My paternal Grandmother’s name was Sara
She died when my Father was still a boy.
My Father’s family had immigrated to the United States in the mid 1800’s.
Charleston was one of the few colonial cities after Savannah, Georgia that
allowed Jews to practice their faith without restriction.
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue was founded in 1749. It is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States. It had always been my family’s synagogue.
Most of the early Jewish Immigrants to Charleston were Sephardic.
My Father was Sephardic as was my Mother.
Sephardim refer to the descendants of Jews who lived in and were expelled
from Spain in the 15th century.
The term Sephardim comes from Sepharad, the Hebrew word for Spain.
Some members of my family spoke Ladino.
Ladino is Judeo-Spanish. It is the spoken and written Hispanic language
of Jews of Spanish origin.
My Father and his Family were ‘Old Charleston’ and proud of it.
When he mentioned his Mother, he described a loving woman
who worked hard and was a leader in their community.
I have never heard the story of Sara’s illness but my Father said
that she seemed to vanish a little each day.
I don’t know the name of the illness but the word ‘cancer’ was whispered.
In the Charleston of my Father’s youth, people had many superstitions.
People with Cancer were shunned because everyone thought that Cancer
was contagious or that cancer was a form of demonic possession.
Some people thought that rubbing a toad on the affected breast healed
And far too many people still believe all illness is punishment from God.
There remains a residue of stigma that attends Cancer in American society.
We still associate health with virtue and illness with moral lassitude.
The death of my Father’s Mother deeply wounded him, and I think that
this wound altered the course of his life.
We’ve learned ways to mitigate damage to our bodies.
We know much more about everything in 2016 but we still have much
We never replace our sisters, mothers, favorite aunts, best friends and
As we consider the women we love and honor and the women we have lost, let us all do one small thing each day to make the future enlightened and more compassionate.
Dedicated to Sara.
I should like to have met you.