Rebbetzin Mina Gordon: When a Mother of 13 Gets Parkinson’s

Rebbetzin Mina Gordon: When a Mother of 13 Gets Parkinson’s

For this year’s Chanukah Contest, I asked readers to nominate mothers who are their personal candle in the darkness, the most inspirational JewishMOM they know. Here is the 3rd semifinalist, from Melbourne, Australia, submitted by her daughter Zisa:

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when she was in her early 40’s, shortly after her 13th child was born.

Despite her illness, my mother managed to raise her 13 children ka”h, teach at the local seminary, counsel many women, and fulfill her dream of becoming a writer.

My mother always has a positive and upbeat attitude, and never allows her illness to prevent her from moving forward.

My mother is my biggest inspiration.

ZM

When Zisa wrote me to nominate her mother, she didn’t realize that Rebbetzin Mina is a long-time JewishMOM.com reader. She often writes comments or Emails me with feedback and ideas for posts. I had no idea that she is 1. A Rebbetzin 2. The mother of a large family and 3. Has Parkinson’s. So I was in touch with her directly to ask her to share her story with us:

Rebbetzin Mina writes:

I grew up in Chicago in a religious family. I was always an outspoken Lubavitcher, but I didn’t really know much until I came to learn at Beis Rivkah Seminary in Crown Heights.

Hearing the Rebbe’s talks, being inspired by hundreds of voices singing heartfelt nigunim together, learning Chabad Chassidus, participating in bringing the Rebbe’s mitzvah campaigns to all kinds of Jews, created an unshakable foundation upon which I built my life.

I have continued to study Chassidus Chabad and have taught what I have learned to others. This gives me great satisfaction.

In 1979, a year after our marriage, my husband and I came to Melbourne, Australia as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to start a Lubavitch Kollel. Our original commitment was for two years. We are here now for nearly 40!

We arrived here with our first child, who was six weeks old, and boruch Hashem, had twelve more, all born here– “Fair Dinkum Aussies.”

When I was 40, I was blessed with the birth of identical twin boys. Every time that I nursed them together, the sight of the two matching heads snuggled up in my two arms, would bring me endless bliss.

At 42, after my youngest was born, I started feeling a pain in my shoulder. After trying different treatments for what the doctor thought was a frozen shoulder, I was referred to a neck and back surgeon. He directed me to a neurologist, and I was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s.

At first I was devastated.

But eventually, I made peace with the diagnosis. As my friend, Nechumele Jacobs from England wrote me today:

“APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE. REMEMBER:THE THINGS YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED, OTHER PEOPLE ARE PRAYING FOR!”

In the 18 years since I was diagnosed, I have tried to do my best to keep a positive attitude. I have even been able to pursue my dream of writing. It seems that as one door closes, another one opens.

Hashem Yisborach is the One who created the circumstances, it is my job to do my best to serve Him with those circumstances that He gave me.

Some people have a tradition to insert a Biblical verse that starts with the first letter of your name and ends with the last letter of your name at the end of the Amida prayer.

I found myself a verse from Psalms that really excited me: מושיבי עקרת הבית אם הבנים שמחה הללוי-ה.*

“He establishes me as mainstay of the home; the mother of children, praise Hashem.”

I feel truly blessed to have all that I have

הודו לה’ כי טוב – כי לעולם חסדו

“Thank Hashem for He is good, His kindness is everlasting.”

WEDDING DANCE by Mina Gordon

A wedding!

A time of joy

The music’s playing

Bride and Groom are coming-

Come, grab hands

Step in time to the beat!

That’s my son,

My new daughter-in-law!

But I cannot

Dance.

My feet, so light this morning,

Running many errands

Are now heavy

Glued

To the polished wooden floor.

Everyone around me is smiling.

I smile back

As muscles tighten up

Compounded by frustration.

I stand

A golem

As everyone dances

Around the Bride.

I too am in the center.

The Bride takes my hands,

Dancing with me

Dancing for me.

“Do you want a chair?”

