When Judi Kaufman was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1997, she was told she had five years left to live.
Temple Ahavat Shalom parents and preschoolers strolled around America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College on Jan. 27, waiting for Alexa Weiner to arrive for her fifth birthday party. When they learned that the event had been canceled due to a family emergency, none of them could have imagined that the bright, spirited birthday girl was at Childrens Hospital, fighting for her life as she awaited emergency surgery for stage-three brain cancer.
"I heard the rabbi is dying of brain cancer."
That was the word flying around the shul. I should have expected it. Rumors were rife, and they were uncomfortably close to the truth.
Last Oct. 23, I was speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, to inaugurate the new Hillel building on campus. At dinner, I sat beside my parents.
As I spoke, I felt a little strange, nervous and hot. I had trouble keeping to my train of thought. It occurred to me that I was coming down with a cold.
As I sat down after my speech, my father asked, "Is there anything wrong?"
"No," I said, and that is the last thing I remember.