The title is the phrase used in Judaism related to comforting those who are in mourning. And, as a spouse of a Temple Israel member, I occasionally see this phrase pop-up in my email inbox. I look at these announcements, in the event it's somebody I know. But the message that came in last month wasn't a secret: the subject line included the name of deceased. And it was Joan Glickman, a middle-aged woman who I had known since my days of reporting for Florida Public Radio in the early 1990s.
Her death was sudden. It was shocking. It was, in all likelihood, as a result of a confluence of a variety of health issues finally doing her in. Nonetheless, I had no idea how sick she was, or that there was any clue that she might die.
She was buried in Tallahassee last month, and today was her memorial service. There were people from the state legislature, and Temple Israel in attendance... and a couple of reporters. Two of the Senators who had employed her spoke... each offering important insights into Joan as a person. They highlighted her hard-working spirit, her pencils that she always had sticking out of her hair, and her desire to give. We learned that her family had started the synagogue in their hometown in Long Island, and that Joan had been active teaching the children, and performing in their plays. When she moved to South Florida in the mid-80s, it took her a little bit before she became active in the local political scene. But once she did, she took everyone by storm. Then-Broward County Commissioner Howard Forman was elected to the Florida Senate in 1988, and he hired Joan with him as an aide. And that's how I met Joan Glickman.
I was a rookie to reporting on Florida government, and Joan Glickman knew it. But rather than treat me as a subhuman as some others did, Joan took a shine to me, and she became a person I could rely on to tell me the straight, cold, hard facts... as she saw 'em. And, for the most part, Joan had a pretty good feel for what was what in the Florida Senate. So much so that she gained the reputation of being the "41st senator" in a 40-member body!
What made our connection closer was when her friend, a lobbyist for health care named Ree Sailors, brought her to a Mickee Faust Club show at the Warehouse on Gaines Street. Joan, who had grown up around music hall theatre and cabaret in New York, was overjoyed to have discovered a cabaret troupe with a political bite and social edge. She became one of our first financial backers and would often track me down in committee meetings to find out what we were up to, when is the next show, and how could she get tickets. In fact, when we ran our iconic rat leader Mickee Faust for Governor in 2002, Joan put her support behind our Vote Vermin campaign.
After I left reporting, I would occasionally run into Joan, mostly at Faust shows. And she even hired me a few times to bring the massage chair into her office. I could see that her health was not good, but she was undaunted.
The depth of Joan Glickman's commitment to her fellow human came through in the last years of her life when she moved to Tallahassee. She joined Temple Israel, and within a few months, she became a powerhouse, joining every cause and committee she could. And her dedication to the Temple's outreach to the homeless Shelter was incredible. My partner was the point person for the fifth Sunday mitzvah at the Shelter, when Temple members serve dinner to the homeless. My job was to pick up the food we'd be serving. Without fail, Joan would always come through. First, she'd load me down with two or three casseroles. Then she'd have bags of veggies and lettuce, pre-cut and washed, for the salad. Then she'd hand me two bags of apples. And then... the banana bread... always the banana bread... at least three or four loaves. And she'd always say, "Is that enough?" And I couldn't help but think of the song from Passover, "Dayenu", which is to say, "It would have been enough to have just done the casseroles, Joan!" After the disaster that was the passage of the anti-gay marriage Amendment Two in Florida, Joan was one of the first straight allies to join our grassroots group, Impact Tallahassee, to fight for LGBT equality. Injustice had no place in Joan Glickman's world.
God has prepared a place for Joan, and I'm sure Joan is making her place known in the Kingdom of God. May the memory of her always shine on in the hearts of those of us who knew her.