Jpost Magazine remembers: Maxine Liptzen Dorot - tribute

Remembering ‘Magazine’ contributor and beloved friend Maxine Liptzen Dorot, who passed away suddenly in early October. To know her was to love her.

 MAXINE WITH Erez Rephael Dorot, one of her grandsons who was named after her late husband Rafi. Behind them, face a bit hidden, is Alan Marcus, one of Maxine and Rafi’s best friends; all were at the bat mitzvah of Alan’s granddaughter. (photo credit: MAYA AMADO)
MAXINE WITH Erez Rephael Dorot, one of her grandsons who was named after her late husband Rafi. Behind them, face a bit hidden, is Alan Marcus, one of Maxine and Rafi’s best friends; all were at the bat mitzvah of Alan’s granddaughter.
(photo credit: MAYA AMADO)

On October 6, many of us had the most horrible shock: Maxine Liptzen Dorot of Ashkelon, the most alive person imaginable, suddenly suffered a stroke and died a few days later. Many of us are still in disbelief. 

Maxine was everyone’s “best friend.” She helped everyone in need, whether she knew them or just heard they were in need. She had a heart of gold and a sense of humor, which made her so much fun to be around, and had everyone in stitches. Maxine wrote many articles for this Magazine and in a very recent WhatsApp, even asked me for ideas for her next article. Who would have believed that the next article would be about Maxine, z”l, rather than by her? 

By putting together thoughts from Maxine’s best friends, we hope to share our tremendous loss and be inspired by the fun and serious person she was.

For example, Melodie wrote: “There are some people who share your life span and enrich your journey. One finds it difficult to grasp that that person is no longer available, will no longer call, will no longer send out emails, will never again tickle your funny bone, will never be in the same room except in your memory. Maxine is one of those people.”

Students said she was the best English teacher they ever had. No matter how many friends she had, we each felt her love, her caring and most of all, her amazingly funny sense of humor. With a straight face, she put you in stitches, whether in person or in cyberspace. As Lorna wrote, “She had so many sides to her; all of them were full of love, compassion, humor and irreverence. The pain of losing such a valuable close friend of 40 years is palapable.”

 AT ASHKELON marina with friends (L-R) Cheryl, Eileen and Dena.  (credit: Courtesy of those photographed) AT ASHKELON marina with friends (L-R) Cheryl, Eileen and Dena. (credit: Courtesy of those photographed)
 

To know Maxine was to love her. As Leah wrote, Maxine was sharp, opinionated and extremely funny yet she never offended whether or not we agreed on issues. She shared her life on Facebook, on emails, on WhatsApp. She agonized over antisemitism on college campuses, especially in America. She asked me to pray for friends who needed a recovery and to sign petitions against universities who practiced antisemitism and allowed professors to teach lies about Israel.

When her beloved husband Rafi, a native Ashkelonian, succumbed to his painful cancer about 10 years ago, she spoke so incredibly at his funeral that you somehow now knew Rafi and felt the pain of his loss, whether or not you had ever met him. When I wrote her after the funeral that I’d like her to write my eulogy someday, she quipped, “Sure. Sign up at Eulogies.com and I’ll write it.” 

That was Maxine. Always sharp and witty... It seems that others asked her the same thing.

Aliza writes that her parents knew Maxine and her parents back in Brooklyn! Aliza’s father held Maxine up when they named her in his shul. Maxine’s father was Aliza’s first podiatrist. Many memories of their close friendship were formed as they raised their children in Israel. Another very close friend, Ilana, also connected very strongly with Maxine as they raised their children together in Ashkelon. “She was more than a sister; she was my very best friend and I miss her more every day.”

When Maxine taught at Achva College, Laura reminds us that Maxine was in charge of a “well and good” fund where she made sure that everyone on the administrative staff and others would get a present at the right time. Since Maxine’s retirement, the fund no longer exists. It was Maxine who worried about everyone’s wellness and joy.

She enriched her students’ lives in every way. Melodie recalls that as a teacher trainer, Maxine was demanding and caring – one of her former students claims that she was the best methodology teacher she ever had. Her legacy spreads to thousands. Her colleagues feel bereft without her. Suzanne, who was her department head at Ashkelon College, misses their late-night WhatsApps where they would take turns telling each other to go to sleep already. “So painful to be missing all these conversations.”

