For those of who weren’t able to attend Rosie’s funeral yesterday here is Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence’s beautiful and moving eulogy. There are a number of Hebrew and Yiddish terms in the eulogy which can be easily Googled.
“We extend our condolences to Elliot, Natalie and Joseph; to Maralyn and Jeffrey and to Laurence, alongside all of Rosie’s family and her many friends.
This week in shul we shall read Parashat Korach. It opens with the celebrated rebellion against Moses and Aaron by their cousin. “Kulanu Kedoshim, We are all holy,” proclaims Korach. “We all heard God at Sinai. Why do you take so much upon yourselves?”
According to the Midrashim, Korach was among the richest and cleverest of his generation. He had more money and was more articulate than Moses. He was powerful. He was influential. He lacked only contentment in who he was, choosing instead to benchmark himself by what he lacked.
The rebels sought power for its glory. They measured themselves by what they could get. Our true heroes measure themselves in how much they give. In service they find contentment and reward. It is in this vein that Moses challenged Korach and the Levites around them, “is it not enough that God has given you special responsibilities to draw near to himself in the service of the Tabernacle and ministry of the people?”
And yet we feel deficient when we are lacking. And this afternoon in Bushey in all our hearts we feel an absence. Rosie is gone. She was not yet 39, let alone the 120 of our prayers or the 60 or 70 years of the Psalms. We feel an absence: she has missed out. Elliot and Maralyn and Jeffrey have suffered a loss for which there are no words. Natalie and Joseph have lost a mother and cannot even begin to understand what they had. The absence we feel in our hearts possibly eclipses the enormity of the hole that swallowed Korach and his followers.
… And yet, despite all the above. Rosie, who was brilliant was a lawyer of the Moses variety. She rejoiced in what she could give. She gave and inspired without even trying. She had a humility in the face of adversity which has touched each one of us and will live with us for all time. She rejoiced in the life she had and wanted only more time to celebrate the people around her from whom she derived fulfilment and joy. She rejoiced in the ability to teach and to practice and to serve and to give. She measured her success by her contribution. She didn’t ask why am I missing out on what I can get from my time on earth. No Korach, she. Rosie yearned only to be with us for longer and to give.
If only we could aspire to such emunah and bitachon.
Rosie was born on 15 October 1976. Maralyn says that from the first she was very determined and as she grew up and stronger, so, commensurately did her personality. Jeffrey says that at the age of two, she got up out of her pushchair and declared, “Roro push!” It was an early indicator of her strong will, determination and ability to take charge.
She made friends easily. She was a lively child. She was warm and people warmed to her. Maralyn says, “She was also quite sensitive.”
Laurence describes her as very protective and loving. She carried the memory that, immediately she was told by our grandmother she had a baby brother, “she came to see me, a little bundle all wrapped in white.”
“I just remember having a sister I felt and feel incredibly close to.” Once, when Laurence was crying, Rosie went up to Jeffrey and challenged him, “what have you done to upset my brother?”
She was a bookworm from the beginning and enjoyed reading, a trait which she loved seeing passed on to her daughter, Natalie. In her childhood, she was quite proficient at piano and Laurence has fond memories of the duets they played together.
She attended St Martin’s School, Mill Hill followed by Habs girls.
At age 15, she fell in love with the law after a summer holiday position at Linklaters. They were bowled over by her obvious aptitude and she was won over by the work and their annual bash at the Savoy hotel.
She went up to read jurisprudence at Brasenose College Oxford. She attained a double first with a prize in European law.
Mostly such a phenomenal achievement is reserved for those who cloister themselves away in studious solitude. However Rosie had been national secretary of the Association of Jewish Sixth formers while at school and now became joint secretary of J-Soc at Oxford. She also found time to row for Brasenose College and play one of the Pink Ladies in the musical Grease.
While at Oxford she developed many close friendships which endured with her. She loved it and would describe her Oxford years as the making of her. Apparently she cried all the way home after her first term had ended, she liked it that much.
After law school she networked hard to secure a rare internship in competition law at the European Union. Jeffrey was thrilled to ring through to her Brussels office.
While there, she met someone in the Irish Foreign Ministry and together produced a charity performance of the Rocky Horror Show. Further studies took her to Madrid for six months: where her time was invested jointly in hard work and buying shoes. She learnt Spanish at a course in Seville, having been seized up by Linklaters after qualifying. She was with them for two years.
Rosie would describe her time at Lawrence Graham as the making of her as a lawyer. She was a partner by the age of 33. From there she moved to a significant partnership role at Bristow’s, where she flourished and loved the intellect and drive of her colleagues.
Rosie met Elliot through J-date and they met up at a Hampstead pub for a drink. It was a memorable evening. Elliot found Rosie to be, “bubbly, beautiful and chatty. She made easy conversation. She was interested, interesting, and bright beyond belief. We had the same outlook and value system. We saw the world through the same lens… Religiously and politically.”
