Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Unveiling

Today, March 9, 2008, we gathered at my mother's gravesite to remember her, and formally unveil the plaque my father designed. Manny presided, with Jeff, Matt and me - Hannah couldn't come down from Providence for the day. Yvonne Walker - who took care of my mother for the last five years of her life - and her sister Carrol Williamson, Yvonne's good friend Hortense Garvey (who is a NYC social worker just like my mother was many years ago) and her talented daughter Johari Garvey joined us. Despite the cold and the wind, it was an exquisite experience. Following are some of the readings, and a few comments.

Emanuel Sarfaty

Dear Family and Friends:

Today we are here to unveil the plaque placed on Pearl’s grave one year after she passed away. We are here, in an informal manner, without religious oversight, to talk about what Pearl meant to each of us as she departed from our midst.

I will start and then Ruth-Joy will speak, after that anyone else can say or read whatever they want.

Pearl, was a lovely, learned, hard-working woman – wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, social worker and teacher. Note that I always include her occupation
when I talk about her.

When she retired she volunteered to monitor the Nassau County court system and delivered her weekly findings to Judge Kaye, the Administrative Judge in charge. With her understanding about life that came from her ancestral and cultural background – being Jewish and poor in Poland where Jews were openly discriminated against in the school system, etc. - she appreciated the differences between men and women and between people in general; and was able, with her insight, to work for justice and social reform wherever she could.

When she worked in a factory, and she worked in a number of them, she joined the union because she knew it was better for all the workers, including women and black workers who received equal pay for equal work.

Pearl became secretary in her shop’s United Electrical and Machine Worker’s Union after I became its leader. I was elected when our shop chairman was inducted into the armed services and these offices became vacant. Over time this relationship resulted in our becoming boy friend and girl friend, resulting in marriage.

On a personal level, her young adult life was devoted to her family and children – their learning, health and culture. During this period she worked to achieve school integration in the NYC school system, as a PTA Vice Chairperson. But when the stress became too great and the white people in Brooklyn panicked we moved to Hewlett.

She loved America but never accepted its color barriers – she worked against them every way she could – for 25 years she gave sage advice and financial help to the many single mom welfare clients she had when she worked in NYCs social service system. This was a real challenge especially on the nights when there was a fire and families were left homeless.

From the day the United Nations was created she devoted her time, energy and money to seeing that its many activities for children were celebrated and expanded. She supported UNICEF all her life. She understood the importance of the UN in keeping the peace when it was created at the end of WWII.

She took to heart the words from Isaiah – “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Every winter, when she taught children in elementary school, she took her class to see the Nutcracker Suite at Lincoln Center. For her, this was another way she helped children become better people, by instilling in them the appreciation of good music and the wonders of ballet.

Before I end my remarks with a reading of a couple of poems I want to say a few words about Pearl’s care at the end of her life.

I want to thank Yvonne for giving Pearl the wonderful loving care she deserved. She did it for five long years. I won’t go into all the heartaches and anxiety we had during those years. But through it all, Yvonne made Pearl’s last days the best one could under the circumstances. Since Pearl could not say this herself, I say Thank you again and again to Yvonne.

Now, I will read a couple of poems and that will end my remarks:

The first is a Widower’s Poem of Grief titled “The House is Empty Now” by William Gramley.

The second is a love poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning titled “How Do I Love Thee”. Pearl brought Ms. Browning’s book of poems with her when we moved to our first apartment.

So, Dear Pearl, someday I too will pass into the night and I will be placed next to you as you lie next to my mother and aunt. Goodbye for now.

The House Is Empty Now
By Reverend William E. Gramley

The house is empty now and so am I
The silence is all around me
and penetrates my every step.
If I listen to music, it pierces my soul
and brings up tears on its way out.

I see her picture on several walls,
giving a momentary glow
to days gone by, filling those rooms
with love's reflections, as I pass through.

I'll go out and return, but the routine and the voices
beyond this place cannot come back with me.
I am stopped and searched at the door,
humbled as I lean upon the entrance way.
I may only take the emptiness in.

That doesn't seem necessary,
since it abides here anyway
The house is empty now
and so am I.
How Do I Love Thee?
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Ruth-Joy Sarfaty

A Mother's Love
by Helen Steiner Rice

A mother's love is something
that no one can explain,
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away...
It is patient and forgiving
when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters
even through the heart is breaking...
It believes beyond believing
when the world around condemns
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems...
It is far beyond defining,
it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation...
A many splendoured miracle
We cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of a tender guiding hand.

by Charlotte Bronte

Life, believe, is not a dream,
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day;
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
Oh, why lament its fall?
Rapidly, merrily,
Life's sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly.

What thought death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What thought Sorrow seems to win,
O'er hope a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell,
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

Jeffrey Miller

Evening: The Sun Set
By Michael Pinder

When the sun goes down, and the clouds all frown,
Night has begun for the sunset.
See it with your eyes, Earth's re-energized,
By the sun's rays everyday.
Take a look out there, planets everywhere.

