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Why Doesn’t Mama Love Me?

Why Doesn’t Mama Love Me?


An hour and a half before Shabbat, Natasha and her friends arrived at my door.

My husband was away for the weekend, and I wanted to make sure my children and I would have some company and a proper Shabbat meal here in Ulyanovsk, Russia. So I invited Natasha—the woman who helps us around the house (who isn’t Jewish)—along with three of her friends, two Jewish and one non-Jewish.

I showed our guests to the living room, brought them some tea and joined them in their conversation. The atmosphere was pleasant; the women were very happy to be there. Yet Rima, one of the non-Jewish women, stared at me constantly with wide open eyes, as if inspecting me.

After twenty minutes of her being in a daze, just staring at me and not participating in the conversation, she cleared her throat and said in a shaky voice, “You know something?”

From a very young age, Rima noticed that her mother treated her differently than the rest of her siblings, giving her less attention and care.

We turned to her expectantly.

“My mother was Jewish,” she said.

We were all stunned.

“Your mother was Jewish?”

She took a deep breath and told us the story in a voice filled with tears.

Rima was born in the 1930s in Odessa, Ukraine, and was raised together with her four younger siblings. From a very young age, Rima noticed that her mother treated her differently than the rest of her siblings, giving her less attention and care. Rima was always served last, which meant that she got the leftovers. When there was an opportunity for education or a trip to the grandparents, Rima was always the last choice. Eventually, Rima realized that this behavior was intentional. Her mother clearly loved all the younger children and didn’t show the same love to Rima.

Rima’s mother made her take care of her younger siblings; she was responsible to cook food, to clean up, wash the laundry and babysit. But for some reason, no matter how much she helped and worked, her mother did not love her—of this Rima was certain.

When Rima became old enough to verbalize her feelings, she began asking her father, “Why can Mama be a good mother for everyone, and not for me?”

Rima asked this question many times, and at many different opportunities. Her father would answer her, “You’re the oldest in the family; you can tolerate more work.”

Even as a child, Rima understood that such answers were just a cover-up for something her parents did not want to reveal to her.

When Rima became old enough to verbalize her feelings, she began asking her father, “Why can Mama be a good mother for everyone, and not for me?”

In the 1970s, when Rima was 42 years old and married with two children, her father was diagnosed with a severe case of tuberculosis. The doctors could do nothing for him, so they sent him home to spend whatever time he had left with family. For the next two months he lay in bed, surrounded by immediate family and close friends. Everyone knew that he was about to leave forever. He, too, knew exactly what was going on, and prepared for his death.

One day, Rima was sitting with her father. It was just the two of them, alone in his room. “Please lock the door,” he requested. “I’m about to die, and I want you to know who you really are. I want to answer your question that I never answered truthfully.

“In 1933, when I was a young man, I married a beautiful Jewish girl. We were very happily married. After about a year, she became pregnant. Her parents both worked in the main theater of Odessa, and I worked for the NKVD. Those years weren’t easy for Jews. One day, my wife heard that a number of Jews had been arrested. My wife, late in her pregnancy, ran quickly to the theater to check up on her parents. Unfortunately, when she got there, she found out that it was too late; both her parents had been taken away. Out of shock from the devastating blow, she went into labor and gave birth to a sweet baby girl right there in the theater. That adorable baby girl was you, Rima. I received word from the theater that my wife had given birth and then fled. The baby was there, waiting for me to come pick her up.

Out of shock from the devastating blow, she went into labor and gave birth to a sweet baby girl right there in the theater

“I went to fetch you. As an inexperienced father without a wife, I felt that I did not have the ability to take care of you. I tried to find out what happened to your mother, but I never saw or heard from her again.

“I set you up in an orphanage on the condition that when I would marry again, I would come and take you back home with me. And so I did. I asked my second wife to adopt you and treat you like her own. I thought that if we didn’t tell you she wasn’t your real mother, it would work out better for you . . . but it didn’t . . .”

Shortly thereafter, Rima’s father passed away.

At the next available opportunity, Rima traveled to Odessa to see for herself the theater where she was born. When she got there, she was amazed to see the theater still in existence, exactly the way her father had described it. Inside, Rima found a bench and sat down. From the emotion that had built up inside, Rima dropped her face into her hands and burst into sobs. She cried bitter tears for the mother she had never known, for the void she had always felt, and for the truth that she finally now knew.

