A few stories from the 'someday' file

I keep a file of clippings marked “someday” — random items that come from newspapers, magazines, letters from friends.
This month of Elul, a time of readying for the coming new year, seems right for passing a few of them along to you.
I’ll start with a nice Jewish doctor, Henry Heimlich, who invented the lifesaving maneuver that bears his name — those abdominal thrusts applied by someone else to a person who is choking on a foreign object, usually a piece of food. In a pinch, an aware choking victim can self-Heimlich by banging the appropriate part of his/her own anatomy on the back rail of a sturdy chair.
The doctor-inventor never used his maneuver himself, however, until recently, when he successfully “Heimliched” a victim, an 87-year-old resident of the same senior community in Cincinnati where Heimlich himself lives. He’s now 96; his much-used procedure is 40 years old.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, an Orthodox rabbi is currently serving three years in prison for his role in coercing unwilling husbands to grant their wives Jewish divorces. The problem of agunot, women “chained” to such husbands, has for a long time been the subject of attention in Israel; it’s not so well known in the States, yet it does exist here, too. His intent may have been noble, but his methods were not: They included handcuffs, cattle prods and extortion. Ten other men — a minyan, no less! — were also convicted; their “ring” was finally broken up by a female federal agent posing as an agunah! (No mention of whether or not she is actually Jewish herself…)
Another not-so-nice-guy, this one in Washington, D.C., has been indicted for making secret videotapes of women bathing in the National Capital Mikvah. Now known, not fondly, as “the peeping rabbi,” he was arrested after one of his devices was discovered. He has acknowledged that for five years he had been snooping on women in the changing and showering areas of the ritual bath, hiding his paraphernalia in a fan, a clock radio, even a Kleenex box! Among his victims were women whose conversions to Judaism he was supervising plus female students he taught at two D.C.-area universities — he invited the latter, he said, to visit and learn abut the mikvah, but of course he chose only the ones he wanted to photograph. For him, a plea bargain netted 8½ years in prison.
This last story connects to a memory: Way back, when I was in high school, a friend of mine flew from Pennsylvania to Michigan, where she was supposed to be a bridesmaid in a cousin’s wedding. She had to get there early for a dress fitting, so her parents would drive up at a later date. And they did, but never made their destination; both died at the scene of a terrible highway accident. Friend Iris, an only child, never came back, but stayed to make her new home with those relatives. In accordance with Jewish tradition, the marriage itself went on as scheduled, but all the fancy wedding trappings were canceled.
So my interest was piqued by a newspaper headline about something very similar that happened right here in Dallas. The principals in this story were not Jewish; they just listened to the plea of the prospective bride’s mother, who almost died in a car crash herself just two weeks before the couple’s planned wedding. She insisted that things should go on as scheduled — only in her hospital room at Baylor Medical Center, where she was recuperating.
This event differed from the bare-bones Jewish wedding described above because here there was rejoicing in recovery. So the bride wore her gown and veil, there was music (albeit from an iPhone), and the hospital provided punch and cake. The happiest ending came after the vows and the kiss, when the mother announced from her wheelchair seat, “Only by the grace of God was I able to see this!”

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