Monday, September 1, 2008

Mikvah Chaya Rochel

By Rochel Leigh; Cambridge, UK

I had just arrived in Montreal to attend Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary from over the Atlantic, and Rosh Hashana was upon us. The Sem closed for Yom Tov and the students were expected to return to their families or be placed with the Seminary placement scheme. Not having family in Crown Heights, another English girl and I began to search for other options… Rochie was one of our dorm-mates and suggested we go and "help a Shliach" for Yom Tov; she would organize it and join our group making it a threesome. I was taken care of!

We had an amazing experience in Vermont that Rosh Hashana and our friendship blossomed during our two years together in Montreal.

Rochie was deeply proud of her family and grateful for the envious position she held – having a home in Crown Heights and many contacts. Being Rochie, she desperately wanted to share these gifts with others and soon established a name for herself among the out-of-towners as an address for hospitality. If Rochie was unable to find a space for someone to stay in her parent's incredibly hospitable home, she would not rest until she had found a space somewhere else through her network of contacts.

An excellent hostess, Rochie would often arrange Farbrengens, parties and learning groups. No occasion would go unmarked and no detail would be left out. On one occasion she showed up with a portable strawberry ambrosia cocktail bar, another time with an assortment of chocolate and peanut butter themed desserts; or, if she was really pressed for time – a nut display. I once found myself being shlept to a designer kitchenware showcase evening, "a small gathering," Rochie assured me, "a friend of mine is running it and she needs numbers; you don't have to buy anything – just show up." Rochie dutifully bought a handful of products and all the way home she excitedly discussed with me who each gadget would be for and what a great initiative this was on her friend's part… Rochie was always thinking about others.

As our peer group matured, married and started families, Rochie's many kindnesses branched outwards. She became the address for shower parties, new baby gifts, job vacancies, tutoring opportunities and the person to call for Mazel Tov updates.

After Rochie's engagement to my brother Yaakov, my closest sibling in age, Rochie would call me every other day. Her excitement was contagious and her happiness palpable. The wedding was a beautiful Simcha.

On the 9th of Av a year ago they were blessed with a charming and happy baby boy, the lovable sort of child who attracts complete strangers with his warm smiles and alert expressions. For her precious Yosef Yitzchok only the best would do. When Y.Y. came to stay he needed a good sized wooden crib, with matching bumpers all the way around. He only played with clean fresh soft toys that had not been handled by older children, to protect him from unnecessary illness. His meals were delicately balanced, homemade; three course affairs, each in their own containers, and each with their own spoon. He was the best traveled baby as he spent hours being walked up and down the streets in a stroller to get him off to a peaceful mid day nap. I was inspired by her dedication to every detail of Yosef Yitzchok's routine, the effort she invested into his most formative year, the gift of a mother's love that will surely last a lifetime.

Tragically, at 3am on Thursday morning, Av 13, Hashem took back our Rochie, leaving us shattered and broken hearted.

During the week of Shivah, my husband and I sat talking night after night about what we could do to honour her memory; something that would be elegant and dignified, that would symbolise her outstanding qualities of modesty and her commitment to bringing joy to the home.

We have decided to dedicate a mikvah in Cambridge to Rochie: Mikvah Chaya Rochel will carry her name and promote her message of modesty and unity.

Please visit to contribute towards the Mikvah fund.

1 comment:

Esther said...

My memories of Rochie:
For my 8th birthday Rochie got me a sticker book with a few stickers. At that age it was the biggest thing to have a sticker collection. I was really excited!!! During the party she saw me admiring what she bought. She asked me if I liked it. I told her I looove it!! She told me that she asked a few girls my age to see what I would like. She always made sure to get everyone exactly what they wanted!!! Thank you!! I miss you very much!!