Sunday, January 19, 2020

Before Hadassa Bogomilsky headed off to camp in Montreal, we spent a fun-filled afternoon together. The 13-year-old daughter of my rabbi from the Maplewood Jewish Center-Congregation Beth Ephraim had just finished her school year and I had just sent off one of my family newsletters. We were both in the mood to celebrate.

At 65, I finally found out what middle-aged means. I have a lucid cousin who is 40 years my senior (that’s a story for another time), and a friend who is more than 50 years my junior, with friends of varying ages in between. What could be better? When my own daughter was a teen, she asked me why I had so many older friends. Now she’ll probably want to know about my young friend.

Hadassa and I started out on our lunch date by taking selfies as we looked out from the 9/11 memorial in West Orange and viewed the New York City skyline. When she asked where the site of the famous Twin Towers had been, I pointed far out in the direction of where the Freedom Tower now stands. My friend asked if we could find the name of a community member’s brother etched in the stone monument, who was tragically lost on that day. What seems like yesterday to me was years before she was born.

While we sat across the table at lunch in Livingston’s Jerusalem Restaurant, and I watched her sink her teeth into a slice of pizza, which was totally covered with black olives, I felt blessed for being a member of a wonderful community of thinkers and givers, and foodies. As she waved to others she knew who were frequenting the eatery, we talked about her school in Morristown and the Three Weeks/Nine Days, which fully correspond to when she is at camp this summer.

The thought of camp brought a glow to her face as she told me about getting to see her friends who come from all over, including different areas in Canada, New York and even Spain. All the while she voiced her eagerness at the thought of having the same dozen or so returning bunkmates. Excitedly, she told me she gets to eat dairy for many days of the four weeks she’ll be there this year, as she gave me an overview of the camp meals and the impact of the religious holidays.

Moving on to a discussion of the camp day, I learned that she has a standard routine with davening, meals and certain scheduled activities, along with electives. In response to my query about swimming at camp she nodded, while noting that sometimes it gets cool there and you need a sweater.

After our dairy lunch (and that was before I knew that was her favorite), we were off to the candy store. How can you do lunch with a youngster and not finish it with a sweet treat? Down the road we ventured to see my “20 something” friend Deena Buechler Bernstein, manager of Chocolate Works of Livingston, which is under the supervision of the Vaad of MetroWest, who steered us right to her favorite candies. Filling a few bags would leave a good amount to take along to camp after sharing on Shabbat with her siblings.

With a common interest in journalism, we set off to peruse, until her mother signaled that she needed her to get home. While driving back to Maplewood, we talked about her writing assignments at school and discussed some of their daily lessons. The conversation flowed all afternoon, one topic after another, with lots of talk about writing.

We made it to her house in time for the young teen to show me some of the techniques she uses in calligraphy. With her encouragement, maybe I’ll give it a whirl. Possibly she will soon be submitting her works for publication.

On the following Shabbat her mother told me that after our midweek adventure, Hadassa was smiling the rest of the week. I added that with my own children grown and scattered throughout the country, it was a fun, informative and sweet day for me as well.

By Sharon Mark Cohen

Sharon Mark Cohen, MPA, is a seasoned genealogist and journalist. A contributing writer at The Jewish Link, Sharon is a people person and born storyteller who feels that everyone is entitled to a legacy. Sharon was acknowledged by two authors in their recently published books and is looking forward to the publication of her family history book. Visit sharonmarkcohen.com.