She Had Me From Hello

                        Lois Lynn Lorsch

December 15, 1961-September 3, 2019


Howard (L) and Lois Lorsch, z’l, blessing the Torah during worship at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands, February 2019.

In Howard’s words, “Lois was my wife, soul mate and best friend. She was a great mother to our children, my partner forever, confidante advisor and much more. She was a successful businesswoman and a trusted partner. Most of all Lois was a caregiver.

She loved great wine, cooked with it and, sometimes, she even put it in her dishes. She was a great cook.”

Vickie shared with Howard that President Andrew Jackson had his late wife Rachel’s picture on the wall in front of her bed. He wanted her to be the last thing he saw before going to sleep and the first thing he saw every morning. For Howard too, Lois will always be the first thing he thinks of in the morning and the last thing his mind and heart will see at night.

It was an act of genius for President Alan Lessack to appoint Lois Chair of the Rabbinic Search Committee, and it was an act of mind-boggling courage that Lois accepted the offer.

In a famous country, song, You Had Me from, “Hello,” Kenny Chesney sang, “Your smile just captured me. You were in my future as far as I could see.”

When she first interviewed me, Lois Lorsch had me “from Hello.”

When I learned the Chair of the Bat Yam. Temple of the Islands search committee wanted to Face Time with me, I Googled her. I learned Lois Lorsch owned and operated an Executive Search firm with her husband, and I could see from her business card photo that she was a very attractive woman with long black hair.

So you can imagine my surprise when this completely bald person with big black-rimmed glasses sat on the screen in front of me.

I thought Ms. Lorsch had been detained and that her husband was there to tell that she would be with me shortly.

But at “Hello” I discerned that this was the woman in the photo. Lois proceeded with the interview without a trace of self-consciousness or hesitation.

By the time I learned that she was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, I was hooked.

“If this synagogue,” I thought, “was so important to this woman that she would undertake this vital job in her condition, it must be a very special place, and this must be a very special woman!”

I was right on both counts.

In our second conversation, long before Bat Yam invited me to be its rabbi, I told Lois, “No matter how this search turns out, if I can ever be helpful to you as you fight this dreaded disease, I am here.”

Whatever help and support I have offered her and Howard pales in comparison to what they have given me.

She was more than a congregant and more than a friend. She was a life-coach who gave me, and all of us, a Master Class in how to live … and how to die. Her determination to squeeze every ounce of joy and meaning into each day God gave her will inspire me, and all of us, as long as we live.

One example: a year ago, Lois invested inordinate amounts of physical and emotional energy to easing the passage of another cancer victim, Bat Yam’s beloved Miriam Bailey, from this life to the next.

“Why?” I asked her. “You need to save your strength.”

“It needed to be done,” she answered.

”When she saw something that needed to be done, Lois just did it because it was the right thing to do.

As for you, God, I am very angry.

Murderers and cheats live long, carefree lives and You allow this to happen to Lois Lorsch! Yes, I am angry, but I refuse to allow my anger to become the arrogance that denies God. I will rage against God, but I will accept that there is so much that we don’t understand and will never understand about God.

Instead, I will realize that, in the words of the Psalmist, “A thousand years are but as yesterday in your sight.” (Psalm 90:4)

It is not the number of days we live that matter, but what we do with them.

So, I will thank you for the gift of Lois’ life. I will thank you for what she meant to Howie, her children, her many dear friends, to Bat Yam and to me.

Through all her tribulations Lois’ devotion to Judaism and her deep spirituality never wavered.  She studied Hebrew with me on Shabbat morning.  She read beautifully from the Torah last December 14, and we had a date for her to read from the Torah at services again in February.

The photo (above) she gave me for my birthday of her and Howard blessing the Torah at services last winter – a photo framed in seashells that she collected – hangs proudly in our home.

Lois was one of Bat Yam’s first Yom Kippur Congregants’ Hour speakers two years ago, and she was magnificent! In her speech she spoke lovingly of how Howard was the perfect partner and soul mate to walk with her through all the joys and difficulties with which life presented her.

Lois was the driving force behind Bat Yam’s decision to adopt the new prayerbook of the Reform movement for this coming High Holy Day season. She fully expected to be there for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Now, the new book will be a monument to her intellectual curiosity, her spiritual depth and her devotion to Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.

Lois lived every day to the fullest. She loved music festivals, concerts, new places, new people and new adventures.

Her doctors marveled at her courage, tenacity and longevity. And at every step along the way –until her final breath– she never gave in to despair or anger.

 Yes, she “had me from “Hello,’” but her goodbye will stay in my heart forever.

Her family and friends all ask: What would Lois do? She would have us embrace and enjoy life as she did. She would have us care about others as she did. And she would have us look whatever adversity confronts us right in the eye and face the future with courage.

Lois Lorsch: her memory will be blessing to all of us privileged to know her.