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Second chances don’t come easily. They are often few and far between. No matter what age we are, we can always take a look back into our past and consciously recall a time when we believed that our loss was so devastating that we couldn’t imagine recovering.

Suffering defeat comes in many forms – temporary financial straits, physical challenges, or life’s emotional upheavals. My case was immutable – losing my husband after 31 years of marriage. I thought we had at least another 20 years of growing old together. I envisioned an eventual retirement filled with fun times visiting family and old friends all over the U.S., Canada, Europe and Israel. I dreamed of sharing more time with grandkids, doing stuff we only dreamed of during years of raising children and working hard. I learned that not all fantasies come true. But sometimes, old dreams can resurface.  But only through divine providence, hashgacha pratit, can such a dream materialize. When several rabbis heard this story, they each said, in their own words, that a script like this could only have been written up above – min ha shamayim!  I’d like to share my true-life “second chance” experience with YOU, my dear readers.

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Flashback to 1975, Brooklyn, NY

As a 29-year-old single mom with a 3-year-old daughter, I attended the Bar Mitzvah of my former sister-in-law’s (and dearest friend) cousin’s son. The extended family from Seattle flew in for the occasion. Being a former travel agent and tour conductor, I was asked to escort some family members, after the event, to see all the main sights of the Big Apple. It was my pleasure! A first cousin of my sister-in-law, a nice gentleman of almost 38, was in my ‘group.’ Jerry and I connected through our mutual interest in historic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the majestic Empire State Building.

A week later, Jerry returned to his home in the Northwest and then corresponded with me via phone and the United States Postal Service. There were days I received two long letters from him, and rarely a day I received none. Over a period of more than three years, we saw each other five more times on both coasts and spent at least 4 hours a week on the phone –that’s more than 1,000 hours of conversation!

Although I had already obtained a civil divorce from my daughter’s father, I was unable to receive a Jewish bill of divorcement – a “Get”. I tried every method and ploy the rabbis suggested, but was unsuccessful. I could not remarry according to the Jewish law. Thousands of dollars were offered as an incentive to grant me this ‘get’ I needed – but to no avail. I finally gave up the chance of receiving my freedom and let Jerry go. I told him to find an available woman and to go on with his life. This was one of the toughest and most painful decisions I ever had to make.

Finally, 20 months later, the chains that weighed me down for five long AND TRAUMATIC years were lifted. I fought very hard to receive my ‘get’. I then remarried a man I met on a blind triple date set up by my high school friend Rivka. Thank G-d; I delivered three sons in the following 5 ½ years. We moved from New York to California after our first boy was born. His two younger brothers were born on the West Coast. During the ensuing years, I would ‘bump into’ Jerry’s older brother, president of the synagogue I joined in San Diego. I also came into contact with his sister-in-law, my daughter’s secular studies Hebrew day school teacher as well as his nephews and even his niece-in-law, my eldest son’s assistant nursery school teacher!

Wherever I lived, for an unknown reason, I always had some contact with one of Jerry’s family members. In 1985, after moving from San Diego to the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles, I became reacquainted with Jerry’s cousins. And, his middle brother lived only minutes east of me. We saw each other occasionally at community events. Through his cousins, I gathered that my old friend had never married. In the past several years, my husband, of blessed memory, and I, bumped into Jerry at a few lifecycle events. Each perfunctory meeting, although short, was awkward for me, and perhaps for him too.

Then, last year, my husband suddenly passed away. One of Jerry’s cousins advised him of the sad news. He immediately sent me a condolence message. I was very shocked to see his name in my e-mail box. A few months later I called him and thanked him for his note. His phone number was the same one filed away in the recesses of my brain from the 70s. Conversations between us were easy. We continued speaking week after week.  Soon, our need to communicate became more frequent. Our talks became more personal – about life philosophies, sharing daily occurrences, and even rehashing our painful past.