When the sun goes down, and the clouds all frown,
Night has begun for the sunset.
Shadows on the ground, never make a sound,
Fading away in the sunset.
Night has now become day for everyone.

I can see it all, from this great height,
I can feel the sun, slipping out of sight.
And the world still goes on, through the night.
Matthew Miller
Free Four
By Pink Floyd

The memories of a man in his old age
Are the deeds of a man in his prime.
You shuffle in gloom of the sickroom
And talk to yourself as you die.

Life is a short, warm moment
And death is a long cold rest.
You get your chance to try in the twinkling of an eye:
Eighty years, with luck, or even less.

The memories of a man in his old age
Are the deeds of a man in his prime.
You shuffle in gloom in the sickroom
And talk to yourself till you die.
Hortense Garvey

A Time for Everything
Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth?

I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

Carrol Williamson
Carrol Williamson, Yvonne's sister, shared her thoughts about my mother's impact on Yvonne during the time they spent together.

Johari Garvey

How to describe this unexpected moment! Johari sang, and it was perfection. I wished I could have bottled that moment - I know my mother would have loved it, and I wish Hannah had been there to hear it.
It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday
By Boys II Men

How do I say goodbye to what we had?
The good times that made us laugh
Outweighed the bad.
I thought we'd get to see forever
But forever's gone away
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday
I don't know where this road
Is going to lead.
All I know is where we've been
And what we've been through
If we get to see tomorrow
I hope it's worth the wait
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday
And I'll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday
And I'll take with me the memories
To be my sunshine after the rain
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday

Yvonne Walker
Finally Yvonne said a few words, through tears, about the importance of the bond that she and my mother shared - the look in my mom's eyes when they'd pray together each day and the connection she still feels to my father and my family as a result of this experience. It was beautiful.

Finally, Jeffrey handed out the stones he had gathered and everyone placed one on the plaque, which says:

Beloved Wife, Mother, Grandmother
Pearl Sarfaty
A Loving Caring Teacher

Finally, here's one last poem for my mother - the teacher - that we did not get a chance to recite:
By Kahlil Gibran

Then said a teacher, speak to us
of Teaching.

And he said:

No man can reveal to you aught but
that which
already lies half asleep in the
dawning of your knowledge.

The teacher who walks in the shadow of the
temple, among his followers, gives
not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and
his lovingness.

If he is indeed wise he does not bid
you enter
the house of his wisdom, but rather
leads you to
the threshold of your own mind.

The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding
of space, but he cannot give you his

The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which
is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which
arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.

And he who is versed in the science
of numbers
can tell of the regions of weight
and measure, but
he cannot conduct your thither.

For the vision of one man lends not
its wings to another man.

And even as each one of you stands alone in
God's knowledge, so must each one
of you be alone
in his knowledge of God and his
understanding of the earth.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rabbi Arnold Marans, Sephardic Temple, Cedarhurst, New York

(These are Rabbi Marans' remarks from the funeral service on February 12, 2007, painstakingly transcribed by Manny Sarfaty.)

Rabbi Marans began the Service by reading selected passages from the scriptures in Hebrew. Then, he spoke in English as follows:

We begin with the 40th chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah:

A voice says, “Cry out”.
And I say what shall I cry.
All flesh is grass,
And all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades
When a wind of the Lord blows upon it.

Surely, we people are but grass.
The grass withers and the flower fades
But the word, everlasting of God,
shall endure forever and forever.

And the beautiful 23rd psalm of the psalms of David, the psalm of salvation, of hope:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me besides the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He guideth me in straight path for His namesake.

Yea, tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou hast annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for lengths of days.

And the reading from Ben Sera from Ecclesiasticus, written 2000 years ago, a letter from a parent to her child:

My dear child - fear not death; we are destined to die.
We share it with all whoever lived, with all whoever will be.
Beware of the dead, yes, and hide not your grief.
And do not restrain your mourning,
But remember that continuing sorrow is worse than death.
And so when the dead are at rest,
Let their memory rest.
And be consoled when the soul departs,
Because death is better than the life of pain
And eternal rest - that constant sickness.

My dear child,
Seek not to understand what is too difficult for you,
And search not from what is hidden from you,
And be not over-occupied with what is beyond you,
For in life you are shone much more
than you can possibly understand.

And so a drop of water in
the sea and a grain of sand on the shore
Are man’s few days in eternity.
The good things in life last for limited days
But a good name is remembered and endures forever.

And we pray,

All mighty God, Lord of the living and of the dead, the hearts of these, your children, who mourn are heavy with grief. Give them comfort. They are overcome by pain and tears.Help them to remember the triumph and the joy in the life of Pearl Sarfaty – Perla Bat Chiel.

They are overwhelmed by loss, O Lord, and help them to treasure what is theirs because she lived; and help them to meet grief with courage; to confront the angel of death only with ongoing and continuing life; for when despair threatens and our faith falters sustain us all, O Lord, and be our refuge and our strength and our ever-present help.

And so my dearly beloved we have come together, in a most holy convocation,
joining together as a family in bereavement to share their sorrow and help them bid a sad farewell to their wife and mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, relative and friend.

