Replacement for a Child Lost

Born After Plane Crash, Judy Mandel Lived in Sister’s Shadow

In Her Place: A doctor told Florence Mandel (left, with 1-year-old Judy Mandel) that having another child would ease her suffering.
Courtesy of Judy Mandel
In Her Place: A doctor told Florence Mandel (left, with 1-year-old Judy Mandel) that having another child would ease her suffering.

By Sarah Seltzer

Published May 14, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

With impressive sales numbers to demonstrate, Mandel got back in touch with an agent she’d met at a conference; she inked a book deal with Seal Press soon thereafter. As a result of her rare move to one form of publishing from another, she’s become an object of fascination among aspiring writers. But she’s also inspired intense responses from readers who identify with the sense of alienation she chronicles in the book, her feeling that the camera of her family’s life was always zooming away from her.

“When I do readings, invariably one or two people come up and say, ‘I think I am a replacement child, too,’” she said. “I have a lot of those conversations. They want to know things like: ‘If I’m adopted, could I feel this way?’ ‘Would it have to have happened before I was born?’”

Remarkably, Mandel has heard from others who were touched by the same crash that killed her sister: She’s read the blog posts by the pilot’s daughter, and was contacted by the daughter of a man who lived upstairs from Mandel’s family. This woman never knew that her father had loved and lost a previous family, and like Mandel, she found answers about her life in the story of the crash.

Mandel believes that the midcentury brand of secrecy surrounding the “accident,” as her family called it, has ebbed somewhat in our oversharing society — but not entirely and perhaps not enough.

“People have asked me, if they’ve lost a child and they want another child, how can they guard from a negative influence? I tell them it’s all about talking about it, giving some reality to that deceased child,” she said. She notes that she appreciates the custom of shiva because it coaxes forth talking and storytelling.

Now, with her memoir and a blog on Psychology Today, Mandel talks all the time about “the accident” and its effect on her life, painful as it is. And the strong pull that her story exerts over others who suffered goes both ways: Whenever there is a public tragedy, Mandel feels personally obligated to use her life’s example to offer the comfort of understanding, if not to give answers. In doing so, she hopes she’s living up to her parents’ memories.

“Even after the crash, when they were still living in a hotel, they heard about the third plane crash in our area within six weeks,” she said. “They got dressed in middle of the night and went to the hospital to see if they could help.”

Sarah Marian Seltzer is a writer in New York and a contributor to the Forward’s The Sisterhood blog. Find her at www.sarahmseltzer.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.