoring Two Extraordinary Women
On the evening of Rosh Hashanah, we heard the news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had passed away. There have been many who connect the timing of her death to righteousness, becoming a tzadikka and bestowing justice in our world. While scholars may not be unified on this matter, the fact that RBG left this world at a time when Jews deeply contemplate life and death is profound.
A few days later, Helen Weinger, a long-time member of our J family, passed away at the age of 101. Helen was grandmother to five and great-grandmother to six. What an incredible life—to love and be loved for over a century. I went to Bernard Weinger JCC in Northbrook the next day, the incredible community center named for Helen’s beloved husband and made possible by her family. I walked by Bernard’s picture and recalled their daughter’s beautiful words:
“…standing in the lobby after the game, my grandson turned to me and said, ‘Grandma, your name, Poppy’s name and my dad’s name are up on the wall!’ I smiled and explained that we felt it was important to help build this JCC so that children like him would have a place to come to do things like play basketball, swim, take classes or go to camp and preschool.”
~Susie Spector, Vice President, Board of Directors
Things kids do at the J—swim, go to camp, go to preschool—are the very things we celebrate as an agency every day. They seem simple, like expected rights of passage. But we know—and perhaps appreciate even more now—that these activities, each of these moments, builds up our community, paving the way for the next generation to find their people, their voice, their connection. Helen and Bernard Weinger’s legacy is a testament to the words of Justice Ginsburg, “One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.”
On Mondays, I send my weekly “Happy J Monday” email to share highlights from the prior week with staff and volunteer leaders. The Monday after Rosh Hashanah, the day before Helen passed, was the 120th Happy J Monday.
In English, in Hebrew, in Yiddish—“till 120!” we say. The phase is widely used when somebody does a good deed, performs an act of kindness, means something to you. It’s a love note of the sweetest kind.
Yom Kippur is on Monday. On occasion, I send a Happy J Tuesday email to mark the start of the week. And I will share beautiful stories of connection and accomplishment, engagement and community impact. I will also remember Helen and all that she and her family have done for community members of all ages. And I will know, with a smile and pride, that Justice Ginsburg made it possible for me to sit in my seat and steward something so big and so important.
While the world changes and often seems confounding, the J will continue to be here in all of the ways, welcoming people through our doors, on our screens and throughout our community.