To recall collectively the blessings of her life and to thank God for all that was good and true in her life and most especially for the precious memories that linger and will endure.

Eternal God, Creator, merciful father of all, your children bowed in grief. Seek light to help them dispel the dark gloom that threatens to overwhelm them. Be gracious to those who mourn for they are in distress. Bless this family with compassion. May they find love in each other and with each other. May their burden of sorrow be eased and send them of your radiant light and give them peace. And we offer these condolences to Pearl’s beloved husband, Emanuel,
to his daughter, Ruth Joy, and Jeffrey Miller and to their children, Hannah and Matthew. To recall the memory of Pearl’s sister, Ruth, and to all of the members of the family find strength where you will be helped. For God is our sustaining power forever.

It has often been said that a eulogy is a most unfair dissertation. It’s a composition that’s written and declared with declamation at a funeral exercise; and it’s unfair because it’s supposed to summarize the life of a human being. And the life of a human being that’s lived more than eight decades cannot possibly be summarized in the few short moments - an epitaph of a paragraph or two of words.

And so the unfairness of this opportunity gives us a sense of reaching out and recalling and stroking our memory of the many, many talents the human condition possesses; perhaps remembrance is its most noble and most subtle.

To be able to turn off memories of gladsome tidings, of merriment, and memories of tragedy makes life, at times, bearable and unbearable; so we are called upon by our Rabbis in their injunctions as to how to behave in the time of death to recall the celebration of life so that they will be inscribed indelibly on our hearts and in our minds of how unique each individual is amongst the many billions and how special Pearl Sarfaty was to her family and friends.

And so are calling upon members of the family who will express their remembrances, who will light a candle from this pulpit so that we might carry its remembrance as a clarion call and as a lamp.

And hope and pray the memory of Pearl Sarfaty will not be easily forgotten.

I never had the privilege of meeting Pearl but I knew a lot about Pearl.

Manny and I both have cardiac issues.

When I met Manny four years ago at the Cardia Care clinic on Central Avenue,
he recognized me because he had come to the Synagogue of the Sephardic Temple.

He introduced himself and said I am the son of Rabbi Sarfaty and I assumed that he was walking in his father’s footsteps.

It was the first of many assumptions that did not manifest themselves.

I got to know Pearl through Manny – about her love for Yiddish music, her reading, her kindness, her sociology career, her teaching career; but more than that I got to know the make-up, the talents, the characteristics of Manny - Emanuel Sarfaty.

We found ourselves always on adjacent treadmills. The purpose of a treadmill is to get your heart beating fast so the heart muscle should improve. And after one or two discussions I found in Manny the best therapy for heart stimulation.

And so every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, weather permitting, my blood pressure would start high and then go low.

Let me give you one or two examples:

About a month ago when President Bush’s rating was down low and Manny was very, very happy I said to him, Manny, it’s not going to help you because in the Torah it says the bush will not be consumed.

That kept him going for another two weeks.

And just last week I saw he was a little despondent and I began my exercise on the treadmill I said Manny I have decided who I am gong to vote for, it’s going to be Guiliani twice.

And he looked at me and said it can’t be. You’re a nice Jewish boy. You are for the Torah, etc.

And this is what I learned from Manny and I think Manny’s characteristics and talents were fashioned and forged by his wife who brought to their marriage the great and beautiful traditions of Ashkenazi Jewry; a much more cerebral tradition; a tradition of being active in social justice; a tradition of helping mankind; a tradition of always looking at the forlorn and to find out if they need help; And that made for a very beautiful marriage and a beautiful relationship.

There was a poem written in the Victorian period:

God looked down around his garden and found an empty place.
He then looked down upon the earth and saw your tired face.
He put his arms around you and lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful; He always takes the best.
He knew that you had suffered; He knew that you were in pain.
He knew that you would never get well on this earth again.
He saw the road was getting rougher and rougher
and the hills were getting harder to climb.
So God came down to close your weary eyelids and
whispered Shalom, peace be thine.
It broke our hearts to lose you
but you didn’t go alone,
For part of us went with you the day God called you home.
A Jew once asked his Rabbi what is the meaning of the tradition in the synagogue that was very prevalent in the old country that on Rosh Hashanah and Kippur that Jews would cry during their prayers, “who shall live and who shall die”, and there was a sense of wailing, often in the congregation.

What is there to cry about?

If man had been fashioned from gold and was then in his life reduced to dust
it would be something to cry about.

The bible tells us man is created from dust.
But if he returns to the original substance of which he had been made
God is fair. He gives us a life. Why should people cry?

And this life the Rabbi answered,
(Perhaps even in the spirit of your father.)

I quote this from the good books –

The man comes from dust and returns to dust.
Between the two terminalpoints of birth and of death,
he is expected to raise himself to the highest
level of mind and of heart and of soul of which he is capable.
If he doesn't do this and if his life is one long wasteland,
then there is reason to cry.

In recalling Pearl’s life, it was the opposite of a long wasteland.

