Eva Cassidy - Songbird
All of us are here today out of our great love and admiration for Isadora. We are here to support all of the members of Isadora’s family as they begin to face the reality of her death. I hope that our being together with you today brings some small bit of comfort and helps you to feel that you are not alone. Isadora was sweet and smart from the start. There were no terrible two’s or teenage angst. Her grandfather, Erwin, said that if we practiced another religion, Isadora would be put up for Sainthood because that is what she was. When Isadora was four years old, one of her preschool teachers commented to her mother that if all the teachers were absent, Isadora could run the class for them. She was a natural born leader.Isadora’s mom, Phyllis, shared that every year she would go to parent-teacher conferences and as the teachers would say such nice things about Isadora, she would cry. Along the way, one of the teachers asked her, “Why are you crying? Don’t you know these things about Isadora?” and Phyllis answered, “Yes. I know. I just didn’t realize that other people knew.” There was something so special about Isadora. Isadora was named in Hebrew after her great grandmother Dora Lowenthal. Phyllis wanted to spruce up her English name a bit so she chose “Isadora”, inspired by Isadora Duncan, the dancer. Our Isadora danced from the age of four until she was thirteen years old. Tania, in an endearing way, said “Isadora was cute.” Her cousin Emily told me “The unconditional love and kindness that Isadora had is something that most people outgrow in childhood,” but not for Isadora. Her ability to give came so easily. Isadora loved all things Disney. She loved Israel and she loved being Jewish. She loved community; making and keeping friends. Isadora was fun. She loved driving around in her yellow bug that just suited her so well. She loved to watch cooking shows with her mom and she loved to cook. She loved to eat great food. She loved spending time with her grandparents. She loved doing jigsaw puzzles, like her grandfather. Isadora could do a 5000 piece puzzle in an afternoon. She just had a good eye. She could see where the pieces fit. Isadora loved music. She loved going to the Renaissance Faire each year with her friends from college days. She introduced her family and work friends to the game “Cards Against Humanity!” And while she loved to play games, Isadora was not competitive. She was in it for the fun. For Isadora, it was always about making other people happy. She could not be mean. If she said something mean, she immediately regretted it and apologized. She never wanted to be a burden and was always thinking about others. Isadora was a leader and part of what made her such a good leader was that she had no ego. She was also an enthusiastic doer and a finisher. This was an aspect of Isadora that I had the privilege to see often, When Isadora was president of STISY, our Temple’s Senior Youth Group, her kindness and warmth as a leader shone through. Tasks were accomplished and it seemed that no one could replace Isadora. When she left for college, Isadora promised to come back and chaperone events, which she did. She also came back to teach religious school which gave our whole congregation tremendous pride. Isadora loved teaching at Governor Livingston High School, where she was beloved by students and faculty alike. She made the school a better place. Last year, Isadora coached the junior varsity boys’ tennis team. Her brother, Hilton, teaches at Roselle Park High School and coincidentally coaches the junior varsity boys’ tennis team there. While their two schools do not typically compete, Isadora and Hilton thought it would be fun for the teams to play each other. They arranged a match and it was so much fun. The Seibert name (“Mr. Seibert, Miss Seibert, Coach Seibert”) was bouncing around as much as the ball! Isadora made friends with everyone at work; from the Superintendent to the helpful custodial staff. She did not care about rank or title. She was kind and befriended everyone. She didn’t need fame or fortune. Dora was beautiful both inside and out and no one knew that better than her family. Her sister, Tania, said that Isadora was incredibly nurturing, even if she didn’t always appreciate it. “She loved me wholly and unconditionally and would do anything for me,” were Tania’s words. Isadora completely idolized her brother, Hilton, who shared with me “I never felt that I earned or deserved the love that Dora had for me.” Isadora loved you fiercely, Hilton. For Isadora’s 5th birthday party, Hilton (who was 7 ½ at the time) was the main attraction. He performed an entire magic show for Isadora’s friends. A few years later, Tania celebrated her 5th birthday with a “Wizard of Oz” party. Isadora dressed as a wizard, complete with blue unitard and scarf on her head. She brought out a crystal ball and told fortunes to all of Tania’s friends. The love and bond between siblings was so clear in Hilton, Isadora, and Tania. When Traci came along and married Hilton, Isadora made her family. It wasn’t hard to do.Spending time with her immediate and extended family all together at the Seibert house upstate NY was very important to Isadora. That was her happy place. This past New Years was spent there with much of the extended family at the house. Isadora commented, “I wish we could all stay together like this forever.” Just a few weeks ago, Isadora and thirteen members of her family took a trip to Disneyworld. She had a private meeting with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy. They hugged and kissed Dora. While she loved every minute of it, Isadora was crying. She could not understand why they would make such a fuss and give her such love. Isadora did not see herself as special and she was humbled when people gave her special attention. But Isadora was incredibly special. She might not have seen it but each and every one of us here today saw it! She changed each of us for the better. Isadora was sad for all that she would be missing. She wanted to go back to Ramapo College and earn her Master’s Degree. She wanted to be married someday. She dreamed of being a mother. In the last couple of weeks of her life, Isadora said to her mom, “its okay if I never get married, Mom. I married you. You were my best friend in life.” She was most sad when she thought about all of the family times that she would be missing. What can we do so that Isadora’s life was not in vain? Isadora’s goodness needs to continue. Be kind to each other, because that is what she wanted. Give generously in many ways, as often as possible. Greet each person regardless of rank or title with a warm smile and a kind heart. Celebrate your friendships. Love your family. In doing so, we will carry on the life lessons that Isadora taught all of us and her memory will always be for blessing.
