Sep 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

Emeri S. Handler is an alumna of the Wexner Heritage Program, San Francisco 08. She currently serves on the boards of the Oshman Family JCC and Moving Traditions, an organization inspiring teens to look more deeply at Judaism using gender as the framework. She can be reached at

My grandmother Goldie, zichrono l’vracha, was 98 when she passed away last fall, erev Rosh Hashanah. She was widowed soon after I was born and I spent much of my childhood with her. I slept over at her house most weekends and we got our nails painted together. I sat with her at shul while her friends gave me hard candy. She taught me how to do a headstand, jump rope, bake mandelbread, and crochet. She dressed for every occasion and since she had her ears pierced, I wanted my ears pierced too. 

On her 90th birthday, we had a wonderful celebration with friends and family. Goldie was overjoyed, loving every minute of the attention lavished upon her. Shortly thereafter, I asked her, after 90 years of life, what could she sum up for me? What was her takeaway, her pearl of wisdom? With only a moment’s hesitation she stated, “If someone is driving in the lane next to you and wants to get in your lane, you should let them.”

SERIOUSLY?!?! 90 years and that’s IT?!

As I’ve thought about her message all these years, I knew it was more complex than that. I can never know another person or organizations’ motivation for actions or events that make little sense to me. “Give them the benefit of the doubt” is what she was saying. With friends, family, work, and non-profit boards, I think about Goldie and her wisdom every day.