Coming from abroad, a new culture, a new language, maintaining the dignity and compassion;
maintaining all of the acts of tenderness, and of solicitude, and of gratitude; a great emotion of feeling; she grew up with the beautiful aristocratic characteristics of East European Jewry and planted them in our wonderful America. America that seemed to shy away from this kindness and this adoration of love, of graciousness and of caring; and she gave to Manny, and gave to her daughter, and her grandchildren and son-in-law a dimension of understanding life that is not taught in the universities; it’s not found in the marketplace; it’s not street smarts but it’s what I would like to call the spiritual genes of the truly Jewish family.

And you’ve walked with this, with the garland on your crown,
Of flowers, and of blessings, and of beauty and of warmth.

But alas God has chosen. He who gives takes.
We receive life. We pay no deposit for it.
Our parents pay no fees to the Kadosh Baruchu.
And of blessing and of beauty and of warmth.

God is a gift. For he gives us gifts. And God who gives gifts has the right to take his gifts. And so at this moment there has to be anguish.

The torah tells us:

He, whose lifetime does his wife die. It is as if the temple was destroyed in his lifetime. That didn’t mean the end of the Jewish people. The temple was the house of holiness. The temple was the meeting place. The temple was the home. Manny, your home has been taken away from you but your life has not been destroyed. You have the vigor. You have the love of a beautiful daughter and grandchildren and son-in-law – brothers, sisters. You have the determination and the will to continue the glorious years that you had with your wife. And you’ll find that space. You have moments of reflection.

It was Albert Einstein who said the following:

There are three ways to mourn.
The first is to cry, which you’ve done.
You’ve been crying a long time.
The second is to grow silent. When you saw
terminality set in.
The third is the challenge and that is to transform
sorrow into song.

Professor Heshel quotes Einstein in his book on Mourning and Consolation.

Another poem:
If I should ever suddenly leave you,
your wife is singing, of whom I love,
To go along the silent way, grieve not.
You’ll speak of me with tears
but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thoughts from Ted Miller

I, of course find it impossible to add anything more than what's been said here. I've always been amazed at Pearl's approachability & ease of commentary on ANY subject, even those difficult inter family ones that rise in all families. She was ALWAYS frank & willing to offer her solutions to Dotty & me.We welcomed her input that she so genuinely offered. While I haven't seen her in probably a dozen or more years, I will remember her as the kind,caring warm individual that you & yours miss.

Fondly, Ted

A Note from Sam Rickless

I remember Pearl as her nephew (she was always "Aunt Pearl" to me). When I was growing up, my family lived in Europe, and so what I remember are the trips we took every year or two to visit family in the United States. There were two home bases, my father's mother's house in Rochester, N.Y., and Pearl and Manny's house in Hewlett.

My memories of Pearl begin with a spotless, cozy, welcoming home, on a quiet treesy street. Pearl is so sweet, so generous, so kind. She makes me feel comfortable without saying a word. Her smile immediately puts me at ease. I see her now, sitting comfortably on her living room armchair working on a crossword puzzle. It doesn't take her very long. Eugene T. Maleska has met his match.

I see vast amounts of food, delicious food, more than enough to feed the whole neighborhood, to sustain animated political conversations, to feed the peals of laughter that reverberate around the dining room table. Passover Seders at Manny and Pearl's are not about ostentatious silverware and crystal: they are about right and wrong, loving and giving.

Pearl amazes me. She is not a large person, but she is strong, she is determined, she stands up for herself, she stands up for what is right. She has moral clarity, a strong sense of justice, a commitment to making the world a better place. A small woman with a big heart and unshakeable inner strength.

That is the Pearl who lives inside me and speaks through me when I lecture to my students about civil rights, about McCarthyism, about the struggles of working people under unregulated capitalism, and about the principle of equal opportunity for men and women, blacks and latinos, jews and muslims, rich and poor. Her greatest gift to me was to help me understand why it is important to take a stand, to be counted when it counts, to never give up.



Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pearl Sarfaty's Life by Emanuel Sarfaty

[Read by Hannah and Matthew Miller, her grandchildren]

As I thought about making these remarks, I realized that few people know my lovely wife's background. So, I decided to provide a little biography so that her life of 84 years gets the full recognition it deserves.

Pearl was a Jewish girl with braids who grew up to the age of 13 in Poland, the land of Marshal Pilsudski, Pope John and Jewish shtetls. She lived with her mother, Helen, her father, Chiel, and her older sister, Ruth.

They lived in the small town of Mielec, located near the large city of Krakow in southwestern Poland. It had a Jewish population of 7,000, which made up about half of the total population. They were poor. Their one room home had no plumbing and no outside water pump. Water was purchased from a peddler in the street.

Pearl was always a good student. She took naturally to learning and reading books. Her knowledge of Latin and Greek mythology was prodigious. Ask her any question about these two fascinating subjects and she had the answer. Her story-telling ability was well known to all who knew her.

When she was only one-year old, her father decided to move to America to make a better life for himself and his family so he took his older daughter, Ruth, with him and left his wife and Pearl in Poland.

He made his way to Manhattan's garment district where he made a living as a tailor carrying his sewing machine on his back looking for work.

