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Shabbos with the “Girls”

Machla Abramovitz

Their husbands have passed away, their children and grandchildren live far from them. But these four women, the youngest of whom is 74, have each other. They get together weekly to share Shabbos — and life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

shabbos tableIt’s 6:30 p.m. on Shabbos afternoon, and Debby is patiently waiting for me in the lobby of herWilderton Avenueapartment building inMontreal. She is a petite brunette whose appearance belies her 80 years. “We’re all very excited about you coming,” she quietly tells me. Debby and the “girls,” as she and her three friends refer to each other, have graciously invited me to Shalosh Seudos.

Debby lives on the ninth floor of this 1960s highrise. But today, thankfully, we have no steps to walk; we’re eating in Susan’s apartment on the first floor. A 74-year-old with sparkling blue eyes, Susan opens the door with a flourish. “Welcome to my home,” she beams, enthusiastically giving me a hug.

In an extremely large living/dining room, I find the other two “girls.” Seated on an armchair beside the patio door is Helen, the eldest of the group at age 90. She’s dressed in a brown skirt and white top. She warmly welcomes me with a smile and a wave of her hand, as does the elegant, ash-blonde Bobbi, classically dressed in a tasteful beige sweater set and skirt. Bobbi, 83, is seated beneath some beautifully crafted needlepoints — “My mother made those,” shares Susan, an ever-attentive hostess.

It’s a comfortable room. The summer sun flows through the white sheer draperies, casting a golden glow on the ivory walls. My eye catches a montage of family photos. “That’s my son and his family, and that’s my husband,” Susan says proudly, pointing out a picture of a short, cheerful-looking man standing among many grandchildren. A small smile appears on her face as she gazes at the photo.

The dining room table is elegantly set. “No paper plates,” Susan emphasizes. A lovely white tablecloth adorns a table laden with platters of tuna and gefilte fish, deviled eggs swimming in peas and carrots, spreads, hard cheese, challah, bread, and a large salad. “Bobbi helped me prepare,” Susan tells me. “She’s the fancy one among us.”

Susan has been hosting Shalosh Seudos for the “girls” for years. For the Friday night seudah, each lady takes a turn hosting and preparing the meal in her respective apartment on a rotating basis. Invitations are also extended for both meals to frum ladies living alone in the building: there’s Nancy, a retired bookkeeper; Doreen, a retired nurse; and their good friend Rose.

Although from different backgrounds — Susan and Bobbi are fromBudapest,Hungary, Helen is fromMichalovce,Czechoslovakia, while Debby is the odd girl out, having been born and raised inBaltimore,Maryland— they share a common life situation: each has lost her husband. As well, none of their children or grandchildren lives inMontreal.

But even though there’s no family around, they’re not alone — they have one another and for that they are especially grateful. “When Bobbi was sitting shivah,” Helen tells me, “I told her children, ‘Don’t worry about your mother; we will take care of her.’”

Graciously, Debby invites us all to the table. There’s no need to ask twice. We wash, hamotzi is made, and we dig into the delicious food. Within moments, the conversation becomes boisterous — Bobbi’s and Susan’s Hungarian accents distinguishable from the others. 


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