There is a memory that I have as a young girl of ten years old that will never fade away. When I was in 5th grade, I watched my father, Rabbi Azriel Wasserman o”bm, a beloved teacher and mentor to students young and old, board an airplane to San Diego California, in order to receive treatment for a life threatening illness (which I didn’t understand at the time).
I didn’t know that I wouldn’t see him again and I never really got to say goodbye. The truth is… I will never say goodbye to my dear father. I will always be “Daddy’s girl” because his dreams have become my dreams and his mission has become my mission.
Jewish Girls Unite fulfills a dream, which began when I was a little girl, to carry on my father’s life mission to educate and inspire a love for our heritage in students of all backgrounds. It’s very comforting for me that we launched the new JGU website in Orange County, California so close to where his life ended on earth. (Read more about it Here)
My father’s name is Azriel, which means “G-d will help” and I am certain that in his merit G-d will bless our efforts to inspire and unite Jewish girls around the world at Jewish Girls Unite.
The JGU “Shine your Light” tribute event honors remarkable young girls who are shining lights and encourages us all to discover the young girl inside each of us… the little girl who has big dreams to illuminate and change the world.
This was an excerpt from my message to the participants at the “Shine your Light” tribute concert on March 15, 2015 in California. This was the first time in my life that I was moved to share this personal childhood memory and it’s connection to my mission in life.
Tell me the truth.. would you ever imagine that an unforgettable memory in your life would be used to bring out a powerful message in a movie?
Last night, as my family watched the newly released Jewish movie directed by Levi & Robin Garbose called “Operation Candlelight” my eyes filled with tears. I relived this memory from my childhood in an emotional and powerful scene in the movie and I was reminded of my father’s last words to me (with some details changed). This was all a surprise to me too.
Here is the script:
Stella, a girl who lost her father, is hiding out in a Jewish boarding school because of a dangerous situation. She was very frightened and concerned about her mom and sister and so she is unable to sleep.
Sara Wasserman says to her, “There is a G-d above who is running everything. You have to trust, Stella that everything that happens to you is for a reason. It’s all for the good even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Stella notices a picture on Sara’s night table.
She asks Sara, “Is that your Dad?”
Sara replies, “Of Blessed Memory
Stella asks, “What do you mean? You lost your dad too?”
Sara: “Three years ago, and my mother just got remarried”
Stella: “What happened?”
Sara looking at her father’s picture: When I was in 5th grade, my father became ill with a tumor. Rabbi Azriel Wasserman, everyone loved my father. He always knew the right thing to say and the right thing to do.
Stella: “Wow, he sounds just like you.”
Sara: “Give me a break, I’m nothing like him.”
Stella: “Maybe you don’t see yourself, but I’ve never definitely never met anyone like you ever.”
Sara: “All I know he was a wonderful person. I miss him every minute every day
Stella: “but you seem so together.. I’m still like totally messed up”
Sara: “I don’t know. Maybe it’s something he said to me.
Stella: “What was that?”
Sara: “He was in the hospital and he looked up to me and said, Sara, “Trust in this: Hashem is always guiding you even when it hurts. He went into a coma after that and I never really got to say goodbye!”
While I watched the movie last night, I received this touching email:
Hi Nechama Dina,
A gutten Moed! I wanted to let you know that we just returned from seeing Robin Garbose’s film, “Operation Candlelight”. After the film ended, we asked Robin about the main actress’s father, mentioned by name as Rabbi Azriel Wasserman. She told us that her husband, Levi was very close with your father and since they wanted the name of a real person who had been super special they chose your father’s name.
Did I ever tell you about the time I asked your father, why he says Tehillim non stop. He answered me, a 4th grade student, with so much patience, sincerity and love. He explained how the world stands on the 3 pillars of Torah, Prayer and Acts of Kindness and if even one is not happening at any given instant the whole world will cease to exist, so he wanted to do his part to “hold it up”.
Certain people are so special that you will remember them forever.
Your father was one such person!
Sorah Shemtov, Shlucha in Riverdale, NY
It’s good to be reminded of my father’s words again. He would always tell me to trust in Hashem and that our Sages taught that “Everything Hashem does is for the good”. He taught me to see the positive in every life challenge. These were some of his last words to me before his departure that day.
He would teach his students:
“Focus on the beautiful drama of your own existence.”
“Every detail of our lives is being orchestrated by a loving, caring G-d for our good.”
I can still hear him teaching…
As we celebrate the miracles of the splitting of the sea on the 7th day of Pesach (Listen to the song of the sea by Chanale Fellig), let us acknowledge and be grateful for the miracles in our lives that are being orchestrated by our loving father, Hashem.
May we all be reunited with all of our loved ones, who were missed at our Pesach table, with the final redemption before this Pesach ends!
P.S. And I just realized what moved me to write this message. Yizkor, a special memorial prayer for the departed, is recited in the synagogue on the last day of Passover. In this prayer, we ask G-d to remember the souls of our relatives and friends that have passed on.
It is a special time to renew and strengthen the connection between us and our loved one, bringing merit to the departed souls, elevating their soul above.
The main component of Yizkor is our private pledge to give charity following the holiday in honor of the deceased. By giving charity, we are performing a positive physical deed in this world, something that the departed can no longer do. The soul gains additional merit if the memory of its good deeds motivate their loved ones to improve their ways.
If you would like to donate to charity in memory of my dear father, Rabbi Azriel Wasserman o’bm or your loved one, please [Click DONATE NOW](http://jewishgirlsunite.com/donate/).
Thank You & Chag Someach!
Nechama Dina (Wasserman) Laber