After twelve years he saved enough money to bring Helen and Pearl to America. Having been apart for 12 years, they each had a different perspective on life. Helen was well-read -- she read Goethe and Schiller and was proud of her education. She spoke Polish, German and Yiddish and learned English well but Chiel who spoke the same languages only learned a few words of English.

They lived most of their lives in Boro Park, Brooklyn, where Pearl went to school; she graduated from New Utrecht High School and then went to Brooklyn College at night where she earned a degree in Sociology. During the day she worked in factories to help support the household and have carfare for school.

I met Pearl in 1942 when we were only teenagers. We worked in a factory on Perry Street in Manhattan –The Polarizing Instrument Company. The factory manufactured torpedo percussion primers for the war effort. She worked on a drill press and I worked next to her, on a punch press, feeding her the pieces to be drilled. Polarizing was one of the first companies to add women to their ranks and Pearl was among them. She was a good looker and a hard worker. To me “Pearl, the driller” was like “Rosie, the riveter.”

Because we looked like a couple made for each other, the workers on the production floor paired us off every time I approached her machine. They would sing lines from a love song to make the occasion more significant than it was.

In 1943, when I was 18, I was drafted. I left to fight in the Philippines and Pearl continued to work in different factories supporting the war effort from home. I was an infantryman and I named my rifle, Pearl, because I knew how important my weapon was in combat. It was always close to me.

When I was discharged in 1946 we were married at the Menorah Temple in Boro Park. She wore a borrowed wedding dress from a friend.

With her Bachelor degree in hand Pearl started an 18-year career as a Social Worker in New York City where she carried a caseload of 85 clients – a huge number. She worked while I completed the four-year curriculum at Cooper Union, an engineering college in Manhattan.

Pearl was the most giving person I ever met. She always put others first and was constantly doing favors and giving gifts when she could. Every Thanksgiving, we would deliver a turkey to one of Pearl’s clients – Mrs. Terry – and it was truly gratifying to meet her children and see the joy on their faces when we brought their holiday fare.

Later on, she completed her Masters degree in Education at Hofstra while I worked. In this way we both got our bachelors and master degrees.

When our precious daughter, Ruth-Joy, was born, Pearl decided to change her vocation. She took another exam and became an elementary school teacher.

She taught for 25 years – in Bedford Stuyvesant, Far Rockaway and then Howard Beach. She loved to teach and her students loved her. Many times, when we’d walk through the Green Acres Mall, we’d hear someone call out, "Mrs. Sarfaty, Mrs. Sarfaty," as a former student would rush over to say hello and reminisce. You could see the respect and love they had for her. Pearl showed interest in each and every child and believed all children had the ability to succeed in whatever they pursued as long as they worked for it. I knew it was exhausting for her but she loved doing it.

In 1996 Pearl showed signs of Alzheimer’s Disease and for the next 11 years we watched this beautiful person fade before our eyes. Alzheimer caregivers call this the long goodbye.

Even though the last years of her life were marked by sickness, Pearl will always remain the beautiful, strong, kind, courteous, generous, learned, and hard-working woman who taught me how to be a mensch in our 59 years of marriage. She was a feminist who was also feminine - a great wife, mother, grandmother and all around wonderful human being.

I loved her and now you know why.

About My Mom by Ruth Sarfaty

How do I describe my mom in just a few words when the person in my family who was always best with words was my mom.

That in and of itself always impressed me considering English was her second language….or rather her fourth after Polish, Yiddish and German.

For starters, I could tell you that my mom was a peasant at heart… solid stock who loved to make gefilte fish the old fashioned way, whose matzo balls were second to none and who always took leftover rolls home in a napkin because bread was her favorite food … I could tell you that my mom never went anywhere without a book in her hand – and for years – every day after school, I’d come home to see my mom reading a library book at the kitchen table – it could have been Agatha Christie or Atlas Shrugged… I could tell you that my mom was so small that when she came up to visit me at Red Fox Music Camp one summer, she looked like she’d shrunk in the short time I’d been away…

But much more importantly, I’d like us all to remember my mom’s character -- her caring nature and her compassion, her intellect and her wisdom, her creativity and her grace.

I’ve always thought it was my mother’s own hardship as a poor 13-year old Polish girl who found her way to a strange new country that made her so caring and compassionate….

As you've already heard, Mielec, her hometown, was a village of 15,000. Her father was a tailor there, her older sister Ruth went to Gymnasium. There were and synagogues and schools… organizations dedicated to helping the poor…there was a warm community – and a closeness that came with the humble life they led there. My mother – and her mother - left Mielec in 1935 to join her father and sister in America – four short years before the Nazi invasion when everything there was destroyed. Her lifelong friendships with the few who survived those years were among her most precious.

My mother never returned to Poland…I’m not even sure that she really wanted to….because all that she had known there was no more.

My mother's respect for learning was cultivated back in Mielec and came through every day in her years as a teacher. Her dedication to her students didn’t stop at the end of each school day– my mom would spend countless hours doing lesson plans, choosing and directing school plays, making “mimeos”, charts and crafts… ”Mrs. Sarfaty” was a teacher’s teacher who set a standard for creativity and commitment at P.S. 207 in Howard Beach, Queens where she spent many years. My mom was a teacher kids loved and admired long after the school year was over.