After our first few conversations, Jerry wrote me a short e-mail asking for my postal address and my cell phone number. A few days later, I received a very serious letter postmarked from Seattle. It was written in a very similar style to those he penned to me in the 70s – like a stream of consciousness. Our previous verbal exchanges were always open and honest - yet we were both frightened to mention any future possibilities. It was just not the right time. But, in this ‘old fashioned’ communiqué of paper and ink, Jerry bared his soul. He wrote that he was not interested in a simple friendship; he had another goal in mind. For two months, I read that letter many times each day until I virtually memorized the words!

evacrop.jpgFinally, during our now recurrent talks, Jerry asked if I had a SKYPE account so we could videoconference. I did not and was reluctant to be seen live and “in living color.” I was now 65 and he was going on 74, we were not spring chickens. My former almost non-existent female vanity kicked in and I suddenly became shy and fearful.

One night, in early October I became brave. I asked one of my sons to install the program onto my laptop. Then, during a 3-hour nightly speaking foray (not weekly like in the old days), I announced my surprise. “I’ve got SKYPE!” Jerry’s spirits were high and he said “Hurray!” Minutes later we ‘saw’ each other, and neither of us could speak intelligibly for a few moments. We each stammered - faltering in our usual quick and easy telephone tête-à-têtes where we spoke spontaneously and endlessly. I suppose that’s when we suddenly re-discovered what we had years back!

Jerry told me he was coming to visit his family in California at the end of the Jewish holidays. He suggested we meet for lunch.  I agreed. Weeks later, he drove from San Diego to Los Angeles to visit me. That same day, Lev LaLev’s director of Development, Rachel Weinstein happened to be in L.A. too.  At 9:00 AM, we met for breakfast at my home – only a few hours before Jerry’s proposed arrival. Needless to say, Rachel can attest to the fact that I was a nervous wreck.

It seemed like only minutes from the time Rachel bid me a warm ‘goodbye and good luck’ and offered me wishes for happiness and success in my future, that the entry chime rang. Opening the door for my old friend Jerry also opened a new life for me. Although I was not positive yet, my second chance stood right before me. After only a few hours, although neither of us said the actual words, we both knew there was no question in our minds: we would somehow work out the differences of our personalities, fill each other in on the decades that passed, and work together to build a future.

A week later one of my sons and I left for Israel to attend my eldest grandson’s bar mitzvah. Jerry drove us to the airport. Before saying “Goodbye”, Jerry told my son that he wants to marry me. I was totally floored at his chivalry. During my 23-day Israeli sojourn, we continued our daily phone conversations – our voices crossing continents. The urgency of our talks was now heightened. We had a target in life – to be together, after all these years!

evacrop2.jpgI flew back to California on Thanksgiving morning to be with my family. Then, I quickly prepared for yet another trip – this time northbound up the Pacific western coast to Seattle, Washington. I had not visited this city since March of ‘78! November 30th marked Jerry’s 74th birthday, and I wasn’t going to miss it for the world. The video link below will tell the rest of the story. And the images displayed here will put icing on the cake.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQiB08fcJoc

Second chances, like those the girls at the Rubin-Zeffren Children’s Home have when they cross the Home’s threshold in Netanya, Israel, are oftentimes a rare privilege. It is through divine intervention, and your help, that they are given a renewed opportunity to flourish and grow into healthy young women. And, perhaps, working with these girls for the last six years of my life, I too have earned the z’chut – the merit, to also be granted a second chance for happiness in my life!

 

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Jerry Adatto and Chava Yelloz were married at Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation in Seattle on erev Tu B’Shvat, Arbor Day – February 7th, 2012. Jerry’s 91-year-old uncle, ad meah v’esrim shana, Rabbi Solomon Maimon, shlit”a, rabbi emeritus of the synagogue, officiated. The renowned Hazzan Meir Levy of Brooklyn, New York’s Ahi Ezer Congregation chanted for the chatan v’kallah – the bride and groom, as they walked to the chuppah. The synagogue’s current spiritual leader, Rabbi Simon Benzaquen read the ketubah, and their own cantor, Hazzan, Frank Varon and Jerry’s cousin, Hazzan Isaac Azose, cantor emeritus of Seattle’s Sephardic Congregation Ezra Besaroth, also contributed to one of the most festive and joyous occasions of late in the Maimon/Adatto family semahot. Everyone appreciates a Second Chance!

 

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