Marking Special Birthdays

Special guest post. We welcome back, Daveed Shachar. As usual, opinions expressed by guest bloggers are not necessarily that of the management of AACI.

On Sunday I turned 63, and got to thinking about why 63 is such an important birthday.

The birthdays marking many of the major transitions in our lives occur regularly, once every 21 years. These dates are rare, as the first digit is exactly double the second digit. If we extend this to include numbers in which the final digit is equal to half of all preceding digits, we have the following ages:


At the age of 21, we finally exit full stupidity and begin to reach understanding. As Mark Twain wrote, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” We’re old enough to start having children and impart what we know to the next generation.

At the age of 42, we enter maturity. Since it takes around 25 years to train a person to be a fully functioning member of 21st Century society, a 42-year old has had 17 years to move up the ranks and become both knowledgeable and experienced enough to be a useful and contributing member of society. Many of us are becoming grandparents, watching on horrified as the 21-year olds demonstrate how little they know about child-bearing, and, by example, how little we knew when we were in our early 20’s.

At the age of 63 we enter middle age. (editor’s note – I really want to agree with this) Most people, although at the peak of their professions, are being replaced by young whippersnappers. Almost all men and most women are past child-bearing age. The ones who aren’t becoming grandparents are becoming great-grandparents.

At the age of 84 we enter old age. We’re watching yet another generation get born, terms like great- and great-great becoming both satisfying and scary.

The ones who enter the world of triple-digit age become irrelevant. When they turn 100 they get a check from the president of Ireland, or a birthday card from the Queen, or sometimes a letter from the American president, and then when they make it to 105 get their pictures in the paper and sometimes even make it into the Guiness Book of Records. At family gatherings, they are either applauded for living so long, something they usually had very little to do with, or ignored completely as too old to be either useful or even interesting. And this at precisely the age when many of them have accumulated vast stores of knowledge and interesting stories about life going back so far that sometimes the century has changed twice within their lifetimes.

Personally, I’m happy to take all the joy of watching my grandchildren grow, while leaving the lion’s share of responsibility to the parents. We hope that they get much joy from their children, while secretly hoping their children annoy them at times as much as they did us, when they were tykes.

In gematria, the Jewish system of assigning numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, 63 is equal to 27, khaf and zayin, which turned around spell zach, which means pure, plus 36, which is the number of people keeping the world from coming to and end, also known as the lamed vav, or lamed vavniks.

“This widely-held belief, this most unusual Jewish concept is based on a Talmudic statement to the effect that in every generation 36 righteous “greet the Shechinah,” the Divine Presence (Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b). ”
–Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin, THE 36 – WHO ARE THEY?, Rabbi Zwerin’s Kol Nidre Sermon, Temple Sinai, Denver, Sept 15, 2002/5763

Therefore, a person who turns 63 is imbibed with the combined qualities of righteousness and purity. May the Almighty give us the wherewithal to maintain them for as long as possible.

Daveed Shachar
April 3, 2013



The very special (80th!) birthday of a very special person, Bryna Franklin, was celebrated at AACI on January 11, 2012.

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A Master’s level college graduate from back in the 50s – when it wasn’t so common for a woman even to go to college – she became the lady of a manor and continued to demonstrate her creative flair in politics. However, much of her wisdom also comes from the School of Hard Knocks. What she likes to do more than anything else is to reach out and touch others.

Bryna chose AACI as the venue for her celebration because of her many friends in the AACI community: her fellow seniors and bridge club buddies.

One hundred and fifteen guests attended the party. Many more had to be turned away.

Bryna was toasted by Rabbi Moe from Ascent in Safed and Rebbetzin Gila Rosen, on behalf of herself and her husband, the late Rabbi Mickey Rosen z’l, Rosh Hayeshiva of Yakar inJerusalem.

Sara Peters led all the guests in singing “You Are My Sunshine” to Bryna and then read her a wonderful poem about turning 80, reminding us that Sara herself was 80 once, 14 years ago.

Entertainment was provided by a husband-wife dance team, Jill and Amnon Damti, whose outstanding credentials including performing at the White House. They involved the audience, who loved it. Amnon’s work as a dancer choreographer is all the more remarkable because he has been deaf since birth.