And, there was nobody like my mom to talk to about your problems, whatever they were. She was always a sympathetic and compassionate listener. There was nobody more empathetic.

My mother was always well read and informed. She’d engage in discussions about politics and social issues – and even spent her sabbatical one year devoted to the study of values in school. She never shied away from a good discussion about politics or social issues - the polemics at my parents' holiday dinners were legend. She was way ahead of her time in 1983 when she completed a research study on the teaching of values in school. She explored intolerance and lack of respect among schoolchildren...and this was many years before Columbine and other incidents like it. In addition to all of this, my mother loved the arts - literature, theatre, ballet, opera. She ushered me to ballet lessons from the time I could walk...we'd go to New York City to see the Paper Bag Players before children's theatre was de rigueur, we'd go to the ballet, concerts, opera - she loved them all.

As for my parents as a pair, Manny and Pearl were a pretty well balanced duo. My father -- the firebrand. My mother, the quiet reformer. She was an activist every day - on the front line with kids who needed help, with families who had no support, with a school system that needed fixing. And while their styles were very different, their sensibilities, their priorities, their values were the same. Justice, humanity and compassion - their guiding principles. My father's selfless devotion to my mother in these last years is only further testament to their bond.

All in all, my deepest sadness in all this is that my children were not able to benefit from my mother’s love and wisdom as they grew up. Hannah was 12 the last time she had a cogent conversation with my mom; Matt was 9. As you can see much time has passed. And while I know they remember my parents visits to Tenafly twice a week when they were small, the tragedy for us all is that it stopped all too soon. So what can I say about my mom in just a few words? My mother was a great person, warm and loving, and I miss her.

Aunt Pearl Recollections By Mona Sarfaty

I am very pleased to speak at this service and have a chance to share a few thoughts about Aunt Pearl.

My recollections of Aunt Pearl are as her niece. As children, we didn’t realize how lucky we were to have three aunts and uncles--and their families--living so close to our own home. The were all within 30 minutes’ distance. Often in those days, our families would get together on the weekend, usually on Sunday. We would gather at our house in Wantagh or theirs in Hewlett, Island Park, Syosset-- or at Jones Beach. The kids would romp, play, laugh, fool around, and the adults would talk, and talk, and talk.

On Jewish holidays it was the same. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we would gather after going to services at the synagogue. On Passover, family seders were an annual event. They were regular, recurring, predictable occasions. Even the notable events within the events were recurring and predictable. If we were with Eden and Jed, the brothers would get a bit frisky and require a few words to calm them down. There would be a meal, usually dinner, prepared by the moms, with plenty of time afterward to remain at the table. There would be a political discussion. Points of view would diverge. Voices would rise. If Uncle Manny and Uncle Morris were at the same event, by the end of the discussion, they would both be red in the face and standing on their feet. The women would be telling them to sit down. During our high school years, Michael Isikoff sometimes stood in for Uncle Morris.

I remember Aunt Pearl at every event. She did her part to maintain the chain of family gatherings. She helped to plan, and cook, and did her share of the work. She knew the religious rituals and the songs and she was a participant. She seemed to take special pleasure in us, the children. She would ask about our activities and interests. She would smile and be genuinely excited and even gleeful about our news. She took pleasure in giving us gifts. She exuded a quality that I could not describe at the time but that I knew was genuine and caring. She would say “that’s wonderful” in a tone and manner that made you understand that she truly felt that way. There was a delight, a cheerfulness that was palpable. She was genuinely happy.

I remember Aunt Pearl also as a mother. She was very protective of Ruth Joy. Ruth hovered close to Aunt Pearl at those family gatherings in those younger days. It looked like it was a safe and comfortable place to be. Aunt Pearl was relaxed with her daughter. Uncle Manny could be excitable but Aunt Pearl was calm. Even more remarkable to me was that Aunt Pearl was calm even while Uncle Manny was excited.

I remember Aunt Pearl also as an intellect. She was a teacher; she cared about her students and the difficulties they faced. Her conversation was intelligent. She knew what she was talking about; and she had opinions. She made her points…clearly… and she never raised her voice.

I remember Aunt Pearl a little bit as a wife. Occasionally the parents would tell us-- the kids--about how they had met, or their early relationships. Uncle Manny told us about the serious talk he and Aunt Pearl had after they were married about who was going to take what responsibilities in their house. She had definite opinions about divvying up the work and sharing the chores. It had clearly impressed him and had a lasting impact on their life together. That stuck in my mind.

For her part, Aunt Pearl’s eyes would light up when she described meeting Uncle Manny. There was almost a glow that became evident when she shared those recollections. She would tell stories to us about watching him confront the powers that be at their workplace. She would beam when she talked of him as the brash and bold young man that she admired and loved.

Year’s later, when disease had taken its toll, it was the experience of being the niece of such a genuine cheerful caring Aunt that it turned out was deeply embedded. Her good cheer. Her genuine happiness. Her contented disposition. Her pleasure in us, her nieces and nephews. That stuck with me and shall be remembered.

