Another teaching moment for Gail Feinstein Forman, z”l
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO — In that she had been an educator, the late Gail Feinstein Forman probably would have been pleased that her husband, Jack, and Rabbi Moishe Leider of Chabad of University City combined to make the unveiling of her gravestone Sunday afternoon, May 6, in the Garden of Eden section of El Camino Cemetery a teaching moment.
Rabbi Leider taught that unveiling ceremonies did not originate with the Jews, but in fact were borrowed from other western religions — an adaptation that he said was entirely appropriate in that such ceremonies can provide comfort to the mourners and extend the memories people have of the deceased.
Jack Forman, retired longtime librarian at San Diego Mesa College, distributed a selection by Rabbi David Wolpe about Jewish graveyard customs that was included in Wrestling With the Angels: Jewish Insights on Death and Mourning, a book edited by Rabbi Jack Riemer, the one-time spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in La Jolla.
While flowers are popular in many religions, they fade quickly like life itself. Stones, on the other hand, are permanent, or as Rabbi Wolpe put it “stones don’t die. … There is something suiting the antiquity and solidity of Judaism in the symbol of the stone. In moments when we are faced with the fragility of life, Judaism reminds us that there is permanence amidst the pain. While other things fade, stones and souls endure.”
A friend of the widower brought a bag filled with smoothed-surface stones for the mourners to place on the gravestone of his wife — fittingly because as a writer of five books and numerous columns for San Diego Jewish World, Gail Feinstein Forman was painstaking in her self-editing, sometimes revising the same article as many as ten times before being sufficiently satisfied to turn it in.
A former teacher of English as a Second Language in the San Diego Community College system, Feinstein Forman died July 29, 2011, after a long wrestling match with cancer. During that battle, she continued to write stories and columns, and planned other ambitious writing projects for herself. While the disease may have gotten the better of her physically, she was determined not to let it best her mentally. Several speakers said that Feinstein Forman’s ability to make each moment count was for them an inspiration.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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