Laura Bock

A ROSH HASHANAH MEMORY
Definitions:
shayna – pretty
punim – face

It was a Rosh Hashanah many years ago. I planned to attend an event at the San Francisco Women’s Building where I knew I would run into Judy Freespirit. She and I were founding members of Fat Lip Readers Theater working hard for the cause. She was someone for whom I had tremendous respect, some awe, and to be honest, she intimidated me a bit by her force and spirit. I wanted to be thought well of by her–cool, savvy, smart.

Growing up in a secular Jewish family, I was new to the rituals and practices of Rosh Hashanah. A good friend taught me how to say Happy New Year in Hebrew–L’Shana Tova–and I practiced and practiced in anticipation of going to the event and greeting Judy with my oh-so-smooth salutation.

When I saw her, I eagerly approached her and said, “La Shayna Nova, La Shayna Nova!”

She smiled and twinkled and replied, “And a pretty car to you, too!”

I was mortified. My attempt to impress left me with egg on my punim.

Several years later, I attended Judy’s one woman show, also at the women’s building. She had asked Sylvia Kohan to be her singing coach, for it appeared that Judy was nervous and self-conscious about singing in public.
The performance was, of course, wonderful and her singing delightful.

Now, the impossible has happened. Judy died last Friday. Yes, we have her extraordinary writing; yes, we have her papers preserved and her oral history videotaped; yes, we have our memories. It’s not enough. We no longer have her corporeal magnificence, her hearty laugh, her ironic humor, and her creative and uncompromising politics.

Sylvia, open your arms. Here comes Judy.

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