Wednesday, November 27, 2013


For heat and electricity, for POWER and warmth.

For partners, for service, and for rest.

For solid structures and strong foundations.

For nature, for nurture, and for hope.

For vocations and vacations.

For relief and aid.

For Iron Domes, the power of choice, and for the
     promise of a new tomorrow.

Modim anahnu Lach --We thank you, God, for these

Monday, November 25, 2013

From survival to success to significance

Imagine sitting in a room with several hundred of your "closest friends."
Imagine listening to your preacher deliver one of the most important sermons of the year.
Imagine he begins a sentence with "I look in the mirror and I wonder, 'Am I living a life of significance?'"
And then imagine what comes next.
Just imagine.

Imagine he looks out across a sea of faces and catches your eye for just a second.
"I look in the mirror and I wonder, 'Am I living a life of significance?' Then I think of (insert your name here)..."

I can't tell you exactly what came next. Because I think I stopped breathing. And I definitely stopped blinking. And, for the first time in almost a decade, I finally felt like I wasn't crazy. When Rabbi Avi Weiss said "...Then I think of Ann Lapin,..." I felt like he "got it."

As flattered as I am that Rabbi Weiss spoke about the work that we do with our babies during his "Shabbat Shuvah Discourse" (And, oh.em.gee, I AM.) I was more overcome with a feeling of belonging, with a feeling of, "Yes, YES! THAT'S why I do it! That's why we do what we do! To make a difference. To BE SIGNIFICANT."

Over the next few weeks, Rabbi Weiss traveled to different institutions, delivering similar talks. His speech to S.A.R. was recorded and posted to YouTube. I've had my hands on it for a little while and am only sharing it here now in part because I am, of course, reticent to toot my own horn but also because up until now, I had been focusing on the part where he mentions me. But that's not what's important. What's valuable is that we are part of a community where action is valued. We are part of a community where we care for the other. We are part of a community where significance is taught. And modeled.

I guess I knew that all along. But it took holding onto this video for me to realize that.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Make something up!"

We had no idea how our lives would change.  We had no way of knowing how the relationship would form or how, eight years later, we would feel like the rug had been yanked out from under us.

On March 11, 2005, James had a surgery that would change our lives. Everything was OK, thank goodness:  he had no adverse reaction to anesthesia; he was discharged from the hospital in good time. It was nothing medical that changed us, per se. It was the connection we formed with the family on the other end of his surgery.  On March 11, 2005, James donated his kidney. To a perfect stranger. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. We met. Approximately 45 minutes before surgery. But over the years, we became more like family than like friends. Whatever the “aunt” version of “in loco parentis” was, that was what Shani was to me.
“Ann…I heard you hurt yourself?”
“Um, yeah…I lost my temper and put my hand through a glass window…?”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…just make something up.”
“Make something up! I got so tired of people asking me how I twisted my ankle, once, I started telling people I did it bungee jumping! They’re going to talk, anyway…”

In June of this year, my phone rang. Both of them, actually. I finally checked caller ID and saw that it was a local friend—someone with whom I hadn’t chatted in a while.
“Hi, Ann…I hate to be the bearer of bad news…unless, did someone already reach James?”
                “Shira, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
                “Shani died this morning.”
The string of expletives that left my mouth were certainly more than Shira had bargained for. I called James. I texted him. Finally, in desperation, I called his boss and sobbed that she had to find him for me so I could pick him up and take him to a funeral.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I said when I finally reached him.
“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now.”
“Nothing, actually. I don’t feel anything.”

In the eight plus years since James’ surgery, nothing changed. Nothing. Not the procedure, not the recovery, nothing. Except *we* had changed. Our children have parents with THREE kidneys between them. Not four. Forget that. We have CHILDREN.
I had thought about everything before James’ surgery. I assure you I had. All of your ignorant, unsupportive questions (Sorry. I’m still a little bitter.) I had already considered. I grilled the surgeon, I interrogated the nurses. I stalked the nephrologist. And when people asked, “But what if Gavriella needs a kidney?” I confidently answered, “James isn’t her blood type anyway. I am.”
I am.
Yet somehow, I forgot.
Shortly before Shani’s death, she shared with us that she was ill and the search had begun for another kidney. Not one to replace James’, as she said, but one to “help” it. What she didn’t know—what YOU don’t know—is that I had taken the preliminary steps to begin testing for a donor nephrectomy. In plain English, I wanted to donate my kidney, too.
But despite the more than positive experience we had with James’ surgery, with Shani, indeed with her whole family, the fact remains that I am mother to three children. And until they can step forward and donate to each other, I plan to hang on to both of my kidneys.
I’m not sure it’s the right choice, but it is the choice I’ve made.
For now.
For more information on kidney donation, please visit
May Shani’s memory forever be a blessing.