Eulogy for Jill Cohen 8/14/2016
Jill and I met in 1992, she newly arrived in Seattle to take a job at the JCC and me returning from Arizona. We could never quite remember where we met but it really didn’t matter. We could tell we were kindred spirits sharing many of the same loves: Israel and Jewish traditions, dancing, good dark chocolate, good musicals and singing along with the stars, and of course our favorite color- Purple.
I remember Jill loved saying her job at the Jewish Community Center- was to put the “J” in the JCC.
She was so proud of bringing Jewish content and activities to the community. It gave her a wonderful sense of accomplishment. This commitment to Judaism continued-when she worked for Hadassah, become our shul president , leading Yizkor and musaf services, and welcoming all into her home for a meal.
When she left the JCC, her next job was at NWAF- to do fundraising- Jill did not see herself as a fundraiser at the time, but like all challenges, she took it on with gusto and a determined spirit- and of course did amazing. She even managed to convince me to go on their board when they wanted a female doctor.
She encouraged me to try out for Radost Folk Ensemble, even though I had only performed Israeli folkdancing. Her comment was “a grapevine step is a grapevine step, the same in any folkdance language”. So, of course, I listened to her sage advice and became part of the dance troupe.
And I was present on that auspicious day- Sukkot 1994- when Jill met Rik, and Rik met Jill for the first time. Rik was so smitten with Jill he asked her out to a movie for that same night. Jill turned right around and asked Debbie and I do go with her (on their date!!). Debbie had baby Joshua so declined, but I went with them. It was one of the most uncomfortable movie times I ever had- Rik sandwiched in between Jill and I. Trying to hold her hand but she would have none of that…yet. Rik was not to be deterred however and came for Shabbat at my house (where Jill would be as well) the next Friday. He brought 2 huge bouquets of flowers- I am sure trying to impress Jill. (coincidentally it was the same Shabbat I met my future husband Michael) Well, the flowers obviously worked, as she agreed to go out the next day on their second date. Thankfully, I was not invited to that one. We all know that the date lasted 12 hours. Jill came into Radost practice the next morning and while melting to the ground declared “I’m in love!!”. 18 days later (and Jill loved the number 18) they were engaged. A few months later they were married- Jill wearing her mothers wedding dress and her red dancing cowboy boots.
I have lots more stories to tell, but there simply isn’t time
So I’ll put the remainder of my thoughts, to these few simple rhymes
Jill did so many amazing things, but these I remember most
Listening to her sing with Dunava, dancing with her in Radost
Sharing Jewish holidays as framily, and scores of yummy Shabbat dinners
Getting together on New Years Day, to determine the prediction winners
Watching Broadway musicals, and singing the show tunes
Talking about the books we read, for Jill really loved Dune
Never wanting pity parties, or being defined by her disease
Having a rowdy Bagel-off , hearing of her travels overseas
Laughing, dancing, and eating alot, even shedding a few tears
You made our world a better place, just by being here
So my dear friend, though now we are worlds apart
Those memories will never fade, I will always carry them right here in my heart.
And the second one:
During Jill and Rik’s wedding reception, the Radost Folk Ensemble, in full costume, entered the room, carrying lime jello and singing a beautiful song about a dark-eyed maiden.
Jill and I met in Radost, and had a great time performing together. She lights up the stage with her energy and talent. She was also especially proud to perform with the Dunava Women’s Balkan Choir, and you can hear her yips and her distinctive voice on their CDs.
As you heard, Jill made a point to celebrate Succot, and this played an important part in my family’s life. As soon as my sons were big enough, I got them over to Jill and Rik’s house each year to help put up the frame, and place the schach (Jill loved to say that word!).
Jill got such a kick out of decorating the Succah each year – She called it Christmas for Jews. She kept boxes in the garage, full of decorations that friends and their children brought over the years.
Jill would open each box and look for familiar decorations – “There’s Mr. Corn, and Gumby Asparagus! Where are Ms. Tulip and the purple flowers? We’re missing a box – Rik – check the garage! We need the little windchimes and the Mizrach.” We always found them.
Then, each year, she had a big party with lulav and etrog and lots of food. Every year she took a picture of all of her guests in the Succah.
Jill helped make a warm Jewish home for my children. We shared many Shabbat and holiday meals over the years.
We traded off leading Passover seders, with our little group of friends, although in recent years I played the support role so she could lead.
This year, she meticulously planned decorations for the seder table, complete with dolls as Moses, Aaron and Miriam, a doll house with blood on the doorposts, and a calf she painted gold.
And then there is the White Meal. You know how Jill loved to cook and how good she was at it. When Jill realized how much I like white food, she started brainstorming different white foods to make a whole meal – Cauliflower, cucumbers, white fish, semolina, mochi cake, even white tea.
Somehow, the White Meal became a Yom Kippur tradition, (maybe to match our white clothing) which has stuck for many years!
We all know Jill for her intelligence, talent, and beauty. We also know how strong a fighter she has been. Those of you who were at her amazing metsaversary celebration last year have heard my son Aaron’s take on her already. Here is what he said:
Jill is a warrior. When g-d gave her lemons, she didn’t make lemonade. She threw them back and demanded chocolate!