Rafi’s cousin, Vardit, was the only speaker at her funeral who spoke in Hebrew, apologizing for it! As she and many others said, “Maxine was a Brooklyn girl who married Rafi from Ashkelon and built a family and a rich circle of friends, all of whom somehow knew that Maxine would speak only English with them! And somehow, they did!”

Leonie was another very close friend who can’t come to grips with this enormous loss. She adds, “Max had a tough New York exterior but she was all heart. Her relationship with Edith Dorot, Rafi’s mother, was breathtaking – a relationship of true love, respect and concern. They lived in the same house, split into two apartments, and when Rafi predeceased his mother, Maxine and Edith were both strong for each other. As can be expected, this same relationship of love, respect and true concern was repeated in the next generation when Maxine became the mother-in-law.”

Leonie recalls that “even when Maxine was disappointed with events in Israel, her loyalty to her adopted homeland was unflinching. She was a proud Jew, a proud Israeli and a proud Ashkelonian. Her love and concern for kidnapped IDF soldiers, for example, knew no bounds. In 2001, she set up a blue ribbon project, arranging for handouts of thousands of blue ribbons for trees, cars and front doors on homes, so that the people of Israel would remember and the Israeli government be constantly reminded that we had soldiers missing who might still be alive. She oversaw a song, “Seret tchelet” (blue ribbon), which was played on the radio. In many cities, especially in Ashkelon, blue ribbons abounded. 

Today, with the Internet, the project would have received a greater impetus but what Max achieved back then was remarkable, Leonie continues. “Max understood and spoke Hebrew at a high level, but it seemed to be her mission in life to make Israelis speak English. She was the only person I knew who could look at any Israeli, any age, any status and say to their face: What, you don’t speak English? And, here’s the amazing part, nobody ever said: This is Israel! How about you speaking Hebrew? They always either apologized for their English or hung their heads in shame. Something about her charisma and, let’s be honest, sheer chutzpah, meant she could get away with it when thousands couldn’t! Max also taught English to pupils, students and English teachers and they were all the better in every way, for having been her pupils!” 

Dena, like all of us, has a hard time accepting the fact that Maxine has gone forever, although her spirit and inspiration stays with everyone whose life she touched. “She was the one who always helped out with kiddush at the Netzach Yisrael Masorti Synagogue. She organized things for holidays; put singles together as couples and even found homes for stray cats and dogs. Max cared about everyone and everything. She scoured the social welfare services to get help for people who had fallen by the wayside – vatikim [the elderly], immigrants or tourists. Max never abandoned anyone in need of assistance.” 

Dena had the privilege of traveling to Liverpool with Maxine for a Paul McCartney concert. Maxine’s well-planned dream trip might have been spoiled because Eileen, a close friend who was widowed around the same time that Maxine was, got sick and couldn’t go with her so Dena got to go instead. What a great time they had! And Dena celebrated her birthday every year with Maxine for the past 18 years. 

But this year, sadly, Dena and some friends had to celebrate without Maxine, hoping that she’s celebrating with Rafi...

Eileen recalls that one year ago, she fell and severely broke her shoulder and required a complete shoulder replacement. Maxine insisted that Eileen stay with her until she was completely healed and could take care of herself completely. Maxine took care of her, helped her get dressed every day and treated her as family for a few months! Eileen loved Maxine and is forever grateful for her wisdom, her humor, her kindness and for being a good Brooklyn friend. Gazit, who worked with Maxine at Achva College, also recalls their special friendship, sharing stories from the “old country” of Brooklyn.

Terri and Marty met and became close friends with their fellow Brooklyn native Maxine when they moved to Ashkelon in 1981. When Marty passed away six years ago, Maxine was totally there for Terri, reminding her she could call her any time, night or day to talk or to cry. She arranged meetings with other friends so Terri could begin to enjoy life again. She misses her so much, of course. (If you want to see Maxine’s eulogy of Marty, take a look at this video: youtu.be/e8uircJYiaQ)

Hazel also describes Maxine as passionate and devoted with a generosity of spirit and kindness that was enjoyed by her students, colleagues and friends. She also speaks of Maxine’s sharp sense of humor.

