Chana Robinowitz’s ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’ cookbook supports CurePSP
By Deb Silverthorn
Chana Robinowitz’s recipe honoring her husband Ralph’s fight against progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a form of Parkinson’s disease, is publishing “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Proceeds from the cookbook, filled with family favorites, stories and memories, are supporting CurePSP.
“My purpose is to let people know about this disease, to help others and to help my husband. People need to know and I want to help however I can,” said Chana, who culled together more than 80 recipes.
“The Farmer’s Daughter,” with all-kosher recipes, was brought together with the help of her daughter Jill, grandson John and in-law Elaine Lowenkron.
“I don’t enjoy cooking, but I love cookbooks and reading recipes. I picked recipes my family loves, dishes my friends make and some from my mother who was a real cook,” said Chana. She has previously shared proceeds with the Parkinson’s Voice Project, through which, early on, Ralph received support.
“We need research and a cure and to help those who can’t afford caretaker assistance,” she says, pleading. “I wanted to do something to help. I am overwhelmed and proud to be asked for the rights to use my book as a fundraiser for CurePSP, really bursting with pride to be able to contribute my part.”
CurePSP supports researchers and hospitals worldwide, including Hadassah in Israel, raising awareness, building community, improving care and seeking cures for PSP, corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Because PSP, CBD and MSA symptoms include changes to speech, balance, walking, swallowing, vision, cognition and autonomic functioning as well as Parkinson’s-like tremors, stiffness and slowness, some patients — including Ralph Robinowitz — are initially misdiagnosed.
The couple married in 1960 after meeting in Houston, where he was raised and where she, born and raised on a farm in Israel, was visiting family. For a year they lived in Waco, where he was a clinical psychologist; they then made Dallas their home.
Ralph worked for the Veterans Administration and then in private practice; Chana was part of the founding Hebrew faculty when Ann and Nate Levine Academy (then Solomon Schechter Academy) first opened. Over the course of 40 years, generations were blessed with her as their teacher at Congregation Shearith Israel’s religious school.
The Robinowitzes’ family includes their children Jill (David) Clay, Kevin (Debbie), Don (Nikki) and the late Howard; and grandchildren Carli and John Clay, Anna and Jake Robinowitz, Tyler Tran and Beau and Mila Robinowitz.
“The Farmer’s Dughter’ is Mom’s brainchild, her desire to do something of purpose. Whatever she can do to teach, advocate and get closer to a cure — that’s what she wants,” said Jill, who lives in Fort Worth; she and her family are members of Beth-El Congregation.
Kevin says his mother’s devotion is no surprise — just more of what he knows of her.
“My parents’ dedication to one another has never changed. Mom’s every thought about him is purposeful, always pushing for whatever he needs. Dad’s eyes, even now, show his absolute love and appreciation of and for her.”
Kevin is a Dallas resident whose family, like Chana and Ralph, belongs to Congregation Shearith Israel. He added, “The recipes in ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’ are an extension of Mom’s personality. She’s always loved people and often, through food, she’s shared their cultures and traditions. That’s seen in the dishes she included.”
Don lives in Houston with his wife and children; they are members of Congregation Beth Israel. He said, “Our father lost his father to Parkinson’s and his mother to Alzheimer’s. He did everything he could, including going to law school and passing the bar in his late 60s, to working another 20 years for Social Security, to keep his mind busy. Anything to keep thinking.
“Our mother has always protected Dad and kept him going. She signed him up for boxing classes, for exercise at the J, for voice and piano — everything to strengthen him and everything with purpose,” he continued. “She’s fought for medicines, therapies and care. Now, she’s raising funds to fight for him and others facing this terrible disease.”
While Chana doesn’t claim to be a chef, she says cooking during the pandemic brought her closer to many recipes she’s found in both English and Hebrew.
“During COVID-19, like everyone else we didn’t go anywhere so I experimented with ingredients we had, with a small vegetable garden in the backyard and I learned to understand the art of cooking,” she said.
Chana has found the CurePSP support group to be essential in managing things in the face of her husband’s illness. Ileen McFarland, the local facilitator, has become more than an adviser. Over the years their relationship has evolved to that of close friends, nearly family. At first in-person, and then over Zoom during the pandemic, connecting to Ileen has been meaningful to Chana beyond words.
Ileen, who in 2012 lost her husband, Terry Watson, to PSP, says the organization kept her whole. She joined CurePSP’s board and met Bill McFarland, whose own wife had died of the illness. The two married and, as a volunteer peer advocate, Ileen helps those traveling the path she knows well.
The McFarlands’ efforts have included creating packages for families to leave with their family members in hospital emergency rooms. When, during the pandemic, families couldn’t join loved ones and patients couldn’t verbalize, the information left behind guided medical professionals.
The couple and CurePSP’s 150-plus volunteers around the world offer training for movement disorder specialists, social workers, speech therapists, physical and occupational therapists and those working in hospice and palliative care.
“With PSP, the body shuts down but the mind is fine. We must advocate in every way. Since 2017, we have awarded 60 hours of paid care for 184 patient-families. Caretaking is expensive and families are overwhelmed,” said Ileen.
Ileen will chair CurePSP’s “Hope as Big as Texas” fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Belmont at Turtle Creek.
“Chana’s gift will go a long way. These patients and their families need advocacy and that’s what CurePSP allows,” said Ileen.
To make a donation and receive a copy of “The Farmer’s Daughter,” or otherwise support CurePSP, email email@example.com.