On the Passing of Millie Irejo

Contributed by Dina Yoshimi

On the afternoon of November 20, longtime friends, fellow congregants, and devoted soulmates of Millie Irejo gathered to remember her life, and to acknowledge her many contributions to their own lives. The service opened with the reading of Psalm 91 by Rabbi Ken Aronowitz. The words reminded us of Millie’s enduring faith in HaShem, a faith reflected, as the psalm relates, in her fearlessness in the face of the terror of night, and her unwillingness to relinquish even an inch to the pestilence that walks in gloom. Tears flowed as Rabbi’s voice, reciting the rituals of the graveside service, added solemn beauty to these ever-poignant moments of reflection on the graceful fragility of the human condition and the deep pangs of loss we endure when a beloved member of our kehillah is laid to rest.

Invited to share our memories of the independent, uncompromising, kind, and generous woman we had gathered to honor, many shared stories attesting to Millie’s love of music, her passion to share music with others, and her generous spirit that led to compassion for homeless felines and extended to a level of selflessness and commitment to helping others, which created bonds of lifelong love and friendship. Millie’s acts of tzedakah, of gemilut chasadim, and of ahavat Torah were recalled as well. As a cohort united by our shared appreciation and love for our dearly departed friend, we together remembered her indomitable spirit that powered her drive to learn, her commitment to contribute to community endeavors, and, in her days of reduced mobility, her fierce determination to rely on her own two arms to get her where she needed to go, be it shul, Talmud shiur, or a shivah call.

Joined by our shared reminiscences, the kehillah made its way up to the graveside to complete our collective obligation of l’vayat hameit. In Jewish tradition, this mitzvah is recognized as especially meritorious, since there can be no expectation of a return kindness from the recipient; and yet, in spite of this teaching, I could not help but feel that in bringing us of all together under a small tent in Abraham’s Garden on her account, and thereby creating this opportunity for us to recognize just how very connected we all were to each other through our shared appreciation of and fondness for Millie, she had, in her own one-of-a-kind, uncompromisingly original fashion, managed to gift us all with this one final act of chesed. May her memory, the life of a righteous woman, be for a blessing.