Photo: Madelaine Werier was cheered on by her mother and stepmother, shown together, when she took part in a marathon.
As part of a special Mother's Day feature, the Ottawa Jewish E-Bulletin asked community members to share stories about the advice, wisdom, and lessons imparted by their mothers.
Here are their heart-warming stories:
“There is an indescribable sense of warmth, unconditional support, and comfort, almost like a pleasant ache of profound love, when I hear the word ‘mother.’ I was lucky enough to have both a mom and a stepmom from a young age and oh boy, do I love them so. Although each unique, they both instilled a strong sense of empathy by demonstrating their care and concern for others. In our complex family dynamic, they shared the common goal of doing things in my very best interests. My Stepmom always signs her name with ‘WLS’ which stands for world’s luckiest stepmother. My Mom can somehow hug me through the phone just by saying my name. In the small traditions from each of them comes a little wave of emotion and sense of grounding - planting pansies in the spring, making fish chowder or Macedonian zelnik, playing Joni Mitchel in the car, greeting animals passing by, and trying to tap into the grace and kindness that comes so effortlessly to both of them.
- Madelaine Werier with love to her moms, Nancy and Heather
“In her latter years, my mother would attend any event where I was speaking, but in a condition of obvious stress when I would pick her up to go to the event. She would counsel me to be brief, repeatedly so, and I would quietly simmer in the car since my remarks, whether brief or not, were already prepared.
In 2016, the Soloway, Wright firm held a rather grand affair at the Museum of History to celebrate its 70th anniversary. I was the keynote speaker and the drive from my mother’s retirement home to the location was a rather gloomy event for my wife and me as my mother, predictably, admonished me to be brief. And to speak clearly.
The affair proceeded and I felt rather good about my speech and how it seemed to be received, but of course, I had to check that out with my mother. She seemed to find nothing to complain about, which I took to be a great victory. I think her praise ascended to the level of ‘not bad.’
Later that evening, I asked Lenny Shore and Jane if they would drive her home as I felt that I should be the last to leave. They tried to persuade her to go at around 9 pm, but my then 99-year-old mother waved her hand and told them to go mingle.
She was a character throughout, and I miss her greatly.”
- Lawrence Soloway with love to his mother Ruth
Photo: Ruth Soloway z”l was renowned for her strength of character. She lived to the age of 104.
“Growing up, there was no ‘quotable quote’ that stood out, no signature dish to be passed on from generation to generation handed down by our mother. While our lives were enriched with loving and supportive parents, our mother taught us precious lessons learned over time. Living in a world where ‘standards and rules’ are carved out in our micro and macro communities, our mother frequently ‘broke moulds,’ pushed boundaries and carved out space to be heard, respected and opportunities to participate and engage in her community. Not one to be afraid to stand out, our mother taught us to take chances, don't always wait for things to fall in our lap. Dream big, know your worth and stand up for yourself and what is right, and most importantly, find space for ourselves just to BE. Honour our strengths, acknowledge where we can do better, and know as women we can do anything, be anything and go on whatever ‘Derech’ (road) we like. We don't fall off the ‘Derech’; we pave our own."
- Elisheva Brantz, Ranit Braun and Naomi Levin with love to their mother, Sheli Braun
Photo: Sheli Braun taught her daughters to know that as women they can do and be anything they want to be.
"My mother exuded joy and childlike enthusiasm for life. Happy and eternally optimistic, her joyful demeanour was contagious. She made everything – from chores to celebrations – more fun because of the pleasure she expressed and recognized in even the simplest things. It sounds corny to say but she saw miracles in every sunset, wonder in every flower in a way that could make the most jaded, stop and see life with fresh eyes. Add to that, she had a wicked, clever sense of humour that could point out all the daily absurdities and make you laugh when you most needed it. I think her biggest gift to my brothers and me was to fill us with her optimism and to ensure that our inner voices resonated with that positivity: “You are good, and kind, and clever…” When I was little, she’d singsong that phrase to me. I still hear it in my head, and I repeat it to my children. For my mother, being kind was basic to life. You could be rich, brilliant, and beautiful, but without kindness none of that meant anything. "
- Pauline Colwin with love to her mother, Margaret
Photo: Margaret Colwin z”l, shown with her grandson Joel, exuded joy and lovingly taught her children kindness.
“My mother, Elsa Wall z”l, was never big on advice. She did, however, offer this: ‘Having leftovers is like having money in the bank.’ In other words, make enough for another meal. Because really, who wants to cook every day? Instead, she gave advice by doing good. She lived a life that was kind and just, one that emphasized love and unstinting support for family and friends. Her superpower was that she was a savant on the piano even though she couldn’t read a note of music. But she could play anything that she could hum, and play it beautifully. She had a regular volunteer gig playing Yiddish songs for Winnipeg’s Golden Age Club and other music events at our shul and in the community. That was the way she taught me tikkun olam. You can draw a straight line from her work at the Golden Age Club 60 years ago to the MC work that I do in the community now, especially for Jewish organizations. Thanks for the advice, Mom. I still appreciate leftovers. But you taught me so much more than that. Miss you always. Happy Mother’s Day."
- Laurence Wall, with love to his mother Elsa
Photo: Laurence Wall, shown with his mother in 1967 on the evening of his bar mitzvah, thanks her for emulating tikkun olam.
"I have learned so many important lessons from my mother who I describe as very modest, generous of heart, and firm in her beliefs and convictions. While there many 'gems' that I learned from her such as one of her favourite sayings to help through harder times, 'this too shall pass,' it is more about how she lives her life that has been most impactful and continues to inspire me. Her devotion to her family and friends, her endless giving of her time and energy to the community by volunteering in so many ways, and her quiet strength of character are among the things that I have learned and that I try to emulate. I wish for mother, as she would say in Yiddish, 'biz hundert un zvanzik' - may she live to a hundred and twenty!"
--Steven Morgan with love to his mother Flo
Photo: Flo Morgan, shown with her husband Joel, inspires her family by her devotion to family, friends, and community.
"On Mother’s Day, I always take the time to honour my mother and express my love,
appreciation and gratitude for the positive impact she has had on my life.
I have inherited a tradition of hers, which is baking honey cakes for family and friends for Rosh
Hashanah. Every year my list gets longer, and once someone is on the list, tradition is, they are
there for good! This tradition I share with my mom is symbolic of so many of our mutual and
cherished values - an act of kindness - bringing comfort, love, care, and sweetness to others.
And while my mom is certainly the main focus of the day for me, I also find myself thinking about
the many other special women in my life - my grandmothers, aunts, cousins, extended family,
friends, colleagues - who have inspired me and have helped shape me into the person I am
today. The phrase “it takes a village...” is so true, and I feel incredibly blessed by the presence
of all the beautiful and strong women who have influenced, and continue to influence me in my
--Karen Palayew with love to her mother Eunice, and all the many special women in her life
Photo: Karen Palayew, shown with her mother Eunice, credits her mother for teaching her the value of kindness and bringing care to others.