A notable attendee was Rabbi Robert Weiner, author of 9 1/2 Mystics: the Kabbala Today and a personal friend of Bryna’s.

Bryna asked that donations be made to the Anne Scully Williams Scholarship Fund, which she has just established through ESRA (English-Speaking Residents’ Association) in memory of a dear friend.

As a highlight of the event, Bryna’s close friend, Yehudit Chava, read her updated and personalized version of “Aishes Chayil,” the description of a valorous woman traditionally sung on Friday night.

Aishes Chayil – Bryna

January 11, 2012

A woman of valor who can find?

Her price is far above rubies; she shares her wealth like fairy dust.

Hashem’s heart trusts in her; she starts every day with her morning prayers.

She works willingly with her hands; she blesses those with hand massages!

She visits the sick and walks the elderly home. Her community calls her happy.

She is like the merchant-ships; she brings food when it’s needed; either from her own kitchen or by spending her last agarot. She has traveled the world and delights in sharing with other cultures.

She stretches out her hand out to the poor, and puts forth her hand out to the needy (that’s all of us folks, you and me). She truly believes that through tzedaka and mitzvot everyone gets a little tug on the heart and then that tug continues to get passed down to the next generations. She even established a Scholarship Fund for young adults through ESRA, in memory of her dearest friend and inspiration, Anne Scully Williams.

Her lamp does not go out by night; she contemplates the next 10 things she can do for others, and also remembers those who will never know of her kindness.

She took her place in theHoly Landby making aliyah some 30 years ago. She shuns no responsibility; she is still paying off her college loan!

She plants vineyards everywhere she goes, and then speaks to the plants so they grow well and don’t get lonely.

She girds her loins with strength and makes strong her arms at the gym, pool or tai chi class. Her diet is healthy. She walks all over town after a hip replacement, still always balancing packages and bags with no hand left to use her cane.

She is fearless, not afraid of hard times for her household, for all of her household are clothed with scarlet. Strength and majesty are her clothing. She hosts many gatherings, always with elegance, style, and perfect social grace. This includes sending out the old fashioned “bread and butter invitations and thank you notes” — she hand makes her own cards, each stuffed with personalized love. Then she addresses them all by hand to people all over the world, especially on their birthdays. Want to be added to her mailing list?!

She also has kept up with modern technology. She emails from her laptop, SMS’s messages from her cell phone, attends many classes and events, AND she still plays bridge like a wiz.

Favor is false and beauty is vain but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised. She does only good and not evil all the days of her life.

She doesn’t fear the time to come and opens her mouth with wisdom and the law of loving-kindness is on her tongue. No lashon hara there!

She does not eat the bread of idleness … at any given time, even while standing in line or on a bus, you will see her meditating, and nurturing her energy, while maybe squeezing a ball or standing on one leg to reinforce her strength and stability for one more day.

She is true to her word. She cherishes life and shows deep affection to her friends. She shows a high level of respect to all. She qualifies her words with “I don’t mean to be unkind.” She thanks taxi drivers for their kindness and tells waiters that they made her day.

She walks the talk. She is the friend who comes in when all others have gone out. Hashem rewards her. Her sweet partner, of blessed memory, Elchanon, was known at the gate when he sat among the elders of the land. He praised her, saying: Many women have done worthily but thou excellest them all.

May this modern-day aishes chayil continue to be an inspiration to all of us until 120 plus!

Celebrating Sarah – Truly Young at Heart!

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.
– Winston Churchill

It is well known that AACI’s success is due to the many dedicated volunteers who have been willing to share their time and talents over the years to advance the organization. I had the pleasure of meeting one special volunteer, Sarah Peters, who has chosen to commemorate her 92nd birthday by becoming a member of AACI’s Eleph Alaphim. *

Sarah, the youngest of six children, was born and raised in Wales. Although her husband, Harry (z”l) was from London, they chose to live in Cardiff. In addition to raising a son and daughter and running the household, Sarah worked in the wholesale clothing business.

