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“Someday”is Today

Libi Astaire

Tova Silverstein almost died, twice. The first blow was a physical illness that robbed her body of its mobility and strength. The second was the devastating realization that she would most likely remain in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. But instead of being defeated by this unexpected chapter in her life’s story, she has used it to propel herself to a new page — literally.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tova Silverstein is a go-getter. That’s the only way to describe her, even though the term may sound surprising to those who only know her as “the lady in the wheelchair” who lives at the Neve Amit nursing home in Jerusalem’sRamatEshkol neighborhood. 

On most sunny days, you’ll find Tova seated in her favorite spot, the nursing home’s front garden. She will be schmoozing there with family or friends, or — as happened on the afternoon I visited her for this interview — giving advice to a seminary girl from the States.

The serious conversation is punctuated with a funny story, and the garden is filled with laughter. A doctor passing by turns around with a puzzled look on her face. But when she sees Tova, the puzzled look disappears, replaced by a knowing smile.

Yet the garden isn’t just for chatting. It sometimes doubles as Tova’s “office,” and this is where I first met her a year earlier. She wanted to learn about e-books, the new world of publishing books electronically and selling them online. Since I’ve published about a dozen of my novels and story collections as e-books, a mutual friend asked if I would give Tova a crash course. I agreed, but after two hours of talking about formatting and uploading, ISBNs and cover design, marketing and distribution, I could see Tova’s eyes glazing over.

I gave her the handout I had prepared and, as I walked to the bus stop, I remember thinking, That was a waste of time. After all, what were the chances that a woman in her mid-70s who knows practically nothing about computers would actually take on the rather daunting project of self-publishing an e-book?

But here we were, once again seated in Neve Amit’s garden on a gorgeous autumn day, and before we officially began the interview, Tova gave me an update. Not only is her own book Alive to be Thankful almost ready to be published as an e-book, but she has decided to self-publish 17 Torah works that have been translated by her husband,RabbiShragaSilverstein.

“Seventeen?” I ask with wonder.

“It will keep me occupied,” she says with a smile.

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