Namesakes / by Susie Lubell

Namesakes
Grammy Edythe Kutlow and Grandma Helen Sachs

As read at his bris...

Dear Idan,
You’ve only been in our family a little over a week and already I can’t imagine my life without you in it. You are so tiny and yet your arrival on the 49th day of the Omer, the period of great anticipation before God gave us the Torah on Mt. Sinai, has profound meaning for our family. Like your brother Shalev, you showed up a day early for the big party. He was born a day before Simchat Torah and you, the day before Shavuot. I guess that’s how you get the best seats. Nonetheless your birthdate appears to be very auspicious. You were born on 6.6.11 at 10 to 10 at night. And I’m no gematria expert but when you multiply six and six you get 36 or double chai. It’s no wonder that you are a Gemini, the sun sign of the twins.

Your arrival is really the beginning of the next chapter in our lives, the one that’s set in Israel, and your name, Idan – meaning “era” in Hebrew – is meant to signify this new adventure. You are also named to honor two important women in our family. Idan is for my Grammy Edythe Kutlow. Your second name, Hillel is to honor your Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs. Both were incredibly strong women who faced significant challenges in their younger lives but both lived to be well into their nineties. Edythe Kutlow, born in New York City, would have been 101 years old this year. She lived for several years in an orphanage when her own mother was unable to provide for her financially. A resourceful and beautiful girl she lived to find a life partner in Benjamin Kutlow, have three terrific children, nine fantastic grandchildren (I'm the ninth) and now her eighteenth great grandchild. She was incredibly gifted with her hands and made beautiful heirloom baby blankets, kippot, needlepoints and afghans. She even crocheted the kippah that your Aba is wearing today for our wedding nine years ago. She was 92. Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs was born in Leipzig, Germany and managed to escape the Nazis with the help of her brother in 1939 to resettle in America. Many of her family members could not fathom the evil of the Shoah and stayed behind, including her mother who died in Auschwitz. Helen resettled in Worcester, Massachusetts and along with her husband Julius, had two wonderful daughters and three incredible grandchildren – one of whom was your Aba. You would be her sixth great grandchild Idan. Her lineage was meant to perish in the holocaust and yet here we are, celebrating your new branch on a family tree that only continues to flourish.

The name Hillel also honors the great rabbinic sage who is known for having said,
Im ein ani li mi li. If I am not for myself, who will be for me.
Uch sh’ani l’atmzi ma ani. If I am only for myself who am I.
V’im lo achshav, ematai. And if not now, when.

He is also known for his ethic of reciprocity, or "Golden Rule":
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

You’ve come into a world with many challenges and you belong to a people, both Jewish and Israeli, that has faced and continues to face some of the greatest manifestations of hatred the world has known. And yet we are hopeful that you and your generation will be the ones to usher in peace, acceptance, compromise and love. That yours will be the “Idan Hillel” – the era of mutual respect. That is our greatest wish for you, for our family and friends and for the whole world. So you have a lot of work ahead little guy.

One last bit. Idan, you are our third and, it’s safe to say, our last child. Like you, I am also a third child. It’s not always easy Idan. The older two will be in cahoots a lot of the time and you’ll have to make up your own games and use your imagination a lot. You’ll make up for it with very close friends though and when you’re older the age gap between you and your siblings will fade and you’ll forget about how your big brother and sister teased you. Well you won’t forget, but you’ll forgive. Mostly.

And so today we welcome you into a family and a community that already loves you very very much. And we wish you a long and wonderful life shared with the ones you love.