Dr Judith Guedalia

The Continuing Legacy Of Chezi Goldberg

Chezi Goldberg, H"Y"D, May G-d Avenge His Blood, was the columnist who wrote the weekly column "Chezi's Corner" for The Jewish Press. He was an early member of Nefesh Israel, and was on the conference committee for the Second, Third and Fourth Annual Nefesh Israel Conferences.


As we in Israel are preparing for our Eighth Annual Conference, the image of Chezi making his last presentation, less than two weeks before he was killed by a suicide terrorist, is one of the catalysts that mobilizes us as we choose programs for the Nefesh Israel Conference.

This year among the five parallel presentations a day, for the three-day period of January 15-17, 2008 we will have "home-grown" as well as visiting lecturers. The presenters and participants hail from Australia, South America, USA, Canada, Europe and, of course, Israel.

Chezi Goldberg's work with youth and teens and the articles he wrote dealt with the issues we are all still discussing. An innovative pilot program on how to deal with "Bullying in Schools" will be established by Prof. Rona Novik, Ph.D. of New York. She will also present on: Creating PowerPoint Animated Books - A Therapeutic Technique for Addressing Child and Adolescent Anxiety and Social Skills Issues.

Elliot Kaplan, Ph.D. and Sandi Isaacson, Ph.D., will discuss Bypassing Resistance in Involuntary/Mandated Youth, Motivational Interviewing and Paradoxical Intervention, with Israeli Social Worker and Probation Officer, Tali Bustanai.

Another topic that is always in the forefront of our work here, and especially so when we think about Chezi and other victims of terrorism, both the living and dead, is how to work with children and youth following such catastrophic events.

Unfortunately, as the army has made the country "safer" - "vehicular terrorism" - the carnage on the roads, claims more victims daily. On Sukkot, Chuck Chaim (Charles), Bernstein, 54, his wife Roberta, 49, and their 18-year-old daughter, Batsheva were killed (their 11-year-old son, Moshe, was gravely injured), leaving their eldest child, Orly, aged 19 and in the army, the only member of this family "whole."

Roberta, z"l - a seasoned social worker was a tireless voice for children and families who were terrorist victims - worked with me on many occasions. She and her wonderful husband and daughter will be sorely missed by everyone she touched.

I am frequently asked what we do here to help children cope with the seemingly endless round of funerals for their young friends or family members. I'm not sure if it is primarily an "Israeli" situation but, unfortunately - with the death of so many young men, elder and younger brothers, fathers in the armed services and the continuing increase of terrorism by both external and internal sources (road accidents) - we, the world-weary, have put together previous methods that seem to help youngsters and teens.

Below are some examples of situations and strategies (*):

The Memory-Book

There is a feverish urgency in the searching for pictures. All the friends are looking in their homes for pictures and mementos from the last tiyul- school trip. Shira is drawing a picture; Motti who is great at writing poems is working hard, tears streaming down his face. Everyone will write something that will capture the essence of one who will never get old. All this work is goal directed, which is to make a memory book for their classmate that will be something the mourners will have during and after the shivah.

The Memory Book is a very important way of showing the parents of a child or adolescent who died, the many people outside the family that were touched by him/her. There may be 30 classmates, friends from youth groups such as Bnai Akiva that are only "Shabbat Friends," who knew the child in ways the parents and other family members did not. Each page adds a dimension to the life cut down with such finality. The Memory Book gives those close to the deceased an opportunity to say things to their friend that they may not have said in words during her/his life. It is their last gift.

Multiple Dead, the Funeral, Shivah in Different Rooms, Shivah in Hospital.

Funerals are always sad, but this one was heart wrenching. Five open graves. So many members of this one family killed on such a bright summer day. Two of the children who were together with what was a big family, were seriously wounded. They were at the cemetery too, on hospital gurneys, faces white with bandages and tubes of transfusion lines coming out of their arms.

At the funeral: What do you say to the living? What is there to say except "take care of yourself," "hope the pain is not too bad," "we are still here for you," "we'll never forget you," and yes, you cry for the dead.

What About the Shivah When More Than One Person Was Killed or Died?

