Savta: The Great Accompanier KATHY KATES

My dear mother in-law, aka Savta, aka Judith, aka Mom, is a blessing to our family

Savta, along with her loving husband, Granddad (aka Dad, Bill, my father in-law), have provided my family with a beautiful example of how to live a Jewish life, through deep learning, relationships, and connection to Jewish text and tradition.

She has helped our daughter, Eva, to find her place in the Torah. Savta was Eva’s bat mitzvah tutor. Savta and Eva began a full year before parashat Noaḥ, beginning with Bereshit, so that Eva would have a context for the story. Savta encouraged Eva to write down questions after their reading of the story, and those questions became the basis of Eva’s devar torah. Savta provided gentle and thoughtful accompaniment to Eva, helping her to find her own connection to the text through her unique voice.

Savta is a great listener and accompanier. These qualities, infused with constant gentleness, are qualities that have very much influenced who my husband, Tom, is in the world and how he sees the world

Our family has been blessed to have Savta lead our seder every year. She includes mirrors on her seder plate to teach us the midrash about the mirrors. This midrash aligns well with a central theme in Savta’s life—seeing possibilities where others would see endings.

This principle has provided a guiding force in my own Jewish journey. As I went through my conversion process, Savta was always available to thoughtfully listen to and answer my questions. For our wedding and Eva’s bat mitzvah, she helped me to think through meaningful ways to include my Catholic family. Most recently, Savta has helped me to read Torah, bringing the Torah alive for me through her deep knowledge and respect for this tradition. We recently had a conversation about the incredible connection to our tradition that Savta feels when she reads these ancient texts; through teaching both Eva and me, she is helping to keep alive that connection.

When I think about who I would most like to be like in the world, it is Savta—a loving mother, wife, grandmother, and friend, who uses the Jewish tradition and texts as a scaffolding to help her to listen, learn, and accompany all of us through life with gentle compassion.