Monday, August 8, 2011

Farewell to an Efrat Icon

Tonight Efrat said good-bye to a very beloved grandmother – the Bubby of one of Efrat’s first families – THE GOODMANS (Mordechai, Ann and children).
Everyone in Efrat who knew Evelyn Nissen called her Bubby, because everyone who knew her was so filled with her sense of caring and friendship, they felt close to her immediately. She radiated a “love of life”, as Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Riskin wrote in his eulogy. People were astounded at the “wisdom and the spirit she emitted”, her grandson Shimon said. All true.
Evelyn Nissen was born 91 years ago on the Lower East Side. She was “a real Yankee”, Rav Riskin said. Even her mother had been born in America.
She graduated from Hunter College and taught public school for 40 years. She must have been some teacher, because even as a senior citizen (who spoke at every Goodman family simcha that I had the privilege to attend) Bubby Evelyn Nissen was able to control the crowd and keep them spell-bound as she spoke.
Her grandson David said that “she cherished four values - family, faith, tzedakah and education.” These were passed down to her children and grandchildren.
Rav Riskin said that unlike her generation in the America of the early part of the 20th century, she was “steadfast in her love of Torah.” In fact, she and her late husband, o’h, made sure their children had a yeshiva education.
Evelyn Nissen was also an example of honoring ones parents, and she taught her offspring the need to care for and respect older relatives. She grew up in a home with her grandparents. She cared for her mother until she passed away, and then even cared for her step-father. Her mother-in-law lived with the family for 25 years, and somehow the two women actually did get along in the kitchen.
Neal Nissen recalled that while his mother taught in public school, she always had a good word for her students. “Your hair looks nice.” “That dress is just right for you.” He said her positive attitude rubbed off on the students, and her children as well. Neal noted that Bubby Evelyn had a special relationship with every grandchild. “She knew what each one liked to do.” And her grandchildren treated her with a unique respect.
Bubby Evelyn’s daughter Karen commented that her mother was an “unbelievable role model of tzedaka, her sense of community. Everyone who knew her loved her.”
At 91 years old, she was still attending shiurim in her community in Florida. In fact, her rabbi Rabbi Sam Kiefer was present at the funeral. He said, “She was a student with enthusiasm and love of learning, a remarkable woman.” She finished his thoughts. She answered the questions of other students and she kept him on his toes with her knowledge and insight. In fact, her daughter Ann Goodman said that Bubby Evelyn had strong opinions and wasn’t shy to express them.
Shimon Goodman explained that his grandmother used to remind him with every conversation to watch after his jewels – his children.
One of Evelyn’s grandsons said, “We will never forget her. Bubby had a hand in making us the people we are today, so she will always be a part of us.”
Ann, who lives in Efrat, said that it was difficult for her mother to ask for help, even though she was often stuck in her wheel chair. “She’d much rather be on the giving, then the receiving end,” Ann said.
And despite the fact that she didn’t have good balance, and found it very difficult to get around, “she always wanted to get up and go!”
Ann said that many people called her a good daughter, but she noted, “I had a generous and loving mother. She was a good mother and that made it easy to be a good daughter.”
Bubby Evelyn Nissen was hit very hard with two major tragedies in her later life – when her loving husband came down with Parkinson’s Disease; and when her grandson Yosef Goodman was killed in an Army training accident. But through all these difficult times, it was Bubby Evelyn who tried to keep everyone optimistic. And she herself never complained about the deck Hashem had dealt her.
Ann Goodman mentioned that her mother used to love to quote Yiddish phrases. One was, “Man plans and G-d laughs.” Bubby Evelyn had planned to come back to Israel for Rosh Hashana, and was about to make her plane reservations.” Unfortunately that trip was not to be.
Rabbi Sam Keifer ended, “This work is now complete. She deserves the rest she now has.
We have the privilege to share her life through the stories we will share."


  1. Great piece, Sharon.

    After the hesped, Dov asked if I wanted to go to the cemetery, I reminded him that Evelyn and her late husband Walter (A"H) had come all the way to Metzad for my son Natan's bris 20 years ago, so the least we could do was go to the cemetery for her levaya.

    I tutored Evelyn in computer use some years ago. I was showing her copy and paste, and how to play Spider Solitaire when all of a sudden she stopped me cold and said firmly, "I'm not interested in any of this. What I want to do is learn to shop online. I want to find out how I can purchase the book, The Kosher Palette."

    She was a woman who knew her own mind.
    RIP, Effie.

  2. To Karen, Neal, Ann and their families
    On behalf of my mother Eleanor,one of your mom's oldest friends, we want to express our sincere condolence on your mother's passing. May your wonderful memories bring you comfort.
    Robert Selevan