Lifecycle: Simchas: B'nai mitzvah
Sarah Stupak, daughter of Ilyssa and Darren Stupak of Woodcliff Lake, and sister of Max, celebrated becoming a bat mitzvah on March 15 at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.
Chad Schuster, son of Angela and Howard Schuster of Old Tappan, celebrated becoming a bat mitzvah on March 8 at Temple Beth El of Northern Valley in Closter.
Aly Rubin, daughter of Linda and Joel Rubin of Norwood, celebrated becoming a bat mitzvah on March 1 at Temple Beth El of Northern Valley in Closter.
Bradley Morrison, son of Jill and Eric Morrison of Franklin Lakes and brother of Carly, celebrated becoming a bar mitzvah on March 1 at Temple Beth Rishon in Wyckoff.
Carly and Samantha Haberfield
Carly and Samantha Haberfield, twin daughters of Jill and Adam Haberfield of Montvale, celebrated becoming b’nai mitzvah on February 22 at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township.
Mia Beiman, daughter of Randi and Larry Beiman of Hillsdale, and sister of Alana, celebrated becoming a bat mitzvah on March 1 at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.
Noah Spencer Collier, son of Andrea and Jay Collier of Hillsdale and brother of Jeremy, celebrated becoming a bar mitzvah on March 8 at Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson.
Natalie Minoff - September 14, 1911 – March 24, 2014
Born in 1911 in Bialystock, Poland to Miriam Meadow and Aaron Lew, Natalie (Necha) Lew was the second of three daughters born to the couple. Natalie remembered growing up in a small apartment, at 16 Lipova Street, that was part of a converted house with a beautiful courtyard and cobblestones. In Bialystock, Natalie was part of a strong Jewish network and community, something that would become an important theme throughout her entire life. Natalie’s mother, Miriam, was from a large family of eight children. Sensing the upcoming turmoil that would ultimately become the Bialystock pogrom against the Jews and the Bolshevik Revolution, the Meadow family left Europe and headed to America. Arriving at Ellis Island in the early 1900s they ultimately settled in Paterson, New Jersey and overtime established themselves as hardworking business leaders. Natalie’s mother, Miriam, was not ready to leave Europe and she and her husband, a shop owner in a nearby town, remained in Bialystock until Natalie’s father was consistently chased through the streets on his way home from his store for being a capitalist. The stories go that he had to run on the rooftops at night to get home safely from the roaming bands of Bolsheviks that would form outside his and other small and large businesses.
In 1922, Miriam was still unwilling to leave Bialystock. Deciding that there was no other way to protect his family from the rising violence and changing times, Aaron Lew committed suicide, forcing his wife to finally leave Europe and join her family in the United States. This rarely spoken-about moment in the family’s history left an indelible mark on each of the three daughters. Natalie at around 10 years of age remembers being half asleep and seeing her father standing on a chair in the middle of the night. Noticing that she had awoken, he gave her the message to take care of the family. Whether accurate or part of a child’s dream, one has to imagine that the hardworking woman who seemed to manage any responsibility was partially born out of that moment.
Miriam’s siblings arranged the necessary legal documentation for the family’s entry into the United States and then sent one of the brothers, Morris Meadow, then 30 years old, across the ocean to escort his older sister and her three young daughters to America. Natalie remembered the trip to Antwerp, Belgium where the large ship, named the Kroonland carrying more than 1,500 passengers to New York, disembarked. She recalled staying in her first hotel the night before departure and hearing out the window street musicians playing for money. Until late in life, she could hum the tune of the melody she heard that night before the family set sail to America and to a new life of opportunity.
Arriving at Ellis Island on September 17, 1922 her name Necha was officially changed to Natalie and the young family moved temporarily into a large white house on East 29th Street in Paterson, NJ that Natalie’s grandparents lived in. The house had a large front porch with red brick steps and they were there until they settled into a small apartment in another section of Paterson. Natalie soon started taking small sewing jobs, shortening hems and sleeves to assist with the family’s expenses. Eventually needing to help support her family more, Natalie, with only three years of high school education, started working full time. She was sad to leave her formal education before graduating as she had become fairly proficient with her new English language and had a real knack for mathematics. However, practicality won out and through her work she was able to help support her family. Though she quickly established excellent work habits and excelled at her various jobs, she always felt that not having a formal education was a minus and became a stalwart believer in higher education, continued reading and learning. Even at 101 she would sit and read for hours and if you interrupted to ask her a question, she might respond, “Can’t you see that I’m reading?”
Natalie described herself as a very shy child and teenager, something that most people find hard to believe given her adult personality. She often talked about how she was someone who never spoke up in a group environment and that at one of her early jobs as a bookkeeper, at around the age of 16, she hardly said a word to anyone day in and day out. She decided that this personality was not one that was suited for success in the world and that it was imperative to be a vibrant member of one’s community. Thus, she made a conscious decision to overcome her shyness. When asked to recall this story the week before her passing and how she managed to overcome such a trait, she responded, “I just unshyed myself.” With concerted effort to speak with people, ignoring her intense discomfort and fear that would have her breaking out in a sweat, she eventually became the story telling, gregarious woman who never saw a stage that she wasn’t made for that her family and friends loved.
She met her future husband, David Minoff, on a hay ride organized by a local Jewish organization. Natalie described David as good looking, polite and agreeable and had a soft spot for him right away. The following year at a dance, organized by the same Jewish group, they met again and hit it off. Both David and Natalie had fathers and grandfathers who were well respected Zionists and thus, had a common bond from the beginning. They quickly became inseparable and on August 24, 1940 married in Demarest, NJ. They had two daughters, Deborah and Ann and by that time had a well established antique business called Skyland Antiques. The shop was located in a converted barn that was part of their home in Paterson, NJ. Natalie and David had the perfect working relationship. Natalie was the buyer, heading into New York City weekly to all the auction houses to find what would ultimately end up in their shop. David was a great salesman who would weave an enthralling story about each piece he sold. Natalie often recalled, “It was the perfect business partnership. David was a horrible buyer and I was a terrible seller.” They each found their natural skill set and trusted the other completely.
