Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Rhoda Gansler Story



Rhoda Gansler Speaks About the Life Cycle Garden at its Dedication Ceremony


Thank you all for being here today on this special occasion. I first want to express my gratitude to Beth Alper. We would not be here if not for her leadership, commitment and devotion in creating this Garden. I also want to thank my son-in-law, Scott Demarest, whose generosity, spirit, and sweat are such a great part of this Garden. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jim Rall and Jeff Alper whose work here has been invaluable. Nothing proved to be too difficult for these supermen - a wall, a waterfall etc. And how about all the men, women and children who lugged boulders; dug holes; spread mulch; planted trees, bushes and plants; and did all the other countless tasks that needed to be done. What a wonderful work crew we always had. A special thank you goes to Debbie Karl and Arlene Burns for their beautiful work on the dedication tiles. Another thank you goes to Cheryl Cohen and Sandy Saull for joining us this morning. Their music is always a welcome addition.  Last, but certainly not least, to be thanked are the ones who sustain us with coffee, donuts, cookies, muffins and other treats. After all, we are Or Hadash and that always means nourishment.


As you all know, we are here to dedicate this Life-Cycle Garden to my daughter, Melanie Iris Gansler, Miriam Yochevet. In January 2001, Melanie was diagnosed with breast cancer and in January 2002, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For 3 1/2 years, Melanie fought this terrible disease and lost the battle on June 3, 2004.


One of her greatest sources of comfort and solace was the Healing Service. We both attended these services, and found great support from our Or Hadash family. When the Healing Harmonies CD project was initiated, I volunteered to help because I knew that it, too, could be a source of healing for both of us. 


After Melanie’s death, several members approached me with the idea of establishing a healing garden where one could sit and meditate when troubled and in need of healing. Within the year, Beth met with Scott, Jim Rall, and me, and the idea became a reality. In November 2006, we broke ground for the Garden. As time went on, I found that Melanie’s life of service and giving was an inspiration to not only those who knew her, but also to newer members of the Or Hadash family. They heard the story of how she found our beautiful building. True to her nature, she didn’t want any credit and said that she really found it so she wouldn’t have to drive too far.

Other members recounted how she and Scott welcomed them when they were new to Or Hadash, inviting them into their home and family. She worked on the Education Committee and was always available to help where and when needed.


As members saw the Garden grow and wanted to be a part of it by donating engraved bricks, it became apparent to Beth and me that this should be a Life-Cycle Garden, not only for healing, but for meditation and reflection as well, a place of serenity and beauty. As a result, we not only memorialize our loved ones, but we honor them on occasions such as B’nai Mitzvot, birthdays, and anniversaries. We also honor them for just being wonderful people. The inclusiveness represented here is what my daughter loved about Or Hadash and the 265 bricks embedded in this garden are a testament to that. Thank you for all you have done to so beautifully honor and remember my daughter.


2014 Update on the Garden: A letter from Rhoda

The Life-Cycle Garden at Or Hadash truly belongs to its members. We, the members, are the volunteers who came out on workdays and hauled the boulders, tilled the soil, planted the trees and bushes, and built the waterfall. We plant the annuals each spring and do the weeding each summer. We now have installed more than 300 engraved bricks that honor and memorialize our loved ones, and commemorate life-cycle events. Since its inception, the Garden has become an oasis of healing, meditation, and reflection. Many of us come to seek spiritual healing while others sit in quiet contemplation and thoughtful introspection.