09/14/2016

Shedding Tears for Noah

Tags: Federation, Campaign, Partners

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

By Regina Brett

My friend Heidi was barely Jewish, at least that’s what some people mistakenly thought.

I was one of them.

She named her three children Aaron, Josh and Noah. My babies, she called her boys. She didn’t live to see them grow into men.

I just watched the video of her youngest son speak in front of 400 people at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. Noah made me cry.

I have prayed for Noah nearly every day since I met him almost 18 years ago. You, the Cleveland Jewish community, were the answer to my prayers.

Noah Farrell is that rare light that always finds a way to penetrate the darkness. Your support for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland kept that light burning.

Noah is an orphan. It sounds terrible, and it was. His parents were both alcohol and drug addicts. They were both dead by the time he was 14.

I didn’t know his dad, but I knew his mom. Heidi fought her addiction. She fought and she fell, over and over. Some people gave up on her, but a lot of us never did. She finally fell too far.

A tribe of people called Alcoholics Anonymous had tried to save her. And along the way, loved her boys. They patted Noah as he crawled on the floor of Club 24 in Cleveland Heights every Saturday morning at 10.

Once, when he was a toddler there, his little blond head was covered in red. Was it blood? No, it was love. Lipstick kisses, from all the women in recovery who kissed him as he toddled by.

That boy was a gift.

Turns out Noah was everyone’s gift.

He sent me a message on Aug. 31 with a link to a video he asked me to watch. I cry every time I see it.

Those blue eyes steal your heart. That twinkle, that smile? It’s the best of his mom alive in him.

So many people tried to help Heidi. The recovery community painted her apartment, bought her groceries, took her boys to T-ball and coached her on parenting, finishing school, getting a job. She loved those boys fiercely, but addiction doesn’t care.

Heidi didn’t make it. But her boys did. That means there’s hope.

And that’s what the Jewish community offered those boys: hope.

A beautiful soul named Ruth stepped in to help them. Ruth has no children of her own, but carries that powerful Jewish mother DNA in every cell of her body.

Ruth smothered Noah with love then loved him enough to let go and let a Mizrachi family parent him the rest of the way. The University Heights couple raised Noah all through high school.

Who raises someone else’s child? Who wants an extra teenager?

This good, strong Jewish family treasured him like a son.

If only I had known, I wouldn’t have wept so hard at Heidi’s funeral. My heart shattered for those three boys, especially little Noah.

The funeral, that’s where all of you came in. Noah had just started attending a Jewish day school. He seemed so small and alone, then suddenly the door to the funeral home opened, and dozens of Jewish kids from his new school spilled inside to hold him up.

Noah attended the Joseph & Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood, got help from Bellefaire JCB in Shaker Heights and graduated in June from Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood, all Federation partners.

The theme of this year’s Federation campaign is “What inspires you?” If you need inspiration, watch Noah’s speech. He talks about touching The Wall in Jerusalem and feeling his mother’s presence and pride over the good Jewish life he is living.

Noah left on Sept. 5 to study in Israel. I got to give him a hug goodbye. He told me his life’s motto, only he said it in Hebrew, so I didn’t understand a word. He wrote it in my notebook:

“Everything’s B’simcha. Optimism can be found in everything. With all situations, there’s something great.”

Noah embraced Jewish life like a lifeline. He’s going to study at a Jewish college, lead a Jewish life and raise a Jewish family so he can be that lifeline for others.

The four priorities of the 2017 Jewish Federation campaign are to support Israel, to help ensure a Jewish future, to safeguard the Cleveland Jewish community and to leave no one behind.

Thank you all, for not leaving Noah behind.


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