Recently we had the good fortune of attending a very special celebration, honoring the marriage and commitment that two friends had made to each other. They had no time to plan a wedding. In fact, the groom was in Stanford, California, working on a post doctoral fellowship, and his bride was in Montreal teaching. Their intention was to get married in December, but a little something (probably loneliness being 3,000 miles away) made the groom-to-be decide that they should move their wedding ahead—way ahead. He called his beloved to ask if she could break her teaching contract and move to California to be with him, which was his way of proposing. He knew that her grandmother, to whom she was very attached, was not well, so a wedding was quickly planned. There was no time to mail invitations; they were hand delivered. A dress was borrowed and altered from a dear friend, and within a very short time the wedding took place. The date was September 8, 1969. The day after their wedding, the bride’s grandmother went into a coma and passed away less than three weeks later. Two months after that, the groom’s father died suddenly of a heart attack.
Fast forward 50 years, and on September 1st this year we had the great pleasure of celebrating with our dear friends Susan and Yossie Portnoy at the party that this time around was planned by them and their four dear children, their spouses and many grandchildren. It was indeed an honor to attend and know that we were in the inner circle of friends that for many years have shared each other’s losses and simchas. We will never forget the day Yossie called to tell us the news that Susan had delivered a girl after three boys. We knew that Dr. Yossie had to be joking, as Susan’s ultrasound had “definitely” showed that it was a boy! Sari, their beautiful daughter, was not a joke, however. Goes to show you that the ultrasound is not always 100% correct. We also remember when Susan decided to have her mother-in-law live with their family for a short time, as she was not well. Eighteen years after she moved into their home she passed away.
It was Susan and Yossie who still tend to many “lonely” individuals who have no family and with whom they share the warmth of their household, and it was Yossie who recently stepped down as medical director of the Jewish General Hospital in order to continue his other duties there. Everyone knows they can rely on him, no matter the time of day, for a medical emergency. It was Yossie, in fact, who literally saved the life of our daughter Naama when she went into septic shock and was about to die until he was able to find a vein in her foot to which he could attach an IV tube.
Fifty years ago there were no l’chaims, no vorts, no planned engagements with the entire family hiding in the bushes. Life was much more spontaneous. Brides managed to get married without their makeup being done and colors of dresses were up to each individual to choose. In fact, no one particularly cared since it was all supposed to be about the bride. Party planners didn’t exist and we wonder how many times, even since our own children were married, has anyone looked at the video of their wedding. (Yes, we put them on disks.)
Susan and Yossie, we salute you both for many reasons. From the time that we met you in 1970, which was the year we both came to Montreal, we have watched and admired the way you have grown in your devotion to Yiddishkeit. We have observed your clear devotion not only to each other but to your friends. We have been overwhelmed at times by the amount of chesed you have done by being there for many individuals who would be totally alone if it had not been for you. What is more important is that you have taught your children to practice these same values in their own homes.
Happy anniversary to our very dear friends! It is our wish that we continue to celebrate with you for many more years, whether or not you have the advance time necessary to plan these events. We are totally spur-of-the-moment friends—never fear!
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick
Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick are living in Bergenfield after many years of service to the Montreal Jewish community. Rabbi Glick was the rav of Congregation Ahavat Yisroel as well as a practicing clinical psychologist in private practice. He also taught at Champlain Regional College. The Glicks were frequent speakers at the OU marriage retreats. Nina coordinated all Yachad activities in Montreal and was a co/founder of Maison Shalom, a group home for young adults with special needs. They can be reached at [email protected]