Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sandy Schinfeld

This is difficult to write because I am still in shock. Perhaps when I have had a chance to absorb more of the shock, I will write again. Last night, my good friend Sandy was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver on Broad Street who plowed into her side of the car. She was returning from some event downtown with her wonderful and loving husband Jay. She had been on the bima at services at Adath Jeshurun earlier in the day for an Aliyah. I heard the news from our mutual friend, Laura Feller, who reached me by cell phone early this morning while Saul and I were on our way from Ari in Washington to Jess and Alex in Baltimore to attend yizkor services at Chizuk Amuno, the synagogue where Alex is the principal. Laura’s voice had been so altered by hours of crying that we did not recognize it.

Our hour-long drive to Baltimore was done with much care through tears and stunned silence interrupted by sporadic expressions of disbelief. The comforting words of the yizkor prayer book, so well-designed to deal with all the manifestations of grief, took on new meaning in this terrible situation. Not knowing what we could physically do to help our friends at that moment, we were comforted at least a little bit knowing that we could pray.

I think Jay and Sandy have been among the most fun-loving of all our friends. I first met Sandy in a three-hour weekly class while I was trying to learn Hebrew from our friend, Ruth Baram, at Gratz College. I remember that during that time, she was planning for Noah’s Bar Mitzvah. Shortly afterward, we began to work together when she was planning a big party and fund-raiser for Adath Jeshurun. I believe she called it Lox, Stock and Barrel. Because I had been publishing the AJ News, she recruited my services as a desktop publisher to design the logo and invitations for the event. I had never seen such bubbly enthusiasm as she figured out all the ways in which she could create the atmosphere of turn-of-the-century immigrant Jewish life in America. In lieu of monetary compensation, Saul and I accepted an invitation to attend and I know it was the most fun of any synagogue event we have ever attended, and there have been quite a few. When I first began my business 22 years ago, desktop publishing was in its infancy and my first office was a computer desk in our bedroom. Sandy was a perfectionist and we worked long hours into the night. She had no qualms about climbing into bed while we were working. Publishing software was not as friendly back then and it took forever to get the same effects that take seconds now. If she fell asleep, we would wake her when the work was completed. One night, we worked until 1:00 a.m.! How could you not become fast friends with a client who climbs into your bed and falls asleep? We worked on many events together over the years. I think that probably the last one for AJ has been the design of the case and the collaboration with Mordechai Rosenstein to produce the artwork for the Parashat HaShavuah display, an ongoing fund-raiser for the synagogue that was Sandy’s brainchild.

Six years ago, I almost died from a massive blood clot in my right leg. Actually, the blood clot did not come as close to killing me as the overthinning of my blood from Coumadin in response. At first, I was not allowed to eat a long list of leafy green veggies, including spinach and seaweed because they counteract the medication. When I began to bleed internally from the overdose, they not only gave me Vitamin K in shots, but I was encouraged to eat all the leafy greens I could swallow. I was confined to bed for a month and I was in a lot of pain. Sandy made a special trip to visit me with what I still remember as being one of the most delicious spinach soups I ever tasted. She just showed up with it when she learned of my situation. It was one of the most thoughtful favors ever done for me.

While I was bed-ridden, somewhere in my brain a plan formed to throw a black and white party if I survived and had the strength to prepare it. Everyone we knew came to that incredible party months later. I have these great pictures of Sandy and Jay in their black and white outfits. We had a blast! Laura and Marc Feller are in some of the photos also.

Many years ago, Saul and I were at the Philadelphia Craft Show at the Convention Center downtown. We bumped into Sandy there with her good friend Laura. Laura had become the public relations person for the School District of Springfield Township and needed someone to help prepare a newsletter. Over the years, we have become fast friends as well.

Jay is a gynecologist and obstetrician with offices at Abington Hospital. When Saul was hospitalized for the stroke last year, Jay came to look in on us every day before going into the office. Sandy visited as well and was her usual warm, welcome and empathetic presence. Jay has the most wonderful sense of humor. When Saul wondered aloud why they were x-raying his pelvis, Jay told him it was to check if his birth canal was wide enough. At one point, when we were home, Jay really had Saul going on the telephone, admonishing him for missing his Pap smear. I heard Saul saying over and over, “are you sure you don’t mean Marilyn?” until he figured out that Jay was pulling his leg again.

They have been here for Shabbat dinners a few times, although not as often as we would have liked because of their busy schedules. Sandy had been working overtime on her doctorate lately. The last time they were here, we agreed that we would get together soon for a meal at the Indian Restaurant they liked nearby.

Over the last few years and as lately as a month ago, we helped Jay and Sandy to prepare and refine a family Haggadah that would reflect their personal observance of Pesach incorporating family photos and stories. Obviously, none of us knew that this Pesach would be Sandy’s last.

Each year we thank God for sustaining us and allowing us to reach each joyous season. As we say goodbye to Pesach this year and I hear almost everyone express relief that their limited diet is over, I find myself wishing the holiday with its seders could last forever. I am nostalgic for the past occasions when our loved ones were all here and we shared beautiful evenings feasting and telling stories. I will try to hold on to every treasured memory. Our time on earth is so fleeting and we are such fragile creatures. We can never take for granted that we will all be together for yet another year.

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