It’s difficult to imagine a new immigrant who embraces volunteer work just after landing in their new home. It’s difficult to imagine them successfully applying their administrative skills even before they have an opportunity to learn the language. And it’s hard to imagine them persisting in their commitment to community through thick and thin for two consecutive decades with nothing but a smile on their face. Hard to imagine, unless you knew Sylvia.
Sylvia Dortz and her late husband, Jerry Dortz of blessed memory, made aliyah from New York directly to Ariel in 1995. They had been recently retired, and they wanted to come home to the Land of Israel to live with their extended family, the Jewish People. They knew Ariel would be just right for them, but they wanted more than a comfortable and meaningful place to live. They wanted to make their new home everything it could be.
The retired couple was young at heart and driven to see how and where they could make a difference. The Ariel Foundation was the obvious choice. The Ariel Development Fund office was only a fifteen-minute walk from their home. There they could use their interpersonal skills and their career-long experience for the benefit of the community. Every paper they filed, every article they penned and every data entry they processed enhanced fundraising efforts on behalf of the people of Ariel. Volunteering for the Ariel Foundation was a constant source of satisfaction.
Sadly, Jerry passed away five years ago. Sylvia was left on her own, but she would not allow herself to be lonely. While mourning Jerry’s loss, Sylvia chose life. She pursued their previously shared commitment to the success of Ariel’s residents by continuing with her volunteer work. Week after week, month after month, year after year, Sylvia continued to light up the Ariel Development Fund office with a sincere smile, an encouraging remark and an unrelenting spirit.
Though Sylvia grew weak she remained consistent. Even as her diabetes and its associated complications began to take their toll, she continued to come into the office three times a week. Sylvia’s charm was infectious. Only a small circle of friends knew just how ill she was.
Today, after a generation of challenges and perseverance, we say shalom to Sylvia. Things haven’t been the same for the past several weeks, which she spent in the hospital. Sylvia and her visitors all shared the same sentiment; she missed “the Foundation” and “the Foundation” missed her. Now, as she returns her soul to her Maker, we say a tearful shalom.
“May her soul be bound up in the bond of life.”