So much so that Elliot would report back to his best friend Craig, “I’ve just been on a date with me!” Of course they weren’t completely identical and in some respects their traits complemented each other. For holidays, Elliot would rather sit on the sofa, while Rosie just wanted to go places and shop.
Within five weeks Elliot had determined that he had found the one.
He contrived to propose to her on a misty November day in Venice, where he got down on two knees to propose. Elliot celebrates this as one of the few times where he has managed to pull the wool over her eyes. She hadn’t expected anything so corny. When she phoned home, in great excitement to relate the news to Jeffrey, he knew it was coming because Elliot had secured his permission; advised him, and indeed all of their friends that it was about to happen.
Nonetheless it would remain a source of enduring teasing that Elliot ignored his new fiancée entirely spending the subsequent evening on the phone to the whole world, sharing his joyous news.
The wedding was described by their families as “a mixed marriage” with Ashkenazi Beddeken and Sephardi ceremony at Lauderdale Road synagogue. Elliot wanted to do the right thing by Lauderdale Road tradition and bid for a top hat on eBay. As fortune would have it, that same hat was being chased by another bidder. Yes! Elliot and Rosie were competing against each other for the same hat. Even so, he got it at a decent price.
The wedding was a ‘modest affair’ at the Park Lane Hotel. Rosie had wanted a big shpraunzy wedding. And knowing what she wanted, she made the arrangements and she got it.
In marriage, she and Elliot were two halves of a whole. As a mother, Rosie was peerless. She was a hard-working, highly successful city lawyer and a fully engaged parent. She never did anything by halves. She started the very successful “Wonderful Working Mums” network on Facebook.
Rosie loved Natalie and Joseph for all their individuality. She saw so many of her own good traits in Natalie; the bookworm and the natural born leader. Elliot says, “Rosie was in awe of Natalie.”
Joey was, “her little nosh pot.” He would be there to defend Natalie. He was a protector of the family and she loved that in him. She loved his sheer joy of life and his force of personality. Also that he was a sheer schmoozer with Elliot’s engaging eyelashes.”
Together they supported a number of charities, Jewish Care, planting trees in Israel, Brasenose College and sponsoring a child in Africa.
While in early pregnancy with Natalie, Rosie participated in the “Race for Life” charity run. She wore her participant’s label in such a way that it masked the emergent bump in her belly. Latterly, Rosie has supported the outstanding work of Breast Cancer Care and Chai.
Rosie’s Fighting Genghis blog has been nominated for awards. Though originally written as a private journal, her recent final message was covered by the English and Irish media and The Huffington Post.
We stand here today mourning the passing of a brilliant, accomplished young woman of tenacity, resilience, strength and determination. And while none of us would hesitate to describe Rosie Choueka as an inspiration, Rosie herself recoiled from that description. Laurence says that on being called inspirational, she had retorted that, she was “doing the very best she could in a shitty situation. It was hideous and she wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
And yet Rosie gave inspiration. Deborah says, “She championed everybody to be the best person they could be. She gave life a massive ‘yes’ because she was doing it.”
Laurence says that, “she never let go of her wish for life and was determined to do the best she could. She made us all incredibly proud.”
Craig was inspired by her instruction, “life’s too short. Do the right thing.”
On Friday 22nd May, Rosie was at a conference in Oxford lecturing on competition policy and the retail sector. Over the weekend of the 23rd, she was on a family trip to Israel. Even there, she was taking client calls.
From her bedside, Rosie continued to fight to express herself and to organise the details of her final days… Even her funeral. Her hand written notes are neat and meticulous. Even her verbal instructions were deliberate and unambiguous. She even said 10 days ago that she would die on a Tuesday. And this morning, she sat up a little, kissed Elliot and 20 minutes later did just that.
Oh Lord, we commend to you this afternoon, Rosemary Sara Choueka, Chaya Rachel bat Yaakov Hacohen. Take her under your eternal protection and grant her the reward of the righteous. Her physical suffering is ended. May her soul now rise untrammelled to bask in Your Glory.
Grant comfort to all Rosie’s family. May Natalie and Joey grow up knowing that their mother was cherished by everyone who knew her and thousands who knew of her and yet she cherished nothing in life more than Natalie and Joey themselves. Grant Elliot comfort and strength. May he be blessed for his constancy and support as he embarks on the new chapter of raising their family and keeping Rosie’s memory and spirit alive.
Maralyn and Jeffrey are the foundation of Rosie’s many strengths and virtues. Together they have given Rosie courage and hope. They have been role models in their family and community and ad meah ve’esrim shana should have fulfilled their dream of a lifetime’s naches seeing little Roro triumph in her work and in her family. May they know no further sorrow. Grant them health and strength and length of days.
Grant comfort to Laurence, devoted to his big sister, protector and mentor. And comfort to the extended family, to Deborah, to Talia, to Claire and David who have shown phenomenal support and love. Rosie’s strength of character; her love and unwavering faith have enriched all our lives. We are better for having known her; stronger for seeing her confront adversity. Indeed we are blessed and privileged that she has been a part of our lives.
May Rosie rest in peace, and let us say, Amen.”