Asks a guest

“We’ll dance around you.”

No (I’m embarrassed)

I’ll be fine,

After I take my pills.

Really,

I’m usually not like this.

Does she believe me?

I take my pills

And I still can’t dance.

This morning I was fine.

Last month I danced

At someone else’s wedding.

But today,

At my son’s wedding

I could not dance.

I cried.

But does it really matter

If I could not dance today?

My son has found his Bride

That’s all that matters now.

And I am thankful to Hashem

For my children,

My dear husband,

My parents,

My brothers and sisters.

I have good friends and students

Wise teachers,

And a Rebbe to guide me.

Hashem Yisborach!

I experience Your blessings every day.

When I’m suddenly ‘unstuck’

Normal movement regained,

I know

‘You release the bound.’

When I’m able to stand

Straight and tall,

I know

‘You set upright the bent’.

And I know, too,

That ‘You heal the sick’

And You will

Heal the ills

Of all the world

Speedily in our days.

And then,

At the wedding of our nation

I will surely dance,

Crying.

*A note from Mina: “Someone pointed out that not only does this verse have the first and last letters of my name, but the middle letters are there as well. In fact, if you count the letters from the מ at the beginning until the י of הבית you will find that there are 13 letters. If you count the letters from the נ in הבנים to the ה at the end of the verse, you again find 13 letters!”

13 comments

  1. How beautiful and inspiring!

  2. really beautiful!

  3. Pascale Kleinberg

    Hi Mina. We met when I was studying at Merkos with your incredible daughter Mushky. I remember you dancing at her wedding. Reading your poem brought tears to my eyes, my father also has Parkinson’s and has similar symptoms. Heavy sticky legs like he’s walking waist deep in mud. It comes at the worst of times, and goes. Constantly remembering medication. The end of your poem is beautiful… and I look forward to dancing with you again soon at the wedding of our nation.

  4. Mina, my sister, is an inspiration! And talented!

  5. SarahChaya

    BSD!
    Inspired to tears with gratitude to H”!

    Hodu l’H” ki tov, ki le’olam chasdo!!!!!!

    Thanks so much!

  6. Rochel Istrin

    Dear Mina, I was inspired and impressed when I saw this short video the first time, before I read your daughter’s words above. After reading them I’m a different person. I see the clip through different eyes. Even without knowing your nisayon, I have long admired you and enjoyed your consistently high-quality contributions to Soferet. Now that I know, I am humbled by your greatness. May we merit to meet In Jerusalem when Moshiach comes, when all will be healed and our hearts will meet as one.

  7. oh now you got me
    this is… humbling
    i am proud to know you, Mina
    and hope to learn from you

    A few years ago, but after the diagnosis, I had a few of Mina’s boys at my house for Succos. I needed a lot of help and B”H my guests were helping a lot in the kitchen and succah. Mina’s boys regularly dropped casual comments about the way their mother does things. They just took for granted that her way was the smartest, nicest, and most delicious and beautiful way to do things! (They are probably right)

  8. Beautiful article and yes Mina you are such an inspiration to many people you have a grace about you with your attitude to life. May Hashem grant all your hearts desires for the good. Jewish makes mom what a great idea 💡

  9. Thank you, dear Mina, for your inspiring words. You and Zisa have given me so much to think about!

  10. Hadassah Aber

    This is so inspirational! Hashem should grant you a speedy and total recovery. Keep on writing and inspiring others. I loved the video.

  11. Avigail Hasofer

    Mina you are one of my heroines. I had the merit to spend time with you and learn from you. Thank you for your time and patience while editing my book. You didn’t give up on the project. It was a huge task and you stuck with me to the end. Thank you. Without your help, it might not have been complete by now. Thank you for just being you, wise, kind and good example of a Jewish woman.

  12. So many wonderful messages to be inspired by……. what an incredible and moving story.
    Just wondering why this is only a 3rd semifinalist and not the outright winner!!!!!! At this point it’s not even a competition ….. and I’m sure your other stories will be just as moving. They should ALL be winners.

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