her Life

In her own words, 2018

When I moved from Montclair, NJ to Los Angeles in 1997, my life took a major swerve. Ready to leave my (over) work and big old house, I had agreed to become a trailing wife in a new city. My son Michael already lived in San Francisco. Adam was destined to show up in LA. We became a West Coast family, just like that!

I adjusted to LA within 5 minutes, although I got lost driving for about a year, until a friend told me to remember that the ocean was on the wrong side. These tidbits make life livable. Once I got here, of course I got a job in Massachusetts. Every summer for 14 years I spent a month teaching at Smith School of Social Work and then spent a month in the Berkshires. I had a job in LA at a mental health center that gave me summers off, so I became bicoastal.

But all the fun died when my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was treated (tortured) for four years and died in 2008. He did live long enough to dance at Michael’s wedding and meet his grandson, James. I must say that being widowed is an unbelievable blow. I felt that part of my self was gone and I was very out of balance for about two years. But I woke up one morning and realized I’d not only be okay, but was free to live my life however I pleased. And I have!

I’ve traveled to faraway places. I found a whole new community by joining a temple. I am living the single life that was so short in my youth. I do only work that interests and stimulates me. I belong to three book groups and a Torah study group.

My younger son got married and had two daughters. I still pinch myself that I have three grandchildren, but my heart hurst when I think that they will never know their grandfather Arthur.

Then, the unexpected happened: a romance! A man phoned me, took me out, pursued me. Very old fashioned. As charmed by him as I was, I was afraid to give up a life that revolved mourned me me me. But I’m adjusting. He’s a keeper who’s brought love and romance into my life. I’m looking forward to more of life’s surprises.

Rabbi Michelle's Eulogy

Charlotte Speigelman was born on September 6, 1941 in Cambridge, MA to Dora and Ben Alter.Dora was a local from Cambridge, and her father Ben was from Russia.

She lived in Mattapan with her parents, grandmother and 2 aunts and later moved to Dorchester, MA at the age of 4.

When Charlotte was 5, her brother Malcolm was born and she became an older sister.

In grade school she first attended the William Bradford School and then the Roger Walcott School, while also going to the Walcott Dorchester-Mattapan Hebrew School 5 days a week, Sunday to Thursday!

During the summer you would find Charlotte at Camp Tevya – a Jewish camp in Brookline, New Hampshire.

For Junior High School, Charlotte attended the Solomon Lewenberg Junior High School, in Mattapan and in 1955 she was proud of the fact that she was the first Bat Mitzvah at her synagogue - Temple Beth Hillel in Dorchester.

During High School she excelled at the Girls Latin School in Dorchester and continued her Jewish learning at Hebrew Teachers College, an afterschool program for High School students interested in furthering their Jewish education.

Upon graduating High School in 1959, she earned a seat at her beloved Barnard College in New York City. (I can still hear her saying the words “Barnard” with her Boston accent.She was so proud of being a Barnard alumna – class of 1963 – Majoring in Art History.)

After graduation, while working in New York, she attended a party of a friend and met her beloved husband Arthur.Arthur lived in lower Manhattan at the time and worked as a journalist for a small paper in New Jersey. By 1966 Charlotte and Arthur were married.

Soon afterwards Arthur was offered a job with Reuters in London and they picked up and moved across the sea. Michael was born in 1968 and Adam was born three years later.

They spent 6 years on London, and eventually their expanded family of four, moved back to the States: first to Aunt Judy’s home, then to Fairlawn, NJ and finally to a house in Monte Clair, NJ.

As a mother of young children, Charlotte never ceased working and giving of her time.She earned her master’s degree in social work at New York University in 1976 and worked as a social worker at a few mental health centers. Soon she decided to go out on her own to build up her private practice out of the refurbished basement of their Monte Claire home – often working 8-10 hours a day.She took seriously the importance of the family dynamics of her clients’ situations and often insisted on working with the children and their parents.

And that’s not all – Charlotte never stopped: she earned an advanced degree in Family Therapy at the Philadelphia Family Studies school; worked for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) helping agents who used fire arms and needed someone to talk with, and taught social work to college students at Smith College’s summer school for 10 years.

Though Arthur was often offered promotions around the world with Reuters, she never wanted to uproot the family – but in 1998, once Michael and Adam were out of the house, she agreed to move across country to Los Angeles for a Reuters’ promotion for Arthur.

Once in LA she worked to get her Social Work license re-certified in this state.Besides building up a new private practice, she also mentored other therapists through the Southern California Counseling Center, supported therapists who were working to help immigrants in detention centers at the Mexican Border, continued to work for the DEA, and was a lead counselor after the fatal shooting at the North Valley JCC in 1999.

Speaking personally now – I remember connecting with Charlotte for the first time after she lost her husband in 2008.She was trying to rebuild her life and wanted to connect to our community, get involved, meet people. She quickly dove right in.