Natalie’s holiday and Shabbat tables were legendary. Every type of Jewish dish one could think of would be simmering and overflowing. She left many loosened pant waists and food induced sleeps in her wake. She was generous and filled with laughter and good cheer. Coming to Natalie and David’s home for a holiday dinner wasn’t just about the good tasting food, it was about a love for life and celebration of community and coming together.
In the 1960s, realizing that the family needed some well deserved down time, Natalie and David would close their shop for six weeks each summer to travel throughout the country visiting the many national parks and forests. Their beloved German Shepard Shomar was a constant companion and their children and eventually their eldest grandchild, Aaron, often joined them on their summer adventures. Aaron recalls exploring the country with his grandparents; be it picking wild blueberries they came across or jumping into discovered ponds, every day was like an adventure. Their younger daughter Ann recalls the typical situation in the camper. Natalie intensely studying a map, calling out the needed directions, “Dave, it’s a right, a right turn!” while David often decided that the best way to get to any place was to take an unmarked road and often going left when Natalie called right. Natalie was pragmatic, wanting to follow the map while David was the adventurer ready to “explore unchartered territory.”
There was a deep and profound love and respect between Natalie and David. David saw in Natalie someone capable of anything. He encouraged her even where she felt unsure of herself. Natalie found in David someone who loved her unconditionally. They were each other’s great love. When David was sick with cancer and complications from diabetes, Natalie kept him out of the hospital and for months cared for him at their home day and night while he was bed ridden. When he was ready to pass, he asked her to promise that she would remarry; that she would find someone else. He thought only of her future happiness even in his last moments. Natalie flat out refused to promise that she would remarry explaining that he was the love of her life and she knew that kind of love and blessing was not something that came around twice.
After David passed away in 1979, Natalie closed up their antique business and settled into a 1 bedroom apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She quickly became a stalwart part of the northern New Jersey Jewish community devoting all her time and creative spirit to various Jewish organizations. A gifted bookkeeper and organizer, she always pulled people together toward a common goal. Over many years she organized successful jewelry bazaars to help raise money for her local synagogue and other Jewish organizations. Her youngest granddaughter, Beth, recalls sitting at Natalie’s dining room table surrounded by every color and type of bead and semi precious stone imaginable and being taught how to string necklaces, price items to sell and simply laughing a lot. Natalie loved making something out of nothing and gained enormous satisfaction from taking scraps and leftover pieces and turning them into items people were happy to purchase. For nearly two decades Natalie taught weekly Yiddish classes at the local synagogue where her endless supply of Yiddish jokes and phrases were put to good use.
As a valuable member of Hadassah and the Jewish Community Center she’d put together paid programs around Jewish topics as fundraisers to support different projects. She often was the star of the show adapting well known stories into Jewish ones, such as her retelling of Snow White as Schnei Veiss. She made her own costumes, would write her own material and perform, like any great vaudeville act, with joy and a lot of schtick. She was honored with numerous awards throughout her life from the various organizations she contributed to. She often said about keeping one’s mind and life busy, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Natalie had a loving and supportive relationship with her children. After Deborah moved to Fort Lee, NJ she and Natalie did most everything together sharing in movies and many phone conversations. They were very close. When Natalie’s younger daughter Ann moved to Edgewater, NJ Natalie enjoyed visiting her apartment and sitting on the balcony in the sun, watching the boats on the Hudson River as well as attending Ann’s weekly kabbalah lectures.
Natalie’s sense of humor and vitality for life could crack a smile out of anyone. In 2006 at a family event, the story of her family’s arrival at Ellis Island was retold, someone asked, “How long was the journey across the Atlantic?” At age 95, Natalie’s response was, “Who remembers? It was a long schlep.”
Natalie’s joy for life, family and community was celebrated at her 100th Birthday Weekend in Hoboken, New Jersey where family from across the country came to honor and celebrate with her. A testament to how she always brought people together, nearly the complete family from both her side (Meadow side) and her husband’s family (Minoff side) joined together in a memorable and joyous celebration. Natalie can be remembered singing with her daughters and her younger sister Doris Sacks the Yiddish song, Bei Mir Bist Du Scheyn and soliciting phone numbers for possible boyfriends, “as long as they’re younger than me.”
A week before her passing, Natalie was delighted by her sister Doris’s 100th birthday and in her usual way embraced the opportunity for laughter by acknowledging that at 102, she was certainly quite an “old bag.”
Natalie will be lovingly remembered by her daughters Deborah Kaufman and Ann Minoff, her grandchildren Aaron Merkatz, Rachel Samoles and Beth Kronfeld, her seven great grand children, Dillon, Amanda, Annabelle and Shelby Merkatz, Daniel and Jennifer Samoles, Cassidy Kilpatrick and her great great grandson Cole Merkatz.
Thank you Natalie for a life well lived, for your great heart, spirit and inspiration. We love you and are forever grateful for your contribution to each and every one of us.
Donations in Natalie’s honor can be made to organizations she spent much time supporting over the last 30 years and that gave her much care and love as she got older. The organizations are: The New Synagogue of Fort Lee, 1585 Center Avenue, Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024; The JCC on the Palisades, 411 East Clinton Avenue, Tenafly, New Jersey 07670 – specifically their Senior Activity Center or their Adult Reach Center (ARC).