From a distance, an elderly woman, the keeper of the theater, had been watching Rima. When she saw that Rima was unable to calm down, she went over to her to ask if she could be of any assistance. Rima’s tears kept rolling down her cheeks. Finally, she told the keeper the reason for her visit. The keeper looked at Rima for a long moment, then said, “What—it’s really you?! I was there when your mother found out that her parents were taken away. I was the one who helped your mother through her emergency delivery here in the theater. I was there when your mother fled, and I took care of you until your father came to get you.” The two women embraced with great emotion. The theater keeper held Rima tight, just as she had 42 years earlier, until Rima was able to compose herself.

Thirty years passed. During that time, Rima knew only that her mother had been Jewish. She knew nothing else about Judaism, nor did she admit her Jewish identity to anyone else.

After hearing Rima’s story, we all sat in our chairs, unable to speak. I finally broke the silence. “Rima, it’s time for us to light the Shabbat candles. Would you please join us?”

At age 76, Rima lit the Shabbat candles for the first time in her life.

Adapted from an article in the N’shei Chabad Newsletter.

Suri Marozov lives in Ulyanovsk, Russia, with her husband and three sons, where they warm up the frigid cold by spreading and sharing Torah and mitzvot.
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LTC. (Ret.) Steven Kressel May 27, 2015

I am left speechless. Reply

Marlene Lewis Montreal, PQ January 3, 2013

I loved this story.Unfortunately, Rima did not have the true love of a mother as she was growing up. She was fortunate to have been with you, Suri, at your table, to have been able to tell her story, and for her to have been able to light the Shabbos candles for the first time. I hope that the kindling of the Shabbos lights, will help to uncover the G-DLY sparks of Judaism within her and may she be fulfilled, knowing G-d's love for her. Reply

Isabelle Porltand March 6, 2012

Rima What a touching story... ♥ Much love and blessings to Rima ♥ Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 6, 2012

neglect I think the worst kind of abuse is often neglect of another human being. A child needs that soil of being accepted, of being loved, of feeling belonging. When a child is refused this, it's a place where very little nourishment exists, and such children often grow up, as a plant deprived of water, missing something, needing something, with something wilted inside. It's a terrible soul thing. Life is filled with suffering of all kinds, and you wonder why, sometimes, the world has to be this cruel. It's as if, in the metaphor, we're vessels at the potter's wheel and some of us are made to be, really broken, abandoned in the dust heap, and yet sometimes those very vessels, are rediscovered, and find their way into the sun.

Only when something "happens" to change the picture, or transform the inner self, do we get growth, and sometimes the most amazing flower of all.

Can we condone abuse, neglect, cruelty?

Curiously the word soil, is for earth, and also for what is made soiled. Reply

Anonymous Moratuwa, Sri Lanka March 6, 2012

Why doesn't my mama love me This sort of stories widen the gap between the God & me. I'm very sorry about Rima. Reply

Rosemary Brisbane, Qld/Australia March 5, 2012

Many Complexities Connected to this story are many complexities and each of us relates to it because certain particular aspects resonate with us, myself included.

For myself, what resonated the most was the matter of true belonging. It is painful not to be truly loved & accepted, espeially by one's kind. And abuse, rejection and unfairness are hard to bear up in the face of & leave their traces & burdens. It is so wonderful to be gathered up, welcomed, cared for & included, perhaps especially by one's kind.

When one finds one's own kind, that is very special. May they accept & cherish one or there can be great pain..

Something connected with Rima, so she broke her cover and revealed her story.

And what comes next? Reply

Dmitriy Odessa-California, California March 5, 2012

To Flinkstein "Typical of a backward country like Russia, no new theatre, just a crumbling wreck smelling musty".

