INSPIRATION FROM INSPIRING MOTHERS
Hylton I Lightman, MD, DCH (SA), FAAP and Leah Lightman
You’re observant. Yes, there’s a second byline this week and it belongs to my wife.
My wife works in my office and, as a result, speaks to many patients and their parents, especially the mothers. She comments daily that one of the “perks” of the job is speaking with our talented, smart and savvy mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters. They are a wealth of information.
Ben Zoma says in Pirkei Avos: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. Through our work, we are uniquely positioned to hear people’s stories and insights. Thank you for sharing with us.
And the time has now come to share this unending fountain of wisdom with you, our dear readers. It’s our gift to you. Leah (LL) interviewed three woman with three different yet overlapping perspectives on life. All are mothers, and one is a grandmother and great-grandmother. They’re physically spry, mentally agile, emotionally resilient and spiritually burgeoning as they go about their lives, both in the home and outside the home.
The world knows Jamie Geller (JG) as one of the gurus of kosher cooking, an American-born Israeli who founded Joy of Kosher. A Magna Cum Laude graduate of New York University, she is a businesswoman par excellence who is internationally renowned for her cooking prowess and creativity. Yet Jamie is first and foremost the wife of Nochum and the mother of six (ages -3-13), living in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
We first met Jamie when she was a brand, spanking new mother in the office, a few days after a C-section. She was, in her own words, the bride who knew nothing and then became the mother who knew nothing. You’ve come along way, Jamie.
LL: On your odyssey as a Mom, who has been the biggest influence on you?
JG: Nochum. He is always pushing me to grow, sharing the Torah he learns with me and our family.
LL: You’ve entered the teen years. What are the challenges you’ve encountered so far?
JG: Entered the teen years???? That happened when my oldest turned 9. I try to keep a straight face when I’m speaking to my girls who are so passionate and everything is real and meaningful to them. I’d never want to laugh at them, but they can be entertaining. And their passion. I want them to have passion and to follow it. It’s carried me far.
LL: Technology, especially social media, is part-and-parcel of your life. How does this affect your family?
JG: While Jamie Geller the cook and businesswoman is immersed in social media, social media has no place in my family. Social media is for the job only and yes, it’s a creative outlet in which my partners, employees and I engage. But there is no social media in my home so it’s a nonissue.
LL: Share a moment of greatness about being a mother.
JG: My grandmother A”H and my mother always said, “When a baby is born, a Mom is born.” The transformation with each birth is the greatest moment. I cry when my kids sing zemiros at the Shabbos table. I cry when they get along. And I’m still crying six kids later. Maybe I should own stock in a tissue company?
LL: Dr. Lightman was your first pediatrician. How did he help you?
JG: I was a complete mess the first time I came to the office. He examined my daughter, gave me instructions and then we talked. He wrote me two separate prescriptions on his prescription pad. One said “Take time for you.” The second one said “Mr. Geller: Kindly buy your wife flowers.” Dr. Lightman thought about ME!
LL: Here we are, Jamie, 6 kids later. When you look back, what would you say to your younger self?
JG: It’s overwhelming to have kids and a lot of kids. I remember feeling like I was truly accomplished when all the kids would be asleep by 7 pm and then Nochum and I had couple time. Yet now, emotional challenges abound 24/7. Looking back, I wish I had cherished that time period more. I look back and I see each failure and misstep and I wish I could redo everything better. That becomes my inspiration as I move forward.
LL: When you’re feeling overwhelmed as a Mom, what’s your #1 self-care tip?
JG: Confiding in someone. Often, it’s my husband. Other times, it might be my mother or a friend. And it’s always done privately, never in front of the kids.
LL: Share something about your mother or another woman who has influenced you.
JG: My grandparents. They were Holocaust survivors who embodied strength and character and created lives out of nothing. My grandmother is my “go to” person in my head during hard moments. She had no anger and was quick to forgive but she never forgot anything. And then there’s my mother. She followed us on Aliya and in becoming Torah observant. She believes in me and that I’m the best and she is my source of strength.
LL: Name your #1 “self-care” tip.
JG: Sleep. 7-8 hours per night. Then I can wake up singing Modeh Ani. It’s amazing the kids go off with the right attitude for the day.
LL: What’s the one morning ritual you will never skip?
JG: Davening. Even before I was religiously observant, my mother encouraged me to call out to G-d.
LL: How did you come to develop a career in cooking?
JG: Nochum. He was a caterer who married me, the bride who knew nothing. We loved hosting Shabbos guests and my cooking took off from there. I’ve kept the cooking in our home so I’m there for the kids.
LL: Let’s circle back to social media. What has been the feedback for you with a robust following on Facebook and Instagram?
JG: Thank G-d. The feedback keeps me going. People respond to my being “real,” walking to the Kotel, showing the mountains of Judea, loving the people I meet along the way. I don’t suffer from this FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome that comes with social media because I have no need to be a voyeur into other people’s lives. Social media is about sharing an important part of what I do with the world.
