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Sunday, September 26, 2010

In Memory of Dvorah Womble

Photo: Online.WSJ.Com
There is a Jewish story that Eliyahu HaNavi - Elijah the Prophet - shows up in the guise of an old man or a beggar to test us to see if we are really compassionate towards others. If we were to meet Eliyahu what would he himself be like? I would think he would be kind, gentle, thoughtful and wise. Sometimes we are blessed to have such people in our lives. Dvorah Womble, who passed away at age 90 on August 19, 2010, was one such person. I don't recall when she first showed up at the Old Broadway Synagogue, but in short order she won us all over with her charm, her poise, her faith and her optimism. She was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and had an African-American and Cherokee background. Her Jewish background was more mysterious to me but in our context at Old Broadway, this did not seem to matter much. That she believed in God and affiliated with Judaism was beyond question. Over the years she was sick a few times, and if didn't see her, we would walk a few blocks to her apartment, where we would find her studying the parashah, surrounded by her collection of Jewish books.

Through speaking with her in shul, and visiting her at home, we learned that she had lived most of her adult life in New York. She apparently attended the Old Broadway Synagogue in the 1970s, but then moved downtown, where she attended the Brotherhood Synagogue near Grammercy Park. We also knew that she had been involved in a catastrophic automobile accident, but had miraculously pulled through. She had suffered other losses as well and still recovered.  From this I think that we all had a sense that she was indestructible, which is why her death still seems so incongruous.

We were all proud of her when she appeared in article in the Wall Street Journal November 2008 about people who had lived through and recalled the Great Depression. I recall speaking with her about that time and what a blessing it was to be able to connect with someone who was from that time period, but also very much in the here and now. Now that she is gone, another link to the past is broken, but I hope that in us, her to her kindness and wisdom will continue to live on. We send our condolences to Dvorah's son Larry Womble and to her two grandsons. Yehi zikhronah li-vrakhah - May Dvorah's memory be for a blessing.