~Rabbi Ellie Miller
Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel
Dora is my best friend. I’ve always had trouble with the word “best”. As if one friendship is somehow better than another. But there is no other way to describe the friendship that Dora and I shared. From the moment we met in this very building, I knew that she was special. My mother used the word “grace” to describe her and I find that it is a most fitting description. She had an attractive presence and a magnetic spirit that you just wanted to be closer to. She lived in the moment, she exuded elegance, she was generous with her time and attention, and she was simply the epitome of joy. As we grew closer over the years, and as many of you know, virtually inseparable in high school, I came to realize that our friendship was built upon so many fundamental similarities that it made our years together effortless. There was an understanding about life and a commitment to honoring our priorities that I have never experienced with another soul. We understood each other in a way
so one look… could carry weighted meaning. There were times when months would pass us by without contact, but I never questioned our friendship. I found comfort in knowing the passage of time could not change our relationship. I knew that she would never judge me. She wouldn’t lie. I knew that she would hear me and put all my craziness into perspective. She put so many things into perspective for me. I cannot imagine Dora and her flawless memory not being here to constantly remind me what is truly important in this life. Among the many life lessons I learned from her, Dora taught me to ditch the serious. She found joy in simplicity. We experienced so many beautiful and amazingly random moments because she was never ashamed of the things that made her happy. This past fall, we decided to go apple picking at a nearby farm. Just as we started to get discouraged that we wouldn’t find any apples, we finally happened upon rows of full trees. I started to fill my basket and had maybe 3 or 4 when I looked over at Dora. Her basket was empty. I watched her walk up to a full tree and observe the lot. She looked at each one and then walked away… off to inspect the next bunch. When I went up to that tree, the apples looked great to me. But upon closer inspection there were noticeable imperfections. In that moment, Dora showed me the meaning of patience. She showed me the power in slowing down and taking the time to enjoy the perfection of choosing just the right apple. Whether it was ditching the museums to wander the streets of Paris, crashing a party to see a band of boys we had crushes on, going on a vampire tour in New Orleans because she had convinced all of us to read the Twilight series, getting crazy, over the top makeovers in Georgetown, going to lunch every Sunday for a year after college, riding the carousel in Central Park, meeting the guy from Lost after seeing Spring Awakening, or listening to cheesy music for hours in her famous yellow bug, Dora showed me the ways to live honestly, simply and without fear. Dora also had an unbelievable quality to be the glue that held people together. In high school, she single handedly joined two friend groups. She was the cross over that made so many friendships possible. At Temple, she made everyone in youth group, old and young, feel connected. She had been talking for years about planning a STISY reunion because she valued her relationships with others unlike any person I have ever known. In college, she was the glue that brought a massive friend group together for memorable potlucks in the backyard. She included me in these Ramapo gatherings so often that I felt like I became a member of their very special club. She provided the opportunity for me to create lasting friendships with her wonderful college friends. And at work, her friends have said that they didn’t become a community until Dora arrived. And I am not surprised. Dora brought people together because she radiated light and her love was unconditional. Her ability to be present and committed was electric and magnetic. You could just tell when you were with her that she wasn’t thinking of other things she needed to do or places she needed to go or people she needed to see. She gave 100% of herself in every moment you were with her. What a unique quality for a young person… for any person. What a rare gift she was to all who were touched by her grace.I also had the privilege of being taken in by the entire Seibert family. I so admire your free-spirited and effortless dynamic and the undeniable closeness of your family unit. I feel so fortunate that Dora invited me in and that your family accepted me with open arms. Your love moves me beyond words and shows me over and over again the beauty of our relationship. Dora brought me into your family and I feel that I have gained a family… a connection that will last forever. Dora’s commitment to everything she did inspires me to be a better person. After a few too many months apart, Dora and I spent this past summer reconnecting and spending time together. That first night we reconnected, Dora told me that she worried I would yell at her for being out of touch. Silly Dora. I knew that she was just Dora… committing herself to her priorities. Dora wasn’t a person who chose the better plans or prioritized people that were “more fun”. She loved teaching and she loved being part of that community. I admired how she completely immersed herself into her work and how dedicated and committed she was to her family. I just wanted a piece of it, to be close to someone that made me aspire to be better, try harder and be happier. I know in talking to so many of the people she has touched, that everyone wanted a piece of her. And when you did get her, she left her mark and it will stay with you forever. My lovely, beautiful friend, you are so deeply loved. You are surrounded by people who love you unconditionally. Though I know it was hard for you to accept this, undeserving people DO NOT attract the genuine devotion and love from family and friends that you received. You are loved and cherished because you attracted the love that you shared with the world. Thank you for sharing your love with me. I will carry you in my heart forever. ~Allie
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Christine. I was Isadora’s college roommate and one of her best friends. When I was asked by Phyllis if would say a few words at today’s service, I was completely unprepared as to how I would begin to describe Isadora as a person, and as a friend. That being said, I am honored to speak on behalf of all of Isadora’s Ramapo family. I know I should begin by saying that we are here not only to remember, but to honor the life of Isadora Seibert. But where do I begin to tell you all about the person she was. Isadora came into my life in the fall of 2006, when we met as freshman students at Ramapo College, and while there are people
here today who knew her a lot longer, I want to tell you a little bit about what I and my fellow Ramapo students learned about her during the 8+ years she graced our lives. There was so much to Isadora’s life, and so much that I want everyone to know about her. She was my best friend, someone who was always there for me; she was my sister, not by blood but through love. I want to share every story about our friendship and what it meant to me to share moments with her but that would take a while. So instead, I will do my best to describe this beautiful person who has left her mark on all of our hearts forever. I am in sheer awe of how many people were affected by her. Whether they knew Isadora for years or met her just a few times, it was clear that you only had to meet her once, to realize what an amazing person she truly was. As all of us reflect on those precious moments we spent with Isadora, we remember all the little things that we loved about her and what we will miss the most about her. Isadora was always true to herself and those she loved, a unique individual who was unapologetically herself. She always said what was on her mind, stood for what she believed in, and most of all, loved those around her freely. As a result, she brought people together in a way I have never seen anyone else do. Whether it was having Passover parties, LOST and Heroes viewing sessions in her dorm room, serving up her famous potluck dinners, or planning a weekend getaway upstate at Tandorhill, she had the ability to join friends together and remind us how lucky we all were to have one other. Her smile was contagious and could light up the dimmest room. She was always inviting, friendly, positive and a joy to be around and her outward beauty was only exceeded by her inner beauty. The list of people Isadora loved is never ending. Her family, her friends that became her family, her co-workers, her students, and even friendly acquaintances, all held a special place in her heart. I stand here before you today honored and proud to be a part of this list as we all should be. Isadora loved her family. Phyllis, Richie, Tania, Hilton, and Traci - she talked about you all so much. I was truly fortunate to see the love you all had for one another first hand, many times over the past couple of years. Whether it was celebrating Tania’s 16th birthday at the roller rink or just spending the day at your house watching TV in the family room, you invited me into your lives and made me an honorary member of your special family. Every conversation about you that I had with Isadora made me want to become a member of your family, so much so, that I often considered taking Richie’s offer of moving into Hilton’s room. As an only child, I have always longed for a sibling, a person who I could completely confide in and who I knew would accept me as the person I was. I found that person in Isadora and together we shared many things including our unparalleled knowledge of all things pop culture related, our love for the current “it” boy band, whether it be the Jonas Brothers, or One Direction, and our dreams for the future, which always included taking family vacations together with our adorable children and our ridiculously good looking husbands. One of the most precious gifts Isadora ever gave me, aside from our friendship, was this framed poem she found at a flea market or tiny shop by her house, I honestly can’t remember where it came from, all I remember is that one Sunday, upon returning to Ramapo I found it sitting on my nightstand in my room. At the time, I remember her telling me that she thought I might consider it corny or cheesy, but it moved me beyond words and perfectly described our friendship. It read: To a True Friend As time goes by I’ve come to realize how very rare and precious our friendship is. When others are too busy, you always seem to make time for me. When I need an honest answer, I can trust you’ll say what I need to hear. When there’s fun to be shared, I can’t imagine enjoying it without you. On the darkest days as well as during the brightest times, I know I can count on your friendship.Please know you can count on mine. Isadora attached a Post-It note to the back of the frame with the following message on it: Christine, my truest friend. I found this and could only think of you. I cherish our friendship, and I always will. You can forever count on me. Love, Isadora. Phyllis and Richie, I want you to know that this has sat on my nightstand since I received it, and will continue to sit on my nightstand until the day I die. I will treasure it forever. Friendship isn’t one big thing…it’s a million little things. That couldn’t be more true when describing not only my relationship with Isadora, but all those she had a special relationship with. While I lost “My person”, I realize that so many people gathered here today lost their special friend as well…Marlene lost her “P4L”, Kate lost her Dora-Bora, Michelle lost her Squirrel, KP and Kelsey lost one of their members of “KICK”, Mike and Tyler lost their Dory, Katie, Melissa, and Amanda lost a founding member of the Trust Circle, Lawlor lost the Juno to his Paulie Bleeker, and everyone else lost their Dora. When I think of my best memories at Ramapo College, Isadora was a huge part of them. I know that this is not only true for me but for Dora’s entire Ramapo family. We will fondly remember the time spent in the student government office, the 10-hour car ride and six days spent in Outer Banks in the middle of March, the numerous themed parties (finding any reason to play dress up), the weekly trips to Moe’s, the open mic nights and the Jay Everett Band shows, and the lazy Sundays we spent in 3E watching Lifetime Original Movies. And in the four years following college, the annual trips to the Renaissance Faire (again, any reason to dress up), the Valentine’s Day Dinner and a Double Feature, the crappy present exchanges at her house. We look back at all these times, not with sadness in our hearts, but with joy at how blessed we are to have experienced them with Isadora. The fact remains that this world lost one of the most beautiful, kind-hearted, selfless, happiest people we knew. She was not only our friend, but through years of friendship, she became our family too. Not only did we enjoy the fun, crazy, exciting moments of life, but all the ups, downs, and in-betweens. And we will always treasure our memories of every one of them. Now finally, on behalf of everyone here today who had the privilege of knowing and being impacted by Isadora, thank you, Phyllis and Richie for bringing this amazing person into the world and our lives. She truly is, was, and will always be a reflection of your warm hearts and kind souls. We were so blessed to have her be a part of our lives. ~Christine
Peace to all of you. I'm Uncle Jerry. I've known and loved Dora her whole life. But I feel I've only really come to know her in the past few months because in that time life has slowed down for all of us who love her. Of course I have always known my niece in the context of our family. Nothing was more important to her than family. She was the middle child. The pivot point. But that central role extended to her larger family too. She was always in the middle, the life of the party at our holiday gatherings, the ring leader, encouraging everyone to participate in games, even me, her reluctant uncle.
When she received her terminal diagnosis a few months ago her first thought, the thing she found most upsetting, was how she would miss out on all of the future fun with her family. There are no words to express how sorely we will miss her. It has only been in these past months, in the context of her illness, that I have begun to glimpse the specialness of her relationships with all of you too--her world beyond our family. She has maintained friendships with her high school group, her college crowd, and once she began teaching, she quickly won the hearts of everyone in her school community too. Everyone, from the superintendent, to the administrators, to her fellow teachers, to her students, to the maintenance staff, all loved Dora. She was magnetic. She drew you to her. Each of you has your memories, your cherished stories to tell, your moments to remember. While she was sick I saw her influence with the medical professionals too. These were people who dealt with sickness and death every day yet everywhere she went the doctors, nurses and other staff all felt compelled, by the shear goodness of her character, to do more for Dora. Dora was only 25 years old, but I think she was an old soul. Some people describe her as innocent. In some ways, yes, she was a sweetie, a sweet heart, young for her years. But in a more important way she possessed wisdom which most of us will spend our whole lives, trying to acquire. She knew what was most important in life. She knew how to love people. She was undemanding, humble, guileless. She made me feel like her special uncle, even though I did very little to earn that status. She made everyone feel special. In some magical way she brought out each of our best selves. And we, all of us, loved her in return. That was her secret. . .she lived her life in love. She made all of us better people. We will miss you darling. ~Uncle Jerry