My name is Rhonda Silver. Since 1988, I have lived in a northern NJ suburb close to where I grew up. This is where my husband, Bob, and I raised our two sons—now aged 30 and 26—who have moved on to what they most definitely consider the greener pastures of Brooklyn and Manhattan. My education includes a bachelor’s degree in Economics and an MBA from Wharton. I was also a CPA in a former life.
After I had children, I alternated between part-time jobs—all involving some sort of writing (newsletters, grants, web site copy)—and not working outside the home. I was that mother: the one who volunteered to go on every field trip, helped at every class party, arrived early to get a seat in the front row for every student performance or athletic event, worked at every book fair, and served on the board of the parents’ association. I didn’t want to miss out on one single thing. Quite simply, being at all these events, and spending the majority of my time with my children, made me happy. But am I certain that structuring my life around my children was the best thing, in the long run, for either them or myself? Of course not.
I have one parent still living; my mother died over four years ago from leukemia. My parents met when they were 13 and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two months before my mom passed away. My wonderful, funny, lively, brilliant, incredible father has more energy than I do—and he is 89 years old. Until my mom became ill, he still worked. And until his knees began hurting too much about a year ago, he jogged two miles several times a week at a pace of about 12 minutes per mile. Now he walks. Quickly. Really quickly. I am blessed not just to have him be so healthy, but also to have him live less than fifteen minutes away from me—still in the house in which I grew up! I enjoy his company immensely, and we go out to eat or to the movies or have Shabbat dinner together as often as we can—which is never often enough for me. I am intensely aware of the tenuous nature of the time I have left to be with him.
I recognize that I have had a fortunate life, and I try very, very hard to demonstrate my gratefulness. I have been volunteering virtually my entire adult life. It is a priority for me and brings me great fulfillment. I have volunteered at a center for children with cancer and blood disorders, prepared tax returns for the working poor in Harlem, created and administered a financial literacy program for women who have been victims of domestic abuse, been a volunteer court advocate in family court, run countless races—including the New York City Marathon—to raise money to cure blood cancers (I am a six year survivor of lymphoma), participated in overnight walks to raise money for suicide prevention and mental health advocacy. I am currently working with a remarkable young man who is creating and moderating mental health and suicide awareness seminars for college students.
I know it is a gift to have the capacity to help others. I think that one day when I look back on my life—hopefully not too soon—these are the achievements that will make me feel I have justified my time here on earth.