I want to say a word about Uncle Manny. He has impressed all of us with the extent and level of his devotion to Aunt Pearl through a decade of hardship. It has stunned us. Many of us knew about the big Sarfaty heart through years of personal experience. We knew about other qualities of Uncle Manny’s. But we learned only through watching him face the adversity of Aunt Pearl’s illness about the depth and extent of his love for Aunt Pearl. Uncle Manny’s love and devotion will remain a source of inspiration for all of us and a lasting testament to Aunt Pearl.

Thank you.

Pearl's Family Gathering by Julia Delores Sarfaty

It was not just
Someone we knew
Someone we were related to.

A quiet presence,
A ready smile, a greeting
Fed the entire family meeting.

She knew exactly what to do,
The how and when:
She got things done.

The siblings came
With shouts and greetings
Into the house
For the awaited meeting
We ate and drank
And on the porch
We laughed and got the latest

All afternoon the party grew
In noisy revel, as she intended,
Until in the dimming light
In satiation it was time to go
Good night, dear Pearl, good night

About Pearl by Jacob Sarfaty

We gather today to mourn and to honor Pearl.

The affliction that took her life was a cruel one. Only now, within recent years do we hear of possible research approaches that may make inroads into this devastating illness. Not one of us is knowingly immune. And if by the Grace of God, one is, perhaps medical research, will determine why and use it to our mutual benefit.

Before this terminal illness, Pearl was a vibrant and engaged individual. Huge events in her life involving tragedies and joys were her portion. Others have spoken to these, but I will limit myself to those personal traits that remain close to me.

In normalcy, Pearl’s gentle demeanor and grace were always like a safe harbor from the strong winds around us. A sympathetic listener and a perceptive intelligence, she had an uncanny sense of the human relations around her. And let us not forget her quite smile and her ability to laugh at herself and with others.

Her ability to relate to children was a true gift. This was expressed in her many years as a popular and beloved teacher. When our daughters were little, it was a wonder how she was able to engage them in conversation and play. And then as they passed into adulthood, her continuing interest in their progress, ups and downs.

And at times, when principle and ethical behavior were involved, she would show another aspect of her character, soft as silk and strong as steel. Her sense of loyalty
to family and friends were truly admirable. She never forgot her roots.

Each of us here today, paying our respects to Pearl and her family, are on life’s journey. At some point in time, each of us will probably ask oneself are we leaving this world a better place. When Pearl was her normal self , the answer is a resounding Yes.
This legacy is hers and also ours.

A Pearl by David Sarfaty

It was always a comfort to be around Pearl
She was a cool breeze in summer and a warm wind in winter
Pearl was a running tap, a cool and refreshing drink when you needed it
Did you ever see Pearl in the company of children?
They would dance around her as if she were a Maypole
Pearl’s smile was sunny, benignant and wise
I remember the time we were sitting on a bench on the board walk
A hundred gulls, wings down, were all facing the sunlight
I wondered why one of them was looking at us; I thought, it must be Pearl
Her face bathed in a sunny, saintly aura, Pearl was smiling back.
People birds, animalitos, they all took to Pearl – a Jewish St. Francis?

I will be missing Pearl, her sunshine, her warmth and her wisdom
Pearl is gone, but not really
Pearl, a beautiful woman.

Missing Aunt Pearl by Susan Day

Each person has special qualities, I believe…it’s just that, in some people those special qualities are crystal clear to all of us. Whether you meet them for 10 minutes or know them for your whole lives, you just know immediately that they are “gems.”

My Aunt Pearl was and will always be one of those people in my heart.

She knew me before I even knew her. She met me when I was born. She and Uncle Manny bought my first carriage. My mom and dad strolled around the streets of Brooklyn with me bundled up in that carriage. Aunt Pearl probably pushed my carriage too.

Until her devastating illness slowly took her away, she was one of those few people in my life that felt like a mom to me. I knew that she loved and cared about me and, later, my own family just as my mom would care about us. She was loving and genuine. Over the years, I have saved many of the cards that she would send to the four of us because they were coming from such a dear person in my life.

Her words always made you feel loved and cared for, as did her soft kisses and gentle touch. When our daughter Melanie was born in August, 1983, the words she wrote to all of us reflect what I mean:

Dear Sue, Rollie and Melanie,
Whoever you’ll be, for the Days, all your days, shall be full of love. Add all the other offerings of joy and gladness and you are grand beyond compare.

Our love and devotion to all,
Pearl and Manny

I miss you, Aunt Pearl.

Thoughts from Kathy Drummer

I just loved visiting your mother even of late for the glimmer of a smile she showed. I felt fortunate to see it each time I visited...Pearl was a lovely spectacular person. I will never forget the visits to their cozy house on Everit, the Thanksgivings where tasty dishes abounded and Pearl whispered to me "I hate cleaning up and putting all the food away" and I said "Oh I thought I was the only one." She was always warm and wise in her perceptions and comments and I loved to see her stand up for herself in an argument. Manny and Pearl have taught me a lot about enduring and real love.

