Letter: Remembering Carla Theodore

Rappahannock County has lost an inestimable resident: controversial, outspoken, irrepressible, unshakably assured — and in my eyes, magnificent — Rabbi Carla Theodore. She died Oct. 28 at the age of 91.

Carla Theodore in a 1980s snapshot.
Carla Theodore in a 1980s snapshot. Courtesy photo

Carla lived here for decades, establishing an alternative school, writing a newsletter espousing radical economics, sparring with many of us (me included) on subjects all over the map.

She was small in stature, but mighty in the power of her will and the eloquence of her words. She always seemed undaunted by obstacles in her path. I’ve never met anyone so fearless, so unbowed by authority or the odds against her.

After college, she was a union organizer in poor communities in the South. Her small book, Somebody’s Brother (Samisdat Press), was inspired by this period in her life. She hitchhiked around Japan when she was in her 60s, then decided to return to school — rabbinical school, that is — at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Her fascinating life — and her indefatigable spirit — shine forth in her many autobiographical short stories that are part of an unpublished memoir. The late Julie Portman taught her this form and she excelled at it.

A published poet, she was my mentor. We had our own writers’ group, just the two of us, and we critiqued each other and shared our lives while eating lunch in various county restaurants over the years.

Carla leaves behind three extraordinary daughters, Rachel, Erica and Sandra, all of whom have kept Eugster, their father’s surname, as their own. Rachel, an actor, singer and writer, has just published a children’s book, The Pocket Mommy (Random House Canada). Sandra, a psychologist, published Notes from Nethers: Growing up in a Sixties Community (University of Chicago Press), in 2007. Erica, a medical doctor, practices pediatric endocrinology at the hospital associated with the University of Indiana.

A memorial service will be held for Carla at Hearthstone School, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22.

Carla, dear friend, bon voyage.

Clay Fulghum

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