On a visit to Israel in 1968, Sarah and Harry became members of AACI which helped them in their decision to move to Israel. After making aliyah in 1975 with their children and settling in Jerusalem, they became actively involved in many organizations as volunteers. Both taught English with the B’nai Brith organization. Sarah was also involved in Emunah activities.

Sarah’s relationship to AACI strengthened when she began attending the Wednesday morning Senior Programs at AACI with her brother. (In order to attend, she had to promise him that she would be quiet and not ask any questions!)  It didn’t take long for her to become Program Chair for the seniors. For nine years she organized the weekly programs which included preparing the roster of presenters. Sarah recalls her days phoning recommended lecturers to invite them to participate in the programs. With no budget, she had to work her charm to convince people to lecture for free. The programs were (and continue to be) a success and very popular with many senior AACI members.

When questioned why a Welsh woman would join AACI, she points to the wonderful friends that she has made here throughout the years. In her words, “The Americans and Canadians were the only people I met when I was in ulpan.”

Sarah found many avenues to contribute her talents to AACI. She formed the first AACI Entertainment Committee which included creating a choir. She admits that the reason she organized the choir was because she loves to sing and has the unique ability to remember all the words to songs.

Sarah also enjoyed writing funny poetry and wrote her own words to songs which she also performed. The choir was asked to perform at many AACI functions over the years. One year, Sarah came up with the idea to write a play for the AACI Thanksgiving Dinner. Picture this: A proper Welsh woman, now a citizen of Israel, tying a piece of ribbon around her head with a feather in order to portray an American Indian in the play!

Sarah was also an active member of the AACI advocacy group that worked to ban smoking on buses (remember those days?). She was very involved in the national campaign and is proud of the results.

Touring the country on AACI Study Vacations was also one of Sarah’s favorite activities. Sarah raved about the excellent guides on the trip and said she enjoyed seeing Israel “with very intelligent eyes”.

For many years Sarah painted in acrylics and later began to sculpt after someone offered her a few free lessons in sculpture. After the first two lessons, she was totally captivated. Her home is filled with her beautiful terracotta sculptures, mostly of people. She takes great pride in her work.

Sarah continues to enjoy the Wednesday morning series for seniors and is enthusiastic about the stimulating programs that are offered. She also participates in the AACI bridge group. It’s clear she’s still sharp in her organizational skills and hasn’t lost her initiative. When the elevator was out of service one recent Wednesday, she knew she wouldn’t be able to climb four flights of stairs to meet her friends for an afternoon of bridge. That didn’t stop Sarah! She picked up the phone and organized a taxi to pick up her bridge partners and bring them to her home to play.

Two years ago when she turned 90, AACI made a party in Sarah’s honor, complete with a cake decorated with a Welsh flag. Sarah recently celebrated her 92nd birthday with family and AACI friends when her Eleph Alaphim plaque was uncovered on the donor board in the lobby of the AACI Glassman Family Center.

When asked why she chose to donate to Eleph Alaphim, Sarah responds, “I know everybody up there listed on the board at AACI. Why shouldn’t I be there too?” She notes that there is still plenty of room left on the board for additional names and she hopes that her action will encourage others to follow her lead.

She also said that she would like to serve as a personal example to her children. While she is confident that her children understand the importance of giving to charity, she wanted to teach them that it’s not only about giving to people in need. She told me that she feels that when there is something that you are involved in…an organization that you love… it is so very important to support it.

some of Sarah's family that joined in the celebration

It is evident that Sarah has given herself, both in her effort of time and money to contribute to AACI and we are so grateful to have her as a dear friend and life member.

As you said in serenade, Sarah… (click to view video clip)

Don’t you know,

that it’s worth,

every treasure on Earth,

to be young at heart.

For as rich,

as you are,

it’s much better by far,

to be young at heart.

Mazal tov, Sarah! We wish you many more years of good health, joy and nachat. May you continue to be a source of inspiration to your family, your friends and your AACI community and always remain young at heart.

*Eleph Alaphim donors pledge $1.00 per day for three years, equivalent to about 1250 NIS per year for three years. The donation can be made in payments. If you are interested in more information about becoming a donor, please speak to Bryna Lee Jacobson in AACI’s Development department.

Tel:  02-5661181 ext. 324 email: