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Shirley Rebecca (Abrahamson) Shoifet

MILLERTON — Shirley Rebecca (Abrahamson) Shoifet died peacefully on Feb. 13, 2021, at the age of 94 in Houston, Texas, where she lived for the last decade of her life.  

She is survived by her son, Jay Shofet and his wife, Adeena Sussman; her daughter, Laura Yaffee and husband, Wayne; her grandchildren, Shani and husband Or, Nadav, Shosh and husband Yaron and Gabi and husband Albert. She is also survived by her great-granddaughters Yuval, Tzofia and Noga. 

She was predeceased by her husband, Jacob; her parents, Fanny and Julius Abrahamson; her sisters, Bea and Pauline; and her brother Sam. She was a devoted daughter, wife, mother, and Bubby (grandmother).

Shirley was born on Oct. 5, 1926, and raised in New Britain, Conn., the daughter of a baker and homemaker. She graduated from Grace New Haven School of Nursing in 1947 as a Registered Nurse and worked in that capacity for over 60 years. 

Early in her career, she worked at Veterans Administration hospitals in Florida and Connecticut; then for a series of country doctors in private practice and at the Sharon Clinic; as a camp nurse at Isabella Freedman for decades and as a school nurse. Shirley read RN magazine voraciously and always dispensed top-notch medical care and advice with a smile.

Shirley met her soulmate on a blind date as a favor to a dying patient at a Connecticut VA hospital. In Jake Shoifet, she met a Jewish mensch who could cook, and thus began an epic love story. They enjoyed a life together for almost 57 years, full of love, acts of kindness (chesed) and charity (tzedakah). Shirley the nurse and Jake the soldier turned restaurateur/school lunch manager/caterer were leaders of their community in and around Millerton for over 50 years. They shared an interest in Democratic politics and progressive ideas, and worked to better the lives of young people most in need. 

She lobbied to get Head Start in Millerton so that children from low-income families could have the benefits of preschool programs. Shirley was the helpmate in Jake’s mayoral campaigns and duties, and stopped by Jake’s Gateway Drive-in restaurant on the way home from a busy day nursing to help with the dinner rush. 

Shirley loved words and had a way with them, writing poems or songs for every special occasion.  She was an avid reader and an ardent Scrabble player. Shirl adored singing in English, Hebrew and Yiddish — songs from the ’40s, patriotic American songs, cantorial and synagogue songs, songs from musicals and especially Yiddish songs.  Oh, did she love Yiddish songs, the Yiddish language and Yiddish culture. 

Shirley was passionate about her Judaism, its customs and traditions. At the kitchen table Shirley instilled in her children, and later in her grandchildren, the Jewish values that she held so dear. She was proud that her family was in Israel — including her aunts, uncles and cousins and later, her son and family and all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Shirley had a knack of connecting with children at their level. She was a great mother to her own children, and at the Millerton Library, read story hour for young children over many years. With her grandchildren, “Bubby” was hands-on and full of fun and wisdom.  Bubby taught them songs and poems, proverbs and life lessons. She told them stories and sayings that the children will be telling their children, from generation to generation (l’dor v’dor). Her grandchildren fondly remember their week-long summer to trips to Millerton as a highlight of their childhoods. 

Shirley loved the language, song and theater of the “old country,” Yiddish. And yet she was a very forward thinker.  She breastfed her children at a time when breastfeeding was believed to be old fashioned for those that could afford formula. She believed in a woman’s right to make her own decision about her body and helped her to get a safe abortion if that is what the woman wanted. She warned of the health consequences of diet soda long before others did.

Although Shirley struggled with dementia in her later years, she never lost her ability to connect with people and make others laugh. Her caring ways and her endearing personality — and her melodic Yiddish — made her everyone’s Bubby. 

If you met Shirley, you met someone engaging, witty, creative and passionate. Whether she told you a joke, sang you a song, made up a rhyme or voiced an opinion, it was done in a uniquely Shirley way. Shirley will surely be missed but the spirit of this Yiddishe mama lives on in those who were touched by her. 

If you would like to honor Shirley, please consider making a donation in her memory to National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene (www.nytf.org), Bnei Akiva of the US & Canada (www.bneiakiva.org), or Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (www.natureisrael.org).

Arrangements were under the care of Houston Jewish Funerals, www.jewishfuneralsusa.com/obituaries.

Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the years …laden with happiness and tears.

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