She became an active participant in TIOH’s Shabbat Morning weekly Torah study group – and was one of our excellent lay- facilitators & teachers.In speaking to David Aaronson he relayed so many memories the Torah Study members have of Charlotte: how she taught Torah from angles no one else ever thought of and force people to look at Torah in new ways.She often came in prepared with charts and lists of topics she wouldn’t be speaking about – before she shared what she WOULD speak about.She grasped life by the horns and was often found having lunch or coffee with individuals from the Torah Study group – making each person feel that she was 100% focused on just them.

Charlotte also helped me form Sages of the Present – our 65+ group of TIOH members who gather to study, socialize and enjoy the arts around LA – and sat on our synagogue’s Board of Directors.I remember one Sages event when I asked Charlotte to be one of our speakers and she shared how important it was for her to have friends from different generations – and how she once saved up all her energy to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert with a younger friend and dance and dance the night away – only to collapse at home for 2 days afterward, recovering – but it was worth it.That’s when I said to myself “I want to grow up one day and be like Charlotte”.

She attended every Women’s Retreat we had – speaking on panels, sharing her wisdom and passion for women’s rights and human rights, and again, dancing the night away at our Saturday night parties with people way less than ½ her age.

These past 3 weeks have been emotionally devastating for her family and all of us who cared so much for Charlotte.

She was conscious of her situation – up until the last day of her life.

She knew that she didn’t want her body to be kept alive if she couldn’t be a vibrant participant in our world.

She was very clear about that – with me, Michael, Adam and Melissa.

About a week ago I told her that I loved her.

That I hoped she could pull through this, and breathe gently, but that if she couldn’t, we would all understand and that she could let go.

I told her how much she had taught me – and she raised her eyebrows incredulously.So I shared with her what she taught me and how I admired her blunt way of speaking, her deep compassion, and her fierce love of life.

I asked her if she had any unfinished conversations and without missing a beat she mouthed “Many.” I laughed and she chuckled. I said “I guess that’s life, right? And she nodded.

On Monday afternoon, before she died, I helped her with her deathbed Viddui prayer. I reminded her of how much her children – Michael and Adam, their spouses Karen & Melissa, and her grandchildren James, Rose and Alice loved her.

& how she made a great impact on our world.

The week she died – the Torah portion was Haazeenu.

In it, Moses begins to finish his last speech to the Israelite people before he dies.

Moses compares God to“… an eagle who rouses her nestlings, gliding down to her young” and then carries her young on her “wings” (Deut 32:11).

Rashi (the 11th century commentator) teaches that just like an eagle - God doesn’t press heavily upon people, but hovers above us — touching us and yet not touching us (Rashi on Deut. 32:11).

I thought of Charlotte.

She was like an eagle - strong.

She carried so many of us on her wings.

She touched so many – with her “say-it-like-it is” way of speaking, yet we never felt pushed or pressed upon.

Like the eagle she rode the wind’s current -

holding & touching us.

Zichronah Livracha – may her memory be for a blessing, and may she continue to soar through the heavens in peace.

Malcolm Writes About Charlotte's Early Years

I come to this gathering with a heavy and shattered heart. My dear sister Charlotte meant so much to me...from my earliest memory as a child until her passing this past Friday evening. I

couldn’t have asked for a better sister than Charlotte. She was more to me than just a sibling. She was my mentor...someone I always looked up to and learned from. At times, she was like a mother to me. You could almost say she raised 3 boys. I’d say her personality was formed as a small child when she and my parents lived in a third floor apartment at 52 Hosmer Street in Mattapan with our maternal grandmother, Bubbe Kaplan, and 2 aunts....Ruth and Mollie...Ugi and Yaya. Bubbe had an ironclad will, being widowed at an early age raising 3 very young daughters. She found the strength and confidence to survive and flourish in a world where there was much anti-semitism and women were not treated as equals. She ran her own store. Then she went door to door selling silverware....whatever it took to put food on the table. I’d say that a lot of my grandmother rubbed off on Charlotte at an early age. She developed thick skin and wouldn’t let anyone take advantage of her. Before I was born, my parents had found their own apartment at 8 Jacob Street in Dorchester...on a second floor of a three decker with front and back porches... very popular type of dwelling in Boston, ...especially in Dorchester and Mattapan. Small, but it was home. Someone recently referred to all of us who lived in those houses as the aristocracy of the triple decker. The apartment was much smaller than my grandmother’ bedroom, so the dining room was used as a bedroom. Charlotte and I shared a bedroom where we spent much time playing cards and board games ...we played school, charades, and one day, we got to talking about death. She decided to demonstrate to me what dying was about and lay on her bed not moving and completely silent and for an extended period of time. I kept calling out to her and eventually she got up and explained that that was what it was like when someone died. Here we are, some 70 years later.

