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For the week ending 9 July 2016 / 3 Tammuz 5776

Mrs. Rosalie Moriah

The Color of Heaven Artscroll

B.A. - St. Lawrence University, NY
M.A. - The Sorbonne, Paris

Secretary at Ohr Somayach since 1989

Rosalie played the role of Saint Bernadette in high school and went Xmas caroling with her scout troupe in her hometown of Hudson, NY. Today, and for the past 27 years, Rosalie has been a secretary at Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem. How did this transformation come about?

Rosalie’s family was totally secular — i.e., no Shabbat, no kashrut, no Chagim. She knew she was Jewish but not much more than that. When she was offered the leading role in “The Song of Bernadette”, she had no hesitation in accepting. Paradoxically, the priest who reviewed the play for the local paper wrote: “Miss Epstein sustains the deep religious mood.”

As salutatorian of her graduating class in 1949, Rosalie eschewed the obvious choice for her speech — the return of the Jewish People to their ancestral Homeland after 2,000 years — and spoke instead of her love for theater. Rosalie spent the next four years at St. Lawrence, a small, co-ed university near the Canadian border, with just a handful of Jewish students. During those years she strayed even farther, if that were possible, from her Jewish roots. A Divine wake-up call sounded in her freshman year when the professor of Philosophy 101 extolled the contributions of the Hebrews to civilization: the concept of one G-d, a day of rest, protection of widows and orphans, and much more. She felt proud to belong to such an exalted People, and resolved to delve into her heritage someday — someday, but not just then.

As a graduation present from her parents, Rosalie embarked on a two-month world tour that included a stop in Israel. Her bland diary entry for the day she visited David’s tomb on Mount Zion shows that she felt no more emotion there than at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

On her return Rosalie found a position in the travel department of UN Headquarters in NY. It was a “dream job”, she says, “rubbing shoulders” with diplomats from all over the world, and seeing the travel arrangements she had made reported in the next day’s New York Times. However, after two years at the UN, Rosalie heard a small, still voice, telling her to move on, and move on she did. Paris became her home for the next few years as she earned her M.A. in 19th century French painting and 20th century literature.

It was during a “chance visit” to the Jewish Student Center in the Latin Quarter that she met a young religious artist, Shlomo, who was exhibiting his paintings at the Center. They became friends, and little by little, and with infinite patience, he opened Rosalie’s eyes to the beauty of Judaism. She began to keep Shabbat and gradually took on more mitzvot. Rosalie had already become observant when she and Shlomo were married. Three years later, in 1960, they made Aliyah and settled in Jerusalem where Rosalie, a widow since 1987, still lives. Besides her work at Ohr Somayach, Rosalie enjoys spending time with her four children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

And her “Ohr Somayach Family” says “Thank you!” to Mrs. Rosalie Moriah for helping us all daily with great efficiency and kindness!

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