Thoughts from Michele Festa

A person’s life is measured by the many lives they’ve touched. I am comforted by my memories of Pearl – as a second mom, a teacher, a friend and a beautiful human being. The times spent with Pearl: at the ballet; at BAM; at the U.N. working with UNICEF; at her home in Brooklyn eating tuna fish sandwiches at lunchtime while at P.S. 131; playing Barbie and Monopoly with Ruthie in her room; attending Miss Joyce’s Dance School; and my weekend visits to Hewlett. Pearl had a way of making every experience interesting and educational. Thank you, Pearl, for touching my life so deeply.

I love you,


Note from Lizi, Len and the Zuk Family

…I was so sorry to hear about your mom and grandmother. Pearl was a wonderful person. I always enjoyed spending time with her. She always had a wonderful love for life and for family including ours. She was bright, funny and energetic. I remember the apartment where we could climb the stairs to be greeted by her laughter when we would visit over the school holidays and the warmth of the house on Long Island, eating Pearl’s homemade soup with fresh bread and listening to our parents’ stories of youth and friendship. I have a very special place in my heart for your mom and grandmother and think of her often and will continue to do so.


For those who feel moved to make a donation, please give to the Alzheimer's Association.

More on Mielec

For those interested in knowing more about Mielec, please take a look at this website.

Reminiscence from Judy Pollock Weber

Dear Ruth,
I doubt if you remember me, but I was your third-grade teacher at PS 131 in Brooklyn. My name was Miss Pollock (Judy) and I remember you very well. I remember that you were best friends with Michelle Festa. I had your class for only a few months and then I left to be a reading teacher at the school. Phoebe Siegel became your teacher. I remember that you were a very cute and bright kid. The reason that I'm writing is that I saw the obit of your mother's death in the NY Times today and I immediately recognized her name. I remember her very well. She was a lovely woman - very young at that time - bright and "classy." I loved talking to her and I still remember what she looked like. I was so sorry that she suffered form Alzheimer's disease. For a woman like she was, it must have been a nightmare for you and your father, as well as for her.I looked up your name on Google and came up with all the information about you and I must say that your background is very impressive. You've had some wonderful jobs and I'm sure that your mother was very proud of you.As I said, I doubt that you remember me because you were a little girl then and I was an adult (which makes me rather "of a certain age" now). I spent my whole career in PS 131 as reading teacher and have been retired for 13 years. I love being retired - I live in the city and take advantage of all the city has to offer.Again, I want to express my condolences to you . I was very sorry to read this news about her today. Judy Weber

For Pearl Sarfaty by Eden Sarfaty

I can't describe the Pearl I hardly knew.
So there's another lesson learned too late.
But I recall her smiles, their soft quick flash,
And see what flowers those lights grew.


The obituary as it appeared in The New York Times.


Thanks to all for kind wishes of sympathy...
Lolly and Ely Adler
Julie Azuma
Sarah and Matt Baker
Roberta and Willard Block
Deborah and Joe Carrillo
Jacqui Coakley
Susan and Howard Cohen
Michael Babin and Tad Weliczko
Leo Babin
Elyce Berenzweig
Grayce Bergman and Itzhak Emanuel
Jean and Norman Berkowitz
Kathie and Keith Brockman
Yona Cohen
Dennis Conway
Ruby Corzo
The Day Family
Diane and Nancy Dobish
Arlene and Fred Dolgon
Cory Dolgon
Kathy Drummer
Marilyn & Eli Dzen
Tobi Elkin
Larry Farber
Mickey and Tony Festa
Dora Feigin
Nancy Foldi
James Mentz
John and Patricia Friedland
Rhoda Friedland
Richard and Ann Marie Friedland
Roz and Ira Friedman
Hortense Garvey
Seymour Flass, Irene Levy and Bunny Schwartz and Family
Barbara Gold
Laura Goldberg
Harold and Florence Goldsmith
Ralph Gomar
Meg Herrman
Margaret and Seymour Idenson
Rheva and Jonathan Irving
Trudy Isikoff
Lisa Judson
Stan Kaplan
Jackie and Michael Kempner
Maggie Kneip
Jonathan Lane
Cecily and Bob Lerner
Alyson and Eric Lewin
Cynthia Massarsky
Nicole Memnon
Ted and Bernice Miller
Steven and Tricia Miller
Lou Millowitz
Sandy and Dan Moss
Karen Novick
Rita and Tony Peranio
Rita Post
Pearl Rabinowitz
Sandra and Bill Ramsay
Emma Rodriguez
Nelta Sanon
Delores and David Sarfaty
Faith and Eden Sarfaty
Jed Sarfaty
Mona Sarfaty and Jay Siegel
Zelda and Jay Sarfaty
Rich and Lisa Schary
Ann and Morris Sheffler
Janina Smith
Si and Joanne Spiegel
Henry Stevens
Mervyn and Lynn Stone
Frank Tusa
Yvonne Walker
Cindi and Bob Wellins
Michael and Caroline Wiplich
Shirley Zuckerbrot
Elizabeth and Lenny Zuk

With Special Thanks to

Rabbi Arnold Marans