Like everyone, I was really shocked to hear of Lady Jakobovits’ death last Friday and I immediately thought back to my first real meeting with her.
It was the late 1970s and The Chief Rabbi Sir Immanuel Jakobovits ( as he was known then) and his lovely wife Amelie were coming to stay with us for Shabbat. I was so nervous I could hardly breathe.
My husband was the Rabbi of a community in South London and our shul had invited the Chief Rabbi and his wife to be our guests and they had agreed.
All of the officers of the shul lived in homes far larger and more comfortable than ours but the Chief Rabbi ad his wife had agreed to be our guests in our small toddler filled home.
On both Friday night and Shabbat lunchtime we hosted a large group of youth from the community , but that wasn’t what I remember about their visit.
I remember all the little ways Rebbetzin Jakobovits put me at my ease with her every thoughtful touch .
Before she arrived she had first called to ask if I minded if she brought her own home-made challot, as it was her custom to bake them every week. “ Mind” I was honored and thrilled . She arrived with gifts for me and our oldest son, a book about a child’s experience in the holocaust in which she had inscribed “ To Shai, with best wishes to be read in about two year’s or so” a book which I later read and ,knowing her background as a holocaust survivor, I well understood her choice. As a mother herself she knew that our son wouldn’t appreciate the book yet but knew it would have far longer lasting worth that a toy or game more suitable for his age at that time, and in fact the book still sits amongst his books today, 30 years later.
She was admiring and appreciative of everything we did and served, but went to great lengths to make me treat her normally. When we were on our own she was with me in the kitchen and waved away plates and napkins when we had coffee and cake standing up by the breakfast bar.
She was very attentive to our young children and asked many questions about my family and my husband’s. My father had died not long before and she expressed her sorrow that he wasn’t there to know about how much we were doing for our community.
But to me the highlight of their visit came after they had left. During Motzei Shabat my mother called me in great excitement.
“You’ll never guess who just called me. Lady Jakobovits. She told me what a wonderful Shabbat she had spent with you and how I must have such naches from you, my son-in-law and the grandchildren . Wasn’t that wonderful of her.”
I could hardly believe it. Lady Jakobovits had taken the trouble, as soon as she had arrived home, to find out my mother’s telephone number and call her straight away to give her pleasure .
That was Lady Jakobovits; thoughtful, considerate, friendly and warm, always looking for ways to make you feel good and to bring joy to people’s lives . She was a true Lady and a tremendous Eishet Chayil.
May her memory be for a blessing.