Great Expectations

By Melinda Michel, Vice President, Women’s Philanthropy, The Associated 

A wise colleague once said that there are two things in life that always exceed our expectations: a trip to Israel and becoming a grandparent. This summer, those milestones converged for me as I planned a trip to the Holy Land to meet my first grandchild.

Aviva Greenberg arrived five weeks early on May 24 (13 Sivan 5781) to my son, Jason (Yosef Pesach) and his wife, Chassida, a few weeks shy of their first wedding anniversary. The night of her birth I sat by the phone for hours awaiting news and clamoring to receive the first pictures of my granddaughter. Thanks to the kindness of the nurses at Hadassah Hospital, we received pictures from the NICU where Aviva was treated for jaundice and other health complications due to her early arrival.

When Aviva was discharged 10 days later, I began planning my trip to meet the baby girl named for my late father. I settled on mid-July when my son would be on break from his yeshiva and his wife would still be on maternity leave. My husband, my son’s stepfather, would travel with me for his first trip to Israel since his bar mitzvah. He could not join me last summer for the wedding because of travel restrictions in Israel. 

While we anticipated easier travel to Israel this year as the country emerged from the pandemic, our hopes were dashed by a surge of cases and the tightening of entry restrictions. But perseverance and assistance from contacts in Israel paid off. We departed from Newark on July 18 and arrived late morning the next day.  

My son and his family surprised us at the airport; I had the opportunity to hold my granddaughter for the first time amid the chaos of the outer traffic lanes at Ben Gurion Airport. It is hard to put into words what it feels like to hold the next generation in your hands and inhale that sweet newborn baby smell. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of both the moment and the significance of being Aviva’s Mimi.   

Suddenly, all the conversations that I have had through the years about L’Dor Va-dor, from generation to generation, had brand new meaning. Aviva was the new link in the chain. She would be the why I cited when asked about my commitment to the Jewish community, as a professional and as a donor to The Associated.

The next 10 days were a whirlwind of visiting with Yosef and his family, getting to know his bride and cuddling the delicious baby as much as possible. At the same time, it was surreal being in Israel when tourists were not allowed to enter the country. Our trip to the Kotel exemplified the strangeness of this experience. On a typical summer afternoon, we would not have been able to get close to the wall.  

Instead, we walked straight toward it and easily found a place to stand together. With Chassida’s hand in mine, we placed Aviva’s tiny hand on the cool stone. In the quiet of that moment, I thanked G-d for the opportunity to be in Israel, to be with my family and to share this cherished milestone with Aviva.  

And yes, the feelings that welled up inside of me at that moment far exceeded my expectations.  

Melinda Michel is the Vice President of Women’s Philanthropy. To learn more about how to get involved, go to Associated Women.

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