LL: You’re a foodie, Jamie. Name your #1 pick-me-up food.
JG: 5 cups daily of green tea. The warmth is soothing. It has caffeine and it’s loaded in anti-oxidants.
LL: Share a spiritual insight on motherhood.
JG: Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky said, “You’re not raising great kids. You’re raising great adults.” Nochum and I are raising our kids to be functioning members of society who will make the world a greater place.
Aviva David (AD) is a homegrown girl, born and raised in Far Rockaway and presently living in North Woodmere with her husband Judah (also a Far Rockaway native) and their four children, the oldest of whom is 12 years old. Aviva and her siblings grew up in Dr. Lightman’s practice. Her mother worked Dr. Lightman’s front desk at one point. It brings Dr. Lightman loads of joy that she chose him to be her children’s pediatrician. A bold businesswoman, Aviva built her sheitel business from scratch and enjoys a large following. Several years ago, she branched out and became a successful independent consultant in a health and wellness company. Today, Aviva is an Executive Regional Vice President with Arbonne.
LL: What do you believe is unique about your odyssey as a mother?
AD: I watch and learn from people. Like so many women, my mother and others have helped to form me. I’m also surrounded by all kinds of women in different stages of life, each with her own challenges. The amount of role models is endless. They talk. I listen. We interact. Each person enriches my life, lifting me up and giving me amazing outlooks. When I want to learn further, I go out and observe women whom I believe have “it.” And from all of this, I’ve been able to form my sense of “self” which I bring to motherhood.
LL: What do you pride yourself most about as a mother?
AD: I have the gift of gab so I use it to talk to my kids in real ways about real life issues. We’ve developed vocabularies around giving back to others, loving people, respecting people who are different from us. We also discuss real life scenarios like the responsibility of having a credit card and driving. No topic is taboo. We talk about puberty and what the body changes mean. How drugs and drinking are inappropriate and can ruin your life. We talk about trusting G-d and that when you’re in control of your reactions, that’s what G-d wants. G-d is there to love each of us. I have an open house meaning we talk to our children about everything and they know we are honest.
LL: What’s the most difficult part of motherhood for you?
AD: Time. There’s never enough time. My business requires time. But no matter what, I push everything aside for my husband and kids. They are my life.
LL: You went from child bride to businesswoman with a family in a flash. What drives you?
AD: My husband and children. Seriously. The cost of living an Orthodox Jewish life is steep. I found ways to help provide for my family via something I believe in which helps other people.
LL: Please share an example of how you creatively combine career and motherhood.
AD: Food. I’m creative at getting fruits, vegetables and whole grains into my kids. One example: I add Arbonne’s “Green Balance” to every recipe that requires tomato sauce. My kids enjoy their food and are none the wiser about the nutrients flowing through their growing bodies. I also brought my daughter to the recent Arbonne conference. We hung out together for a couple days before and then we bonded further during the conference.
LL: How do you describe your relationship with social media?
AD: Honest. Bold. Real. Just the way I talk to my children. My posts are unplanned. If a quote or picture resonates with me in the moment, then I post it that very same moment.
LL: How do you present social media to your children?
AD: Social media is for me and my business. The business helps the family. They know their mother has created something from nothing and social media has been a tool to get there. Right now, my children are not on it. Period.
LL: How has Dr. Lightman helped you?
AD: He was a loving presence in my childhood and remains for me as I parents. My kids adore him. We can talk to him about anything.
LL: When you’re stressed out, you…
AD: Run to the gym for a serious workout. Self-care is a must. Each woman has to find what works for her.
LL: The #1 Arbonne product that travels with you wherever you go is…
AD: The Anti-Aging set. Nothing more needs to be said.
LL: Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Any thoughts you can share about your mother?
AD: My mother navigated a difficult divorce while remaining a devoted mother. She always maintained a smile and made a happy, secure world for us. How awesome. I appreciate her and everything she’s done.
Joy Glicker Lieber (JL) has been a community leader in Far Rockaway and the Five Towns for several decades. While raising her family of five children, she built and operated a retail hat business. Presently, she is a grandmother and great-grandmother who’s a serial entrepreneur. Her professional accomplishments include (but are not limited to): Bridal Consultant at Bridal Secrets; Designer and Buyer at Nip-and-Tuck; and Manager of Fashionably Late Gowns. She is the Creator of Perfect Matches, the interactive Jewish dating game which is now in its second printing. The Chessed Network News is Joy’s brainchild and ongoing “baby.” Joy is also a medical clown with Lev Leytzan, bringing joy (pun intended) to all.
LL: Who has been the biggest influence on you on your journey as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother?
