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Queen Mother

Chany Rosengarten

Ayala Nivin is the mother of a double-digit family, and she nurtures her 14 children with aplomb. But it wasn’t always like that. The paradigm shift from resentful servant to dignified queen took time, thought, and a whole lot of nurturing — this time, of herself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 When you speak to Ayala Nivin about her family, ask for her insights into raising a large, happy family, you hear many nuggets of wisdom. But one element threads itself throughout — royalty. “When there are tough moments,” says Ayala, “I try to connect with my inner sense of malchus, of royalty, and that really helps. It leads me to what I feel is the second commandment of Jewish mothers: Remember you are a queen.”

Remember you are a queen? The idea entices like jewelry in a showcase. I want that, I think with a pang. I’d love to feel like a queen.

But mothering children with their strident demands and ever-evolving needs clashes with glass slippers and tiara. As a mother of two I wonder about this mother of 14. How is Ayala a queen?

I find out soon enough, on a sultry afternoon in her house in Ashdod. As I clutch my purse and knock on the apartment door, I imagine a ruckus on the other side and promise myself to remain inconspicuous. With 14 children, five under the age of five, and a set of three-year-old twins thrown in, the house must look ... well, lived in, I assume. Eleven of those 14 are boys and I can just imagine socks strewn around the kitchen floor, and a frazzled mother picking up after them.

Ayala opens the door with a chiming hello. Her smile is deep and relaxed, her eyes nuanced and subtle. I step into an open foyer, which leads to a sun-bathed dining room, a wide staircase to the second floor, and an airy kitchen and dinette. Large windows filter in the sun and sky and lend the rooms spaciousness.

Ayala’s daughter is dropping matzoh balls into a bubbling pot of soup. Ayala laughs with her over their oversight in adding salt. She unties her apron strings and sits down with me at the dining-room table.

Ayala pours drinks. “My husband says, ‘pass me the jews.’$$SEPARATEQUOTES$$” We laugh. Her toddler settles himself on her lap. Remember, I tell myself sternly, this woman raises 14 children. But Ayala has already shattered the myth of the proverbial shmatte.

What is her secret?

“I created a motto for myself; I imagine it as my business card,” she says. It reads “Kevod Hashem alayich niglah.” Framing it into her motto has obligated her. For her, “The glory of Hashem is revealed upon you means that Hashem, who is the ultimate King, filters some of His royalty onto her. When she connects to His will, His kingship is perceived by those around her. She hopes to filter it further, so that her children are a manifestation of Hashem’s glory. 

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