My mother, Barbara Rubin Sapsowitz, was a teacher, not just by profession, but constitutionally. She was a teacher to her core. Shortly after I was born, she returned to her teaching job — but, in 1959, she was made to feel guilty for not staying home with her baby, so she left her job and became a full-time homemaker.
The influx of Soviet Jewish immigrants to American communities happened just as I went off to college. My mother believed strongly that the key to these new immigrants’ success in their new land was a mastery of English, and she rolled up her sleeves to make that happen.
She got to know each newcomer’s families, their education, their work histories, their skill sets. She tested each individual to determine their language skills. She selected level appropriate learning materials for each student. She recruited and trained some 40 volunteer tutors from the community and made sure they had the training they needed to be effective tutors.
She made sure the new arrivals got introductions to American currency, the banking system and grocery stores. In addition, she shnorred tickets to cultural events at places like the Masonic Temple and the University of Scranton for them, anything that would introduce them to American culture. Sadly, her work was cut short by her death in 1995.
My dad was a Chemistry major at Brooklyn College, where he met mother, the love of his life. Our family moved from New York to Northeast PA in 1965 when my Dad’s company, Topps Chewing Gum, relocated. He eventually became Topps’ Vice President of Research and Development.
My parents built a life in the Scranton area, developed close friendships, and became involved with and committed to community life.
After my mother’s death, my father honored her memory by establishing and funding the production of the JFS Community Matters newsletter. In this way, he maintained his connection with the Scranton community for the past 25 years.
My parents were loving and generous people, and I am happy to enable the continuation of the newsletter in their memory.