JL: My sister Sondra Gottesman is my role model in all endeavors. Sondra is 17 years older than I am. She had a large hand in raising me. By the time I was toddling around, Sondra was married and raising her family. I was pretty much the same age as Sondra’s children so I fit right in there. We are still very close.
LL: What was the biggest benefit of being the youngest child of immigrant parents and having siblings who were significantly older?
JL: Learning how to go with the flow.
LL: What is the #1 “go to” you learned growing up that has helped you navigate a full and busy life?
JL: The classic clown’s big red ball nose. It’s in my handbag at all times. I’m not joking. Laughter and levity can alleviate much pain. One time, I accompanied my daughter to a Manhattan hospital. While waiting for the phlebotomist, we witnessed a woman overcome with emotion at the thought of having her blood drawn. She couldn’t stop crying and she was beyond reason or being comforted. As a trained clown, I carry with me the clown’s nose because you never know when it might be useful. Creatively reaching into my bag, and communicating with the phlebotomist through eye contact only that she should proceed full steam ahead, I put on the nose and interacted with the “patient.” She was stunned and before she even realized it, the phlebotomist had done her magic and there was no pain at all.
LL: Who gets the credit for your appreciating and using laughter and levity?
JL: My mother A”H. She lived until she was 90. She was happy and made others happy.
LL: You’re a “doer,” Joy. You get things done. And that comes from…
JL: My family of origin. We are doers who get things done. For example, my late sister Lorraine Pollak A”H helped to found NCSY’s Yachad – National Council for Jewish Disabilities because her daughter Caryn Pollak A”H (whose first Yahrzeit is imminent), had Downs Syndrome. And Jewish kids with disabilities need programming and socialization like all other Jewish kids.
LL: Where do the ideas for different businesses come from?
JL: HaShem. I picture that my head has a slit on top, just like a Tzedaka box. HaShem puts ideas into my head through that slit. The light bulb goes “on.” Then I’m off and running.
LL: How did you think of Perfect Matches?
JL: I’ve worked with brides for years to make the biggest day of their lives (to date) as awesome as possible. We bond: They talk and I listen. Many have spoken about how little they know the Chosson when they’ve dated for maybe six weeks. They talk on dates so why not make the talk real-life meaningful? I reviewed our conversations, heard their questions, developed new ones, tested all 500 of them with “real life” people (including Rabbi Eytan and Aviva Feiner and Rabbi David and Debbie Greenblatt) and got feedback. For example, within the 500 cards are five cards that state “Give the other person a compliment.” Brides have told me that some people do not know how to compliment their (potential) life’s partner. By playing the game, each person can assess how the other compliments them. How does the other person make me feel? An important consideration when contemplating a life-time commitment.
LL: Has Perfect Matches helped people get married?
JL: Yes! I get emails and phone calls all the time. It’s helped people get married and it’s helped people decide not to marry someone they have been dating. Perfect Matches has given them clarity.
LL: What’s the most challenging part of working with brides?
JL: Stopping them when they’re choosing a gown and they begin to say, “Will my friends like it?” I hit the “pause button” and make it clear that it’s about how you the bride feel and look, and not about anyone else. Our clientele say we “empower” them. Baruch HaShem.
LL: Describe your most rewarding moment as a Bridal Consultant.
JL: A Bridal Secret bride got married in Chicago. At some point during her big day, she called me, saying, “I’m holding my cell phone and speaking to you while I’m looking in the mirror and I look beautiful. Thank you.”
LL: How do you choose which gowns to carry in Bridal Secrets?
JL: The inspiration comes from the clientele. They share pictures with me. I research the luxury designers’ creations and save those images. And then there are the bridal fashion shows: How do these creations mesh with Bridal Secrets’ clientele? The fun then begins – taking everything to the next level, from strapless and sleeveless and ultra-sheer to our levels of modesty. It’s a creative process from beginning to end.
LL: Lots of creativity. It means expending energy. How do you rejuvenate?
JL: In a number of ways. There’s retail therapy. I love to look. A store, especially a luxury department store, is a museum to me. There are also on-line “museums” and designer websites. I also love spending time doing needlepoint for my family members. Reading nightly is a must.
LL: In addition to your needlepoint creations, how does your family benefit from your creativity and unending energy?
JL: Baruch HaShem, my grandchildren think I’m cool. No one has tefillin bags like theirs. I’ve taken my older granddaughters on shopping trips to Manhattan for fabric and trim. I encourage them to imagine and create. They loved trying on funky-colored boas and feather masks. I’ve shared with them that when I was growing up, my mother and aunts would take me to visit my uncles in their fur business and I played with fur scraps and fabric.
LL: HaShem gives you your ideas. How is He present in other ways in your life?
JL: HaShem is always with me. He was there when I was growing up. He was with me every moment I was raising my children, and He’s with me every moment of my life, awake or asleep.
With G-d’s help, this will become a quarterly endeavor. After all, learning never stops! A reminder to our Mom’s practice self-care!
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