Taking responsibility in the community: Alexis Farbman shines at her Bat Mitzvah

Alexis Farbman (center) with Farbman and Lazerson families around her on the occasion of her Bat Mitzvah.

I used to wonder why people got so carried away by their grandkids.  Now I’m one of them.

Burton and I are blessed to have 6 grandchildren.  The oldest, Alexis, just had her Bat Mitzvah.  In case you don’t know the word kvell, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “feel happy and proud.”  Alexis’ Bat Mitzvah propelled it to a new level.

I must objectively state: Alexis is a mensch.  Sweet, smart, loving, fair, funny, generous and capable.  This is the girl who, at 12, created a spread sheet and figured out the details of our summer family Olympics.  That meant which t-shirt in which color and which size went to which member of 2 teams of 12 each.  (I was looking for sweatshirts.  Alexis said, “T-shirts are cheaper.”)  And which team member should play volley ball and which shoot hoops.  I was frazzled by the logistics; Alexis, cool.  This year, when it came time for the shuffle board competition, Alexis strode over to me with a pep talk.  “You’ve got this, Gigi,” she said.  (P.S., I didn’t.)

Bat Mitzvahs at Temple Am Shalom in Glencoe, IL, aren’t part of a larger service.  They are the service, entirely performed by the celebrant.  Rabbi Steve Lowenstein and Cantor Andrea Markowicz create a sense of warmth and informality.  (The rabbi’s talit, or prayer shawl, is made from a maize and blue U of M t-shirt.  Perfect for Andy’s family as he and Amy are U of M grads and have indoctrinated their daughters to Go Blue!)

I knew Alexis would be poised and competent.  I didn’t realize how grown up she’d  look in high heels, cloaked in her great grandfather’s prayer shawl.  Nor did I realize how verklempt (Yiddish for emotional) I’d be.  Surviving stage 4 cancer and living 13 years to be present for this milestone?  Wow.

Through blurry eyes I managed to read the opening blessing.  After, the rabbi asked what I‘d like to say to Alexis.  Instead of uttering something matriarchal or profound, I could only croak: “You knock me out, girlfriend.”

Nor was my emotional state helpful when it came time for Alexis’ grandparents, Carol, Bob, Burton and me, to sing 2 Hebrew blessings.  I was the only one who could carry a tune… sort of.  Ahead of time, Burton had practiced for hours.  I learned Bob had, too.  We must not have sounded too melodious because the rabbi chimed in.

Alexis read fluently from the Torah, using a left handed yad (pointer) to follow the Hebrew.  Her Torah portion, toward the end of Deuteronomy, discusses how God punishes Moses for losing his temper by forbidding him to enter the Promised Land.  Alexis drew a meaningful lesson from it.  She said, “It’s important to listen to one another.  If Moses had listened to God, God would have built trust in Moses.  I believe listening and trust can go hand in hand because listening leads to trust.”

Alexis excels at soccer and basketball.  She said, “If a coach is teaching a play, it’s necessary that all players hear and understand because one person can mess up an entire play…  We should all realize that listening to one another will help the world become a better place.”

A Bar (for boys) or Bat (for girls) Mitzvah calls for the celebrant, who’s turning 13, to do a good deed (mitzvah) for others.  This past summer Alexis volunteered at a non-profit, ministry-run restaurant.  The Front Porch is in Ellsworth, near  Charlevoix in northern Michigan, where our family spends much of the summer.  The Front Porch, staffed mainly by volunteers, has done wonders for the community.

Alexis helps out at the Front Porch restaurant as her mitzvah project.

Alexis spoke about her Mitzvah project.  “Ellsworth is a small farming town where many families are struggling financially and cannot afford things like eating at a restaurant.  The Front Porch is a miraculous place as it is a pay-what-you-can restaurant.  If you cannot afford to pay, you simply put the bill in an envelope and leave.  No one will ever know you could not afford your meal and you can enjoy the restaurant experience with dignity.”

Alexis bussed tables, cleaned booths, rolled silverware into napkins and took orders.  (One day Grandpa Burt rolled napkins with her.)  About the experience, she said, “I was able to really help a place I had gone to since I was little in a community I love.  I never realized how special a place this was and how much charity work went on behind the scenes.”

Alexis thanked the members of our family for the roles we play in her life.   Sisters Camryn and Lindsay “for being there for me and making sure we stick together. “  Dad Andy: “Shooting hoops, fishing, playing cards–you are always up for family time.”  Mom Amy:  “Running together and waterskiing… You give the best advice.”  (Ed note: Remember that, Alexis, as you grow into adolescence.)

Well done, Alexis!

As your mom said in her remarks, “You are good to the core… Your smile lights up an entire room.”  Everyone you meet knows how special you are.  Thanks for teaching Grandpa and me the true meaning of kvell.

Keep on knocking us out, girlfriend.

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51 thoughts on “Taking responsibility in the community: Alexis Farbman shines at her Bat Mitzvah

  1. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Pam Johnson
    I LOVED this story… what a special girl and wonderful organization.

  2. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Melissa Keiswetter
    Suzy, the love and pride felt in your family was reflected in this significant event. To experience these deep feelings is a great gift.
    Thank you for sharing your life.

