June 15, 2017 / 21 Sivan, 5777 • Parshat Shelach
Issue 460

Dear Kehot Family,

On Sunday morning, 17 Sivan, my mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Tzimel Friedman, passed away. She was 101 years old. She was interred on the following day at Old Montefiore cemetery adjacent to her husband of 60 years, and near the resting place of the Rebbe of blessed memory.

My mother was born on the 15th of Shevat, 1916, in Kuyzmin, Ukraine, a village near Zhitomir. Her father, Rabbi Yosef Baruch Reichvarger, later served as rabbi of Kharkiv. He was also the chief justice of the rabbinic court in the city.

During WWII as the Nazis were nearing Kharkiv, she made her way to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, with her parents, a brother and a sister. They remained there in relative safety till the end of the war. Her other siblings did not share the same fate and were lost at Babi Yar and in the remote Magadan labor camp system.

My father's family, which hailed from Poland, had arrived in Tashkent after spending several years in Siberia, exiled there by the Communists. In 1944, my mother was introduced to my father, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Friedman, of blessed memory. They were married in Tashkent under primitive conditions, resolving to defy the odds of Jewish survival and build a Jewish home in the age-old traditions of yiddishkeit.

With a gentle approach, steadfast resolve and serving as ideal role model--she and my father succeed in raising a family dedicated to the service of the Jewish people. Her joy and pride was witnessing all her children establish their own lives, in locations far and wide, in service of the Jewish people, promulgating the Rebbe's message and teachings, each in their own way: teaching, coaching, supporting, writing and singing. How much greater her nachas upon seeing this continue by her grandchildren, great, and great-great-grandchildren.

My mother was a wise woman, regal yet gracious. Practical and incisive, she always naturally honed in to the core of the matter at hand. An empathetic listener, she had a wonderful way of interacting with all. Her sense of humor endeared to her many visitors, medical personnel and home attendants.

From a talented family of artists, Mother was also blessed with a keen appreciation for music, prose and song. Like her namesake, Miriam, she sang mellifluously. She encouraged her children to develop and express our own unique appreciation for the same. How proud she would be, as we sat around her beautiful Shabbat table, as father led all eight of us in singing his legendary Shabbat songs and melodies.

In recent years, members of her prodigious family were always with her; mother was continuously busy interacting with a steady stream of visiting adults and children of all ages. Her rapport with the younger set of grandchildren and great-grandchildren was a wonder to see. Indeed, mother was not just the "bubby" of her offspring, but to a host of visiting children who chose her as their "bubby" as well.

Mother's taste in design was for symmetry and the geometric. This expressed itself in how she lived her life. Positive and goal oriented, she was unhappy with excess she saw in American culture.

A bookkeeper by profession, my mother was a natural with math and numbers; her books always perfectly balanced. She was also possessing of a great sense of time. We were amazed each time, as she would accurately state the time of day without even a glance at the clock.

How fitting then, that as Miriam Tzimel's pure soul was ascending on high in New York--a new soul was descending from on high, born to a granddaughter in Kansas.

Symmetry and perfect timing.

The child was immediately named at the Torah right there at the chapel synagogue: Miriam Tzimel.

A balanced sum-total.

The song of Miriam continues.

May her legacy and memory be for a blessing.