Obituary of ROCHELLE E. TEITELBAUM
Funeral of Rochelle Teitelbaum
May 3, 2023
Rochelle died during the seven weeks in between Passover and Shavuot,
when we count each day and mark each week. The medieval mystics
assigned to each of these weeks an attribute, a quality that they taught
characterized both God and human beings. So fittingly for Rochelle, this
week is the week of Netzah, which is the quality of persistence. When we
consider this attribute with regard to God, we often say that the least and
perhaps the most we can say with certainty about God is that God persists.
Unlike anything else we know of in the universe, God was from the
beginning, God is with us in the present, and God will be until the end of
time and beyond.
But how do we understand how this attribute of divine persistence applying
to human beings? We know too well that human life is finite. We are here
for such a short time, a blink of an eye in the context of eternity. How can
we say that the attribute of divine persistence could apply to us, whose
existence is so fleeting?
The blessing of human life is that even in the short time that we have, we
are able to perform acts of love that touch eternity. In our best moments,
aware that life is fleeting, we reach out to those around us and pour our love
into them. We refuse to see the briefness of our lives as insignificant.
Instead we choose to take on the struggle for life, the search for meaning,
the devotion to the relationships that make how we live ultimately
significant. We insist on life, we persist and persist, and even though the
brief candle of our lives eventually goes out, the light that we bring into the
world shines forever.
Rochelle seemed to understand this from an early age. Born in Brooklyn in
1942, the oldest child of her parents, Flora and Sydney, she took care of her
younger siblings, raising her sister Mary from the age of 11 to the time of
her wedding. She was drawn to nursing and worked as an RN in hospitals,
in the ICU, and as the head surgical nurse, caring for countless patients.
And later in her life she repeatedly took in her nieces and nephews for
months and years at a time, working hard to make sure everyone was taken
care of, everyone was safe, everyone was happy.
Rochelle was set up on a blind date with Louis Tobias Teitelbaum, and they
were engaged in 6 weeks and married in 6 months. Together they moved to
Metuchen and raised their three children. At the age of 50, just as Shana
was graduating from college, Rochelle discovered a lump, a sign of a very
agressive form of cancer. Thus began years of going through treatments
from the regular to the experimental, seeking out every opportunity to
survive, to persist, not for herself but in order to have more time to care for
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Funeral of Rochelle Teitelbaum
May 3, 2023
others. Louis remained by her side, even moving to Manhattan when
Rochelle was at Sloan-Kettering for a year. She never gave up, always
pushing forward, always full of humor, always with her eyes on the future.
In the last 5 years, Clara’s Bat Mitzvah became her goal, and she would say
again and again that she would be there. The fact that she was able to
watch it on livestream, full of joy and singing along, was a blessing, as it
was when Clara did it all again in Rochelle’s room, sitting on her bed, just a
few days before Rochelle died. Her resilience was amazing, even down to
her final days. Again and again she defied expectations, went into hospice
and came out again, so that it seemed that she never could, never would
But the end comes for us all, as it did for Rochelle, and the candle goes out.
But when we live like she did, when we embody that amazing attribute of
persistence, when we devote ourselves to others and insist on filling our few
days with love and care, then the light that we put out into the world
remains long, long after we have passed from it. That is what we mean
when we say that a life is a blessing. So may Rochelle’s example inspire us,
and may her memory always bring us blessing. And let us say: Amen.
All donations in the honor of Rochelle Teitelbaum should be made to Alzheimer’s Foundation of America