  3. Josh daitch

    Suzy,

    It was an honor to be there. Alexis is one of many special Farbmans. I vividly remember Andy Kvelling to me about Alexis after she returned home from camp the first year. She had matured so much and was infinitely grateful for the opportunity and had recognized the sacrifice that her parents had made to send her. I asked Andy (as a newer father) to what did he attribute this attitude. He paused, he thought, he nodded, looked me in the eye and responded, “Great [email protected]&$ing parenting”.

    I think he’s partially correct.

  4. Judy komer

    Your granddaughter is a wonderful accomplished young woman, we will be there the end of October at the same Temple for Sydney Jackier, will your granddaughter be there? I would love to meet her. Judy

  5. Judy komer

    Wonderful young woman! We have a bat mitzvah at the same Temple end of October for Sydney Jackier, wondering if your granddaughter will be there? Judy Komer

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      I’m guessing she’ll be there. She’d love to meet you. Thanks for the sweet message.

  6. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Brenda Rosenberg
    So loved reading!!! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story!!! Alexis truly shines!!!

  7. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Marylou Brous
    As a friend said to me once, “Being a grandparent is not overrated!” And this story if proof. What a fabulous young woman. Lucky you, Gigi. Lucky Alexis to have you as her grandmother.

  8. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Gretchen Goldburg Klein (my late oldest friend Bobbye’s daughter)
    nothing about this article comes as a surprise to me!
    mazel to you and burt and the entire family.
    and that family photo is just stunning.
    you are a lucky, lucky lady and you have every right to kvell.
    thanks for including me. it makes see feel good to be a part of your group;)

    xoxo

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, Gretchen. Glad you enjoyed. I’m beyond sorry that your mom won’t be here in her original form to witness the bar mitzvahs of your sons. Appreciate your sweet note.

  9. Suzy Farbman Post author

    as emailed from Nelle Miller
    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Much love and mazel tov!

  10. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Elaine Greenberg
    Oh, that was wonderful—-I know the feeling in your heart and the lump (bad choice of words for us) in your throat and such pride–AND you were there in person—–thanks be to God. I was diagnosed in Jan. 2000, and our grandson Benji’s Bar Mitzvah was the following Oct. and I kept saying to the Dr I HAVE to be at Benji’s Bar Mitvah, I can’t do this to him. I was there–danced, laughed and cried my way through it. Well, Suzy, we have celebrated many more Bar Mitzvahs (we only have grandsons) graduations and weddings–as you, will too, and though these celebrations for grandchildren are gifts for all grandparents, maybe for people like you and I—it is more of a miracle.
    Alexis is a beautiful young woman, who is following in her grandmother’s footsteps.
    Mahzeltov to the whole family
    Much Love,
    Elaine

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      So true, Elaine, and so well expressed. Thanks so much for your beautiful, and perceptive, response.

  11. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Lisa Frank
    This is awesome!!! I love it!!! Alexis is beautiful, too.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      Thanks, Lisa. As you know, Alexis and her sisters are great fans of yours as well.

  12. Nancy

    Suzy,
    What a wonderful emotionally charged description of Alexis and her Bat Mitzvah! Your pride shines through!
    Congratulations to the entire family!
    Love,

  13. Pam Bloom

    MAZEL TOV! Thank you for sharing your story, you have good reason to ”kvell”. Your granddaughter sounds like an amazing young woman- so much to be proud of. I have become one of your fans! Kudos for always highlighting human acts of goodness in the world. Your stories most often teach life lessons and give courage to those battling life’s hardships. You & I met only briefly when my daughter introduced us at AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington. Your interest in our Natalie and our family generated yet another story. Suzy- thank you for doing what you do, your honest approach is appreciated by so many and impacts lives more than you can imagine! Wishing you continued health & success!

    1. Suzy farbman

      Wow. What a beautiful comment, Pam. I’m honored you “get” what I do. Your family is a treasure. Sorry I didn’t see this sooner. But a joy to come across.

  14. Denise

    Beautiful article, Suzy, about your beautiful first-born grandchild. Congratulations to Alexis and her proud parents and grandparents. ????

  15. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Stan Schear
    Beautiful article. Mazel tov to your entire family. She sounds like that “special gal.”

  16. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Terri Kowalski
    Suzy, you and Burt have to be so very proud of this fabulous girl. What a role model she must be for the rest of the grand kids. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I cried with joy over your happiness. Alexis is an old soul.

    1. Suzy Farbman Post author

      You nailed it, Terri. This apple is pure Honey Crisp. Thanks for the sweet comment.

  17. Suzy Farbman Post author

    As emailed from Alexis Farbman
    Thank you so much for that blog post. It means so much to me. I love you.

  18. Karen Raff

    Alexis: You go, girl! I’m excited and so proud that you’ve taken your place among the strong women in your family to make the world a better place — tikkun olam! I became a Bat Mitzvah aa an adult woman and my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah at Masada in Israel when she was other Birthright trip a few years ago. Jewish women are a force to behold. And your Grandma Suzy is one of them!! (Thanks for sharing her story with us, Suzy!)

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