Yesterday, the mail brought a blessing from Sig Lindenbaum, a quiet man who was the spiritual center for our local Jewish community. The blessing was to welcome our daughter, Natalie, soon to turn 22 years old, and in the very active process of birthing her career as a singer at the moment. Sig, born in Germany, was one of the few Jewish children in WWII to escape concentration camps because of the Kindertransport, which transported children from some Nazi-occupied countries to England. I remember talking with Sig over cookies after services many times and talking about what it was like to say goodbye to his parents forever when he and his brother boarded the train.
Sig, who also officiated over our son’s bris, wrote this welcome to our daughter a few days after her birth in April of 1992:
The birth of a new baby makes me very sentimental. I always felt that somehow the world is now a better place. I believe that this feeling is particularly justified with a new family member in the house of Caryn, Ken, and their son, Daniel. Caryn and Ken are sensitive people with a love and concern for people and for the earth around them. They will undoubtedly transmit their values to their children, and therefore, to a considerable extent the world will indeed be a better place.
May God who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless Caryn and Ken and Daniel and their newborn daughter and sister whose name is declared to be Natalie Gayle. May the parents rear their daughter to womanhood imbued with the love of Torah and the performance of good deeds, to a life of fulfillment in a loving community with an appreciation of earth’s beauty and bounty, and let us say, Amen.
I remember Sig’s hand on Natalie’s head as he gave her this blessing, a hand I thought would long be central to our community. Yet in 1993, I arrived at services one Friday night to discover our whole congregation very shaken and sad: Sig had just died from cancer.
At services these days I often think of Sig, who not only welcomed me but kept me coming back when I first dipped my toes back into Judaism after some college and young adult years of thinking maybe I wasn’t so Jewish after all. Sig exemplifies the best for me when it comes to what it means to make and keep community, to listen to others deeply and without judgment, and to speak the stories and prayers that matter.
Now his gifts circle back to us in this blessing his wife found and mailed us, reminding me of the earth’s beauty and bounty, and of Sig’s too.