Gathering for the Feast
She set up the tent.
Anyone who has tried it knows the frustration of erecting a tent in the woods with children waiting. But during a vacation at Niagara Falls last summer, Deborah Kaplan snapped together her family's brand new ripstop shelter without breaking a sweat.
"She was the best at that stuff," said her husband, Harold. "She was the engineer. That was her domain."
It was a peculiar domain for an Orthodox Jewish woman from Brooklyn, one of only three women engineers in her graduating class at Cooper Union. She went on to work for the Port Authority, but Mr. Kaplan said engineering was not her passion. Her family was.
For years, Mrs. Kaplan, 45, worked only part time. Even after she was transferred from Journal Square in Jersey City to the World Trade Center this spring she took the 3 o'clock train home to be with her four children, he said.
When the family moved to Paramus, N.J., Mrs. Kaplan discovered that the local yeshiva did not give the children the traditional items used to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. She did not complain. Instead, she found a wholesale supplier of the lulav, a palm branch, and the etrog, a citrus fruit from Israel. She sent forms to parents, took orders and collected payments.
Mrs. Kaplan was so efficient she ended up ordering lulavs and etrogs for five area synagogues. "If you had to count on someone for anything," said Nina Glaser, a friend, "you knew you could count on Debbie."
Published in New York Times on Nov. 28, 2001.