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People in My Neighborhood: Meet Sarah



Sarah loves a stage and the stage loves Sarah. I can’t imagine a situation where there’s an available microphone in the vicinity and Sarah’s not reaching for it!  And it doesn’t matter how large or intimate the setting is.  Our Karnei Shomron Cultural Center arranges parties, performances and activities for the community at large, sometimes including all 5 neighborhoods, so attendance is high and audiences are huge.  When they need an “opening act” that will warm up the crowd … that will appeal to all… young, old, native Israeli or new immigrant… they call on Sarah.  There’s something about Sarah, with her casual jeans and simple T-shirt, her easy-cut hairstyle and most important, her innate good nature, that has people smiling… even laughing… before she opens her mouth.  Sarah will be the first one to admit that sometimes she gets on stage completely unprepared. But it doesn’t seem to matter.  She looks out on her neighbors and the routines flow.  She’ll joke about the differences between the Sephardic old-timers and the American immigrants; she’ll comically describe the local government’s accomplishments (or mishaps).   One time, her elderly mother was visiting from America and was in the audience.  Her Hebrew was almost non-existent and Sarah told comical anecdotes of growing up, with her mother as leading role.  The audience was clutching their sides to contain their frantic laughter, as she interspersed the hilarious stories with more staid, comments-on-the-side, in English, to her mother sitting in the front row, a loving, beatific smile on her face.  It sounds wrong as I write this, but Sarah’s good nature is so big and so real and so pure, that there was no cruelty… no ridicule in her voice.  Just a love for fun and for people and for wanting to share the bright side of life.

Even if the setting is a small one, Sarah won’t say no to lending her talents; she loves to help out.  When our local synagogue has Purim or Hanukkah parties and the program needs a filler, she’ll grab a silly hat, don a funny costume and jump out in front of the crowd to entertain us with one of her routines, sweetly and hysterically knowing exactly which her fellow congregants she can single out for a mild “roasting”.  She knows people and loves people and can somehow sense who should be left alone and who will absolutely glow with the attention!A few years ago, our community had a ladies’ night out to a women’s theater performance.  At the start of the ride, the rabbi’s wife stood in front of the packed bus, asked the driver for his microphone, and recited the traditional “Prayer for Travelers”, which asks G-d to watch over us and keep us from harm, on our journeys.  We all called out “Amen” and settled back for a quiet ride.  Or so we thought! Sarah had seen the microphone! So, for the next 45 minutes she had us literally rolling in the aisles as she regaled us with uproarious tales of her home.  Some anecdotes focused on her husband (a personality custom-made for handling Sarah’s ribbing with grace); some stories were about her five (gorgeous) children; some starred her parents and her in-laws.  But most jokes focused on herself.  Because, of all the people and things to laugh at in this wide and wonderful world, Sarah’s favorite topic is herself.  She happily laughs at her own strongly American accented Hebrew and her housekeeping skills (or lack thereof), insisting that her Shabbat food is the freshest in the neighborhood because she only starts to cook an hour before candle lighting.  She laughs that with each pregnancy, she waited for the traditional nesting instincts to kick in, those instincts that are supposed to keep women up during their ninth month, organizing closets and tidying shelves.  Never happened!

I realize I’ve described a happy-go-lucky, almost “class clown” type.  But Sarah is also a registered nurse and the ultimate professional, an expert in her field.  When Sarah walks down the streets of Karnei Shomron, it seems that everyone knows her! And Sarah happily greets everyone who stops her to say hello, most of them by name.  And she simply never passes up a chance to lean into a stroller to peek at a new baby, naturally noting similarities to siblings, parents, even grandparents.  That’s what it is to be a small town nurse.  When Sarah moved to Karnei Shomron over 25 years ago, the community wasn’t the sprawling, bustling town it is today.

When our family moved into Karnei Shomron 20 years ago, Sarah was the nurse at our local Healthy Baby Clinic.  The Department of Health in Israel takes pride in this country-wide program.Israel’s maternal program cares for the pregnant woman, with monthly

prenatal checkups and advice.  After the birth of the baby, there are regularly scheduled visits of both mother and child, assessing the child’s growth and development, providing vaccinations and offering child rearing and nutritional information.  I used to love my appointments with Sarah. Sometimes, we were having such a good time, we forgot there was a purpose to the visit and then we would have to go through the procedures quickly.  Sarah knew me and my kids… she knew just about everyone and everyone’s kids.  And BECAUSE she was a neighborhood nurse, BECAUSE she knew everyone so well, she knew how to do her job better.  She knew not to worry about malnutrition when a baby didn’t gain wait because she knew the parents, and knew that they and their other kids were delicate and small framed.  She knew why sometimes both parents came to every checkup and why they were overprotective, because she sat next to the woman for years in synagogue, knowing she was praying to conceive after years of marriage.  She knew us and cared for us.  When she had to fill out the forms for my daughter’s one year-old developmental check, she KNEW, without asking, that Atara could build with blocks and had started saying simple words… because our daughters were best friends and played and bathed and ate together daily!  She even knew my son’s allergies because our family had eaten at her home on Shabbat and Avraham’s face broke out in a rash after tasting a creamy dessert! She knows the birthdays of all my kids and many of the kids in the neighborhood, because she remembers caring for them from the day they were born.  It’s such a close-knit community, that she can measure experiences in her life and family up against our own and there is always a commonality that triggers a shared memory.

For a few years, Sarah worked as the school nurse in a few of our local schools.  She would go into the classrooms and speak about topics like hygiene, diet and puberty, and chart the children’s height and weight.  She was ideal at her job because of her humor and her professionalism.  But mostly, she was good at her job because it was so obvious she cared.  She handled overweight kids, awkward adolescents and children with body odor with just the right balance of sensitivity and charm.  She was always qualified and prepared, presenting all the necessary information and materials with the importance it deserved.  But she knew how to balance the heaviness with a lightness of touch, a smile, and the life lesson that we must never take ourselves too seriously.