Doesn't sound very intelligent. The theater was first built in 1810. Then rebuilt, repaired after WW2 bombings and maintained. It is not musty, it is beautifl enough to be 3rd in the world! And Odessa is not Russia, it is Ukraine. So, please keep your comments to yourself. Reply

Anonymous Spokane, WA March 4, 2012

being jewish Thank you for the nice story. My grand grand mother was saved in the pogrom by Christian family and later married a Christian. It happened in 1905 in Tomsk, Russia. 2000 Jews were killed then. No documents were preserved for a 10 year old Jewish girl survivor. Although my mother’s mother was Jewish and married a Jew, it was forbidden topic to bring up our Jewish heritage for the fear of prosecution and the anti-Semitic spirit of the soviet society. To make matters worse was the prosecution of my grand grand father in 1939 (grandfather of my mother) on the basis of finding Yiddish books in his home. The language looked very much like German and that was enough for a death sentence. Finally, living in America I was able to come to truth about my Jewishness and thanks to the local Chabad learned how to light candles and honor the Sabbath. Reply

Flinkstein London, UK March 3, 2012

Rima "When she got there, she was amazed to see the theater still in existence, exactly the way her father had described it."

Typical of a backward country like Russia, no new theatre, just a crumbling wreck smelling musty. Reply

Lynne Newington Victoria, Australia March 2, 2012

Lost Mothers Many lost mothers who abandon their children, look for forgiveness, hoping their children would seek them out take their hand and show them the way back.
Only G-d knows a mother's heart. Reply

R. Deitsch BROOKLYN, NY March 2, 2012

reaching out Crystali, I am so sorry to hear this, about the cruelty that you suffered. My heart goes out to you. Reply

Crystali - Australia Brisbane, Queensland March 2, 2012

If it helps My mother was like that to me, but I was actually of her blood. Except she used to beat me first then when I was too old to beat she then abandonded me...

Thanks be to Hashem, what we spartans say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and the Lord is a jealous god, we have the love of our father in heaven all else becomes idolatry, when all your left standing with at the end of the day is you and the Lord and the love and devotion you MUST have for your father in heaven ABOVE all else. Reply

Deborah Drums, Pennsylvania March 1, 2012

Baruch Hashem As a non Jew, who observes Noahide laws and is one with you in faith, I was literally brought to tears, very moved by this story. Thank you sharing this story and for moving the spirit within me; and thanks be to Hashem for Divine Providence in Rima's life and in all our lives. Thanks to Hashem for your kind spirit that invited Rima to your Shabbat candle lighting.
Peace-Light-Love to all Reply

Carmen March 1, 2012

What I fail to understand is... Why G-d's ways are ways of suffering.
If He is the Maker of all, he could make it different, but He does not... Reply

Lynne Newington Victoria , Australia February 28, 2012

Why doesn't mama love me. How often we undermine Divine Providence and it is only when we experience personally can we speak with such certitude of it's existence. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma February 28, 2012

this story brings me to tears You wonder why G_d created such sorrow for Rima, as it seems to me, G_d's hand is in this story, in bringing her, in a way, full circle, from her father's confession to this woman who hugged her at the place where she was born What's borne here, for Rima is a lot of sadness and then the joy of teshuva, or return, to finally light those candles, in recognition of her heritage. It does seem we're shaped by our stories, and that sensitivity has to be a deep part of being so burnt by life. And then, there is something bittersweet, and of honey, in how one's puzzles in life are solved. I think by some alchemy we're all learning by traversing life's sorrows, which can be deep, and then, that movement, towards revelation and joy.

My parents almost named me, Rima, for the woman in William Henry Hudson's book, Green Mansions. Reply

Renelda Moorehead New London, Ct. February 28, 2012

Gudt Shabbat Divine Providence at work. G-d is Great.
I am non-Jewish, but one of my daughters-in-law is a practicing Jew. Anya, my older granddaughter, will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah next year. I have been blessed to attend Shabbat with my son and his family. I appreciate this story for many reasons. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem, Other February 28, 2012

What an overwhelming story.

Love to Rima. Reply

Yitschak. Moriah February 27, 2012

Inspiring What an amazing story this is. HaShem kept you for such a time as this.
G-d Loves you, and it's my belief you're getting to know G-d.
Be blessed Rima, HaShem has not revealed this to you for nothing. Reply

Rachael Medellin Dunker February 27, 2012

Thanks For sharing This is a wonderful story, it always touches my heart and soul with sadness and then great happiness. There are so many similar stories and every one is so unique, everyone connects to each other linking to Judaism and G~d. and a great People. Reply

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