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From the Rabbi - CBS Cares and the legacy of Anita Backer

At the beginning of May, our congregation mourned the passing of one of our founding members, Anita Backer. Just a few weeks earlier, at our 40th anniversary celebratory Shabbat in mid-March, Anita stood front and center, next to Rabbi Debra Hachen, and other founding members who stood beneath a chuppah we created from a tallit that had been commissioned for our congregation (and made with them) by Nancy Katz.

Aside from being there from almost the very start, when we were still the Westborough Jewish Women’s Club, Anita worked tirelessly throughout the entire history of the congregation as one of our most devoted and caring volunteers. In the early years, she taught in our religious school. She helped to organize and participated in many of the programs and activities of Sisterhood. Perhaps more than anything else, we will remember the role she played in sustaining the caring community at Congregation B’nai Shalom. For many years, this went under the label of Yad b’Yad, which means hand in hand. It functioned as a committee, with a handful of dedicated members assisting with meal deliveries to sick congregants, setting up for shiva when a member had a loss, creating gifts and sending cards, and knitting healing shawls for members with longer-term illnesses, so that they knew their congregation was thinking of them. There were times when Anita stepped back while she dealt with treatments for her own illnesses, but no sooner did she feel like she’d come through the other end, then she would pick up the reins once more and continue to help direct our congregation’s caring outreach.

A few years ago, Anita and I worked together to transition the caring work of the congregation from a small minority of dedicated members in Yad b’Yad, to a way of communicating with and networking the entire congregation, under the heading of CBS Cares. We both believed strongly that all of Congregation B’nai Shalom should be a caring community. Now, when a member needs help with something that we feel able to assist with, a point person sends out an email to everyone who lives in the same town, and sometimes closely adjoining towns. You may remember having received one of these in the past couple of years, but you may live in a town that hasn’t had a request for quite a while. What has been wonderful has been the ways that our members have responded, with needs generally being met within forty-eight hours of asking.

We want the legacy of Anita Backer to live on in the way that she lived — through action. If you are recovering from surgery and could use some meals delivered, a grocery run done, need a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or one for your child to attend a program, reach out to your congregation through me and let us find the help you need. If you’ve participated in the mitzvah of the Apples and Honey packages (we deliver to those who have been in mourning), or you’ve received one of those packages, and you might be able to help organize that activity for this fall, please drop me a line. If you would be willing to be a point person in your town so that, if a request comes in, you can receive the offers of help and arrange them into a schedule in consultation with the member in need, please let me know. These are some of the ways that we want to sustain the work that Anita did so generously. Her memory truly is for a blessing to Congregation B’nai Shalom, and she will be greatly missed.

Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

Sun, June 16 2019 13 Sivan 5779