When Shoshanna Silcove learned that she had become a grandmother for the first time, she couldn’t contain her excitement. She jumped up out of her office chair and exclaimed, “I’m a grandmother!” All her 150 co-workers stood up and applauded. Then, she had a moment of reflection.
by Shoshanna Silcove
Baby boomers were never supposed to get older. We see ourselves as eternally youthful. The boomers are the generation that came into its own along with rise of the youth culture. In fact, it could be said that we invented the youth culture. Ours is a generation in complete denial about aging. The declarative slogans “fifty is the new thirty” or “sixty is the new forty” are nothing but wishful thinking and futile protestations against the reality of time marching on.
Frum women have a definite advantage in this struggle against the aging process because, we wear lovely wigs that cover some of the signs of aging beneath. Thick, lustrous, shiny sheitel hair that is almost always in can place serve to camouflage the grey. No hair dyes that leave grey roots for us! None of that thinning or brittle hair that older women pay hairdressers vast sums to transform into their youthful vitality! The sheitel can almost always guarantee that a baby boomer bubbie can subtract at least one decade off her age, at least in public. No better compliment can be paid to a baby boomer bubbie than, “You look too young to be a grandmother!”
Becoming a grandparent is a unique life transition in that one need not be involved personally for it to happen. Unlike becoming a spouse or a parent, becoming a grandparent is a passive process. It just happens to a person without any biological changes or life decisions on their part. When my first grandchild was born, I was working in an office. There were about 150 people on the floor and only two of them were Jewish. It was a typical work day when I got the call about her birth. I was so excited that I could not contain myself and I jumped up out of my seat and said, “I’m a grandmother!” In just a minute or two everyone in the entire office heard the news and all 150 people in the floor stood up and applauded me. They were all truly happy for me and there was a festive feeling in the office for a couple of days with people coming up to me to offer their congratulations.
It struck me how many people commented on how I was such a young grandmother. This highlighted for me the decline of family values in society at large. Many people these days are putting off reproducing until later in life. Most of my co-workers did not know anyone in their life becoming grandparents at my relatively young age. Some older people expressed their sadness that their grown children may not ever give them any grandchildren, or if they do it will be in many years to come. This all made me feel so much more grateful to Hashem, not only for the youthful camouflage of the sheitel, but also for helping me to be on the path that brought me to this point in life that so many in our society may never reach.
Becoming a grandparent for the first time is always an exhilarating experience filled with much joy, but for the BT baby boomer bubbie, it comes with some extra meaning and poignancy. I am one of the miraculous accomplishments of the Rebbe’s grand mission against assimilation. This is not due to any great accomplishments of my own, but rather it is due to the multigenerational trend towards assimilation that was reversed with me. Through the Rebbe’s message and the shluchim he sent out, an ordinary young Jewish woman, namely me, from a completely assimilated Jewish family, started to take on Torah and mitzvos over thirty years ago. This young woman was the fortunate and blessed beneficiary of the toil and dedication of a multitude of the Rebbe’s Chassidim who dedicate themselves to spreading Yiddishkite. This young woman took it seriously enough to establish a Jewish home based on Torah, the first of such a home in her family tree in at least four generations. The tide turned, however, once that occurred, there must be continuity into the future generations, lest, G-d forbid, it all reverts to the assimilationist trend.
As Chassidus teaches, we elevate the mundane of this world into holiness. A grandparent taking their grandchildren to the park or the supermarket may appear to be a very mundane activity. However, for this BT baby boomer bubbie these everyday activities are wrought with messages that remind me of the hand of G-d and of the blessings of the Rebbe. Seemingly simple ordinary things like my little granddaughter’s growing understanding that we only purchase kosher foods when we go to the store, or her utterance of the words ‘Baruch Hashem’, are reminders to me that this family tree almost never made it out of the trend of assimilation if not for the Rebbe and his shluchim.
Reversing the trend of assimilation is a long arduous struggle and we can never rest on our laurels, become complacent, or take anything for granted, as it could always G-d forbid reverse itself. Grandchildren being raised with Torah and mitzvos who come from a reversed assimilated family tree are a living sign of the Rebbe’s victory against assimilation and of the coming Redemption, may it be speedily in our days.