Since Aliza now lives in New York, she felt even more pain being so far away and called for us to have a Zoom session just to share our Maxine stories and pain. A group formed in a very short time and we did just that. Some of us found it still too painful to talk about Maxine in the past and didn’t join. Some of us found it a bit therapeutic to share our pain.

MAX WAS one of a kind. She was a magical force in the worlds of all of us who were lucky to be her friends. It was too short a time – she didn’t make it to her 72nd birthday on December 19. 

We send hugs and wishes to her children and grandchildren and can’t even fathom the pain they must be feeling from this shocking and sudden loss.

Anyone who believes that nobody is irreplaceable never met Maxine. To know her was to love her.   ■

***

 CHILREN TAL, Shani and Ari (L-R) celebrate Maxine’s her last birthday in December 2020, when she turned 71. (credit: Courtesy of those photographed) CHILREN TAL, Shani and Ari (L-R) celebrate Maxine’s her last birthday in December 2020, when she turned 71. (credit: Courtesy of those photographed)

A son’s words about his mother: Tal Dorot’s eulogy for Maxine

My mom was no ordinary mom. 

She didn’t cook or clean much. 

She didn’t tell me to do my homework, or ask to be excused from the table. 

She was a kind of mom that laughs from dirty jokes, listens to rock and roll and Motown and curses drivers on the road. 

A kind of mom who was proud to be a Brooklyn girl in Ashkelon, insisting on speaking English to every person, whether they understood her or not. She was one of those mothers who the other kids remember. Her students remembered her decades after she taught them, and were always so happy to run in to her on the street or in the mall. She took pride in that, but also complained that knowing her high school students are now parents, made her feel old. 

A mother who had the craziest sense of humor, and the biggest heart there was. She raised us to always think about what the other person feels. Always be kind and caring. Unless the other person was a schmuck and then you don’t have to. 

Mom – you taught us so many things, besides English that is. You taught us to be good friends, good people, to love animals and take care of stranded dogs and street cats. You taught us that family is everything. You had traveled far away from yours by moving to Israel, and I know that was one of the hardest decisions in your life. In all of your doings – teaching, writing, broadcasting, volunteering – I know that we, your family, were always the top priority.

And now, our family is once again shaken to its core, and put to the test. In the past 10 years we have lost our Savta and our Aba, and now Mom is gone and we are orphans in this world. 

No one to worry about or make sure she’s okay. No one to call the shots, no one to decide when we should all meet, or what time to have dinner. Our captain is gone and we are lost at sea, afraid and confused. How can we live without our Mom?

After Dad died, and we had to dust ourselves up and carry on, you were our rock. You amazed us with your strength and resilience, even though the pain in your heart was bigger than anyone else’s. Dad was your soul mate, your partner in crime, and you never stopped loving him even when he pissed you off. 

So I hope, Mom, that in some sense, you are there with him. That you are back together, hugging and loving each other like you were always meant to be. And I hope you are looking down and watching over us. I hope you are there with Grandma and Grandpa and with Saba and Savta, playing Rummikub or watching a Mel Brooks movie and laughing out loud. I imagine they were waiting for you with great anticipation. 

Ari, Shani and I, and all our family down here, are devastated, but we will be as strong and resilient as you taught us to be. United with love and support offered by hundreds of people who knew you and loved you. As I told you on your hospital bed just yesterday morning – we’ll be okay. You can let go. It’s not like you to give up but this one was a fight we couldn’t win. 

So rest in peace, Mom. I will miss seeing your number pop up on my telephone screen 20 times a day. I will miss asking you for English advice or dog wisdom. I will miss complaining to you about life and arguing with you about... well, about everything. 

Most of all, I will miss that feeling in my heart that there is someone who loves me unconditionally and no matter how annoying and sarcastic and a bitch I was – she never ever stopped loving me. 

Bye, Mom. I’m gonna go now. Love you. I’ll see you when I see you.