They were once a family - father, mother, sisters and brothers. Now three people did not return from the outing to town. The apartment has four rooms and a kitchen. In every room one or a few of the family members are sitting shivah. The son, daughters and mother all have their own friends. The grandparents, aunts and uncles are also sitting Shiva. Going into the house causes an overwhelming feeling of the heart being squeezed. Will I remember the stories I want to tell them? Will I be able to stand the pain in my throat and heart? Will the words come out?

Take your lead from those already in the rooms. Frequently someone there, a friend, will include you into the "circle" and fill you in as to what they were talking about. You can smile, make a joke, or tell a story, or you can just sit there and cry. Even if you are not actively included in the exchange of memories, just sit there, and even if you say nothing, your presence sends an important message: "I am here for you, you can count on me".

Awareness of Life and Death:

Little hand in the bigger hand of his brother, Yossi walks the same route every morning and afternoon to his Gan(Kindergarten). On a sunny morning they pass one of the buildings on the way and see a white notice edged in black taped onto the front gate of the building. "Who was niftar?" asks three-year-old Yossi. They look at the Moda'at Aivel(the death announcement) and see the words: B'Seivah Tovah(at a ripe-old age), Yossi's older brother says: "It was someone who was old and waiting for Hashem to take him to Gan Eden."

Here in Israel, more than in other parts of the Jewish world, death is a way of life. Our "awareness" of death comes to us early in childhood, and it is a familiar concept to young children being walked to Gan.

The car with the blaring loud speakers rushes around the dati neighborhoods, it is on a mission, its loud message cuts through the quiet night, or the bustle of the day. "The funeral for Ploni ben Ploniis going to take place in an hour or two."

It is a mitzvah to bury someone before nightfall on the day of death. The mitzvah is also to bury someone as soon as possible, so in Jerusalem, burials take place at night.

In Israel, and specifically in Jerusalem, the Meit/deceased is buried, wrapped in a tallit and not in a coffin.

Devori saw the tallit being carried on a stretcher. At first she wondered why four people were carrying a tallit in that fashion? Then she understood; the tallit held within it, the body of her grandmother. How little and small it looked. It couldn't be a person wrapped in "that!" This could not be my grandmother, she said to herself; Savta was so big, and she filled my life with her stories and her recipes. And then another thought took the place of the first one. When Hashem takes the neshamah the person we knew is no longer a "resident" in the body. Devori felt comforted by that thought.

Loss of a Body Part

Yermi fought in a tough battle in the Golan. What he remembers most is the light, fire and sounds of the battle. The description in Nach of The Merkavah came to mind seconds before he felt something, and then looked down toward his right hand. A "silly" thought came to mind. He had always worn his watch on his right wrist so that he wouldn't have to take it off, and possibly lose it, when he put on his Tefillin in the morning. Now it was gone, as was his whole arm. His chavrutah from yeshiva was with him in the tank. He put his hand in the "hole" left on Yermi's body and held on to the veins and arteries as tightly as he could, until they were transferred to a field hospital.

When I visited Yermi as he was convalescing, he told me that the Army Rav (Chaplain) had come to visit him earlier in the day, and brought him something. With his one hand Yermi unwrapped the "gift." It was his watch. Yermi was relieved, because it meant that his hand was found and buried, as is the mitzvah regarding body parts separated from someone before death.

Research by thanatologists - scientists who study death - have shown that there is a minimization of reported "phantom-limb" pain in those that know what happened to their body part. We, as Jews - for 5000 years - have had this chachmah, built into our way of life.

May the times of the Mashiach be near and with it, T'chiyat HaMeitim, the rebirth of souls in the Holy Land. Until that time, may organizations such as Nefesh, and its credo of synthesis and networking of Torah-true Mental Health professions continue to be a strong source of hope and help to those it serves.

* See the following book for other ideas suggested for an American audience: Goldberg, Neal C., Liebermann, Miriam: Saying Goodbye: A Handbook for Teens Dealing with Loss and Mourning.


Originally published in the Jewish Press on December 19, 2007.

Tags: Chezi Goldberg | Death | Jewish Press | Terrorism