Wednesday, October 11, 2006


When I was 14, my class had a freshman Shabbaton in Lakewood. We witnessed, first hand, the life of the Kollel couple in a black-hat community. For most of us, it was a first-time experience being so close. I stayed with two friends at the home of a lovely family and it was truly unforgettable.

Also in their home for Shabbos was Laurie, a public school kid, a year older than we, who was exploring her roots and slowly becoming a Ba'alat Teshuva. Our hosts were in the process of being Mekarev her, and we were supposed to assist them. They wanted her to consider our girls high school (not a Bais Yaakov) as a possibility for the coming year, so she was there to see what it was all about. We exaggerated stories to impress Laurie, as she was so much more worldly and experienced than we, but we quickly became friends, staying up much of Friday night and hanging out. I remember stale popcorn.

The next year Laya joined our school as a Junior. She was already more Frum than we were and only wore long skirts by then (unlike me). She became friends with the most pious girls in her class and continued to learn all she could about Judaism. I remember a teacher commenting about her that once she learned a Halacha, it was done. She kept it. No Lashon Hara? Okie dokie. Hatzenah Lechet? No problem. A rule was a rule. Blind faith.

Laya outgrew our school and decided to go to seminary in Israel early admissions so she could really grab onto Yiddishkeit properly, and absorb as much as she could. But the US troops entered Saudi Arabia that summer and it was looking too scary for her secular parents to send her into a war zone. So they allowed her to go to Manchester's Bais Yaakov seminary where it was safer. Laya loved it there and was learning everything she could.

On November 5th, there was a national celebration in England, complete with fireworks. Being the curious person she was, Laya leaned on her second-story window to see them and enjoy. Unfortunately, the window gave way and Laya fell the 20 feet to the ground. She suffered internal bleeding and was rushed to the hospital. There was not a lot that could be done and, eight hours later, after saying Shema for the last time, Laya claimed her spot right next to the Kiseh Shel Maalah.

Her 16th Yartzeit is next month.

I have been inspired by Laya for more than half my life.


Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I remember when that happened but never knew the story behind the story.

October 12, 2006 1:19 AM  
Blogger da shevster said...

wow thats really sad

October 12, 2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger bec said...

what an amazing story with such a sad ending. it's also amazing how she influenced you. i'm willing to bet that she positively influenced many others as well.

October 12, 2006 5:10 PM  
Blogger swiftthinker said...

She influenced everyone she met. It's hard to describe the excitement that Laya contained in life. One of the greatest things about her was that she didn't lose herself while getting frummer. Often you associate frummer with quieter and more toned down. But she had such a zest. I remember the purim before she left, she pulled up to my house so we could deliver shaloch manos. She was the only girl in town dressed as sniously as you get for lakewood but driving around in a silver convertable. She was awesome. We were very lucky to have known her for the short time we did.

October 18, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger Veev said...

Right on, Sista!

October 18, 2006 2:51 PM  
Blogger NoNameWanted said...

wow, i remeber her and the story
so sad

October 20, 2006 7:49 AM  

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