She taught me the basics on how to play the piano before I started taking lessons. I’m still learning on that same instrument. She taught me some Hebrew before I started Hebrew School. She generously shared these gifts with me. Charlotte had a curious mind and always was seeking the unvarnished truth. You couldn’t put anything over on her. At an early age, she had a sense of what was real and what wasn’t. She was skeptical and it rubbed off on me by example. I was not the most diligent student and one morning at breakfast she noticed me reading a book and inquired. She figured right away that I had a book report due that day and was just getting around to reading it. She was the opposite. She was very diligent in her studies, doing homework while riding from Girls Latin to Hebrew High School on the subway.

One of my favorite stories ...Charlotte was class valedictorian at Hebrew School. During graduation rehearsal the principal, Sidney Mendelsohn, this strict authoritarian dictatorial disciplinarian, wanted all the girls seated in the back row at graduation. Mendy, as we called him, was not well liked. One of the worst things a kid could hear from a teacher at Hebrew School was ....’take your books, and go to Mr. Mendelsohn.’ At around Passover when Hebrew School was in session and the teachers were teaching the songs for the seder, you could hear echoing through the   corridors of the school instead of Day Dayenu “Die Die Mendy”. So, at graduation rehearsal, one of the girls inquired as to why the girds all had to sit in the back row. Mendy publicly humiliated Charlotte by announcing that he didn’t want her talking with the other girls during the ceremony. Not being a shrinking violet, Charlotte got up and told him off… telling him that she wouldn’t invite him to her Bas Mitzvah, she wouldn’t invite him to her wedding....she wouldn’t even invite him to her funeral. She came home that day and told my parents and me at which time I stood up and applauded. At graduation, when Mendy made his remarks, he sarcastically noted how much the kids loved him, adding that they wouldn’t even invite him to their funerals.

Charlotte had a fun side. We used to like to watch Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and some of the cartoon shows on tv...Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. We would sit and laugh our heads off. She observed that these cartoons were almost too sophisticated for kids. Yogi Bear would be going around the forest looking for food, knocking on cabin doors asking for a crust of bread, a pizza pie, a chocolate cake.... when Boo Boo asked him, “Yogi, why can’t we eat nuts and berries like all the other bears?” to which Yogi replied... “nuts and berries? YICH.” When I went to camp, that following summer Charlotte wrote me a letter that started off.... Dear Nuts and Berries, YICH! It was so comforting to be away at camp and to receive a letter like that. It was just one of our special little things we shared.

Music was huge part of our lives. We used to listen to Jewish comedy records and big band recordings. Then Charlotte joined a record club and got one record per month. My favorites were Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and Erroll Garner’s Concert by the Sea. That was more or less the beginning of her turning me onto to jazz, something for which we both had a passion. If nothing else, my love of jazz is one of the greatest gifts Charlotte has given me.

Charlotte and Arthur spent the first 6 years of their marriage in London when Arthur just started working for Reuters. I visited during the summer of ’69 and stayed at their modest apartment. That’s when I met Michael, who was this really cute, lovable, and smiling baby. He’s still cute, lovable and smiling. She showed me around London and took me to Harrod’s, where the queen shops. It was an enjoyable couple of weeks.

So, I always knew that Charlotte was always there, and always there for me. But, of all the wonderful gifts she gave to me… and the world, are my wonderful nephews. I’m so grateful to have Michael and Adam in my life and I’ll carry her loving memory with me forever.

Adventures with Charlotte in Swinging Sixties London

By Georgia Leper

Charlotte and I both moved to London in 1966 and renewed our friendship, begun in New York in our first days as working girls. We both worked at the first Psychiatric Day Hospital at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Bronx.Maybe it was there that we both took our first steps towards a career in mental health.

We didn’t know it at the time, but it would become known as ‘Swinging London’.To us it was a different kind of adventure – navigating a world without supermarkets, without central heating (often) and pretty grey.There were still empty lots, cleared remnants of the WWW II bombing.But also, there was new life:the Kings Road, in Chelsea, Portobello market, where designers and artists were creating the new looks:Biba, skinny girls with long legs and long hair, Mary Quant, Jean Shrimpton, mini skirts. And there was the music scene. The Beatles, The Kinks, the Rolling Stones at their height, David Bowie. And England won the World Cup (soccer, or footballas it’s known everywhere but the USA).Wow. We went to some gates in Kensington .(Kensington Palace?) where there was a celebration. We didn’t really know what it was all about. They’ve never gotten over it.

We shopped in the Kings Road, we went to markets, we complained about the weather, and what couldn’t get (good coffee, for one thing), walked inSt James Park and ate Walls ice cream. I had kids first.Then Michael came.We were moms, pushing them around the park in pushchairs - a new invention!Then our family left London for Zambia and I didn’t see Charlotte for a few years. But years later, when she was back in the States, by then with Adam in tow, we reflected on what a big experience it had been.I remember chatting in the kitchen while she opened a can with a hand-opener. She laughed and said, ‘you know a friend was over here and said, how can you manage without an electric can opener?That was what I learned in London.How to live in a different world.’