Friday, August 19, 2005

Yonina Jacobs, 1937–2005

Yonina Jacobs, 1937–2005

Barukh dayyan ha-emet.

(Jews customarily recite the above Hebrew sentence, which means “Blessed be the true Judge,” upon hearing bad news.)

My beloved teacher, Yonina Jacobs, died early this afternoon. Several years ago she was diagnosed with cancer, and although her surgery was successful, the disease returned later on. Today, it claimed her.

A clinical psychologist and energy healer for more than twenty years, Yonina was a teacher to the end. When she realized that she was dying, she invited her students to come to say goodbye. She wanted to leave with a clean slate, and she talked openly about her dying process, with which she was completely at peace.

I took the above picture of Yonina last April, when we met at the home of a mutual friend. That was the last time I saw her until last week, when this friend called to tell me about Yonina’s situation.

Yonina lived many lives during her time in this world. Among the most fascinating stories she told me were the ones about how, in her younger days, she sang with such folk personalities as the Weavers and the Kossoy Sisters in Greenwich Village. (She also went to school with Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary). “I learned to play the banjo in self-defense,” she said with a grin. The folk musicians had a permit to play in Washington Square Park on Sundays from noon until 6:00 p.m., after which they often went to Yonina’s apartment to jam throughout the night. And that’s just one of the many facets of Yonina’s life.

Several years ago I was privileged to be able to bring a good friend back into Yonina’s life. My very dear friend Larry (Arie) Gamliel, a mainstay of Israel’s folk-music community who died in late 2003, had been a friend of Yonina’s when he was a university student some twenty-five years before. I happened to mention Larry to Yonina—or perhaps it was the other way around—and they reconnected. When Yonina broke her ankle and could not leave her home for several weeks, Larry got a few local folk musicians together to visit and play for her. Larry loved and respected Yonina very much, and I like to think that he was among those who were there to welcome her when she crossed over.

It is a relief to know that Yonina is no longer suffering. But I’m so very sad that she’s gone.

I send my condolences to Yonina’s family, friends, students and all who loved her.

Barukh dayyan ha-emet.

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