A tribute to Shoshanah Kahan – a legacy of loving-kindness

By Terry & Brian Rubenstein

The iheart family is so terribly saddened to share the heart-breaking news that after battling her illness so bravely for so long, Shoshanah Kahan passed away this past Friday night, surrounded by her beloved and adoring family. Shoshanah leaves us at the far too young age of 54.

Shosh, as she was fondly known, was a dear friend to so many of us – a wonderful colleague, a brilliant teacher, and above all, a remarkable human being. She had countless friends, students and people – young and old – whom she supported, influenced, cared for, taught, mentored, and for whom she did extraordinary acts of kindness, most of which were never known. Already there has been an enormous outpouring of messages and postings, reflecting how deeply loved she was by so many.

The well-known Starfish story goes something like this: A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The girl paused for a moment, looking the man straight in the eye. Then she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. The girl then looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

Making a difference was Shosh’s life’s work. And her particular genius, her unique gift, was doing so in one-to-one interactions. Shosh didn’t see reams of starfish washed up hopelessly on a beach. She saw individuals full of potential; individuals who needed a little bit of help to find their way back to the ocean of perspective and hope and wellbeing. And in providing that help, in supporting one individual after another after another over her entire working life, she ended up making a difference to untold countless people.

Shosh was with our organisation from right near the beginning, long before iheart became its own independent charity. In those very early days, she worked side-by-side with founder Terry Rubenstein, tirelessly working to evolve what would, in time, become known as the iheart approach. On a shoestring budget and from virtually a standing start, they organised conferences, taught seminars, set up programmes, supported individuals, fundraised, developed learning materials, built a website, and carried out a myriad of other activities, all in service of bringing this beautiful understanding – ‘we have everything we need inside us’ – to the world. Little known is that the first-ever programme iheart piloted in a school came about through Shosh’s inspiration, organising and cajoling. It is no exaggeration, nor just a clever pun, to say that Shosh was at the heart of everything at iheart.

In her almost full decade with the organisation, she took on a wide range of roles and responsibilities, before settling into the highly specialised and crucial role of Head of Supervision & Mentoring over the last few years. This position could only be filled by a person with a rare and outstanding confluence of experience, skills and talent. Shosh was the only candidate. In this role, she worked intimately and deeply with literally hundreds of people in need, supporting young people, trainee facilitators, teachers, parents, individual clients, leaders and iheart staff members. In so doing, she brought her own unique and unparalleled gifts in sharing the iheart approach to every encounter.

Our gratitude to Shosh for her enormous contribution knows no bounds. We are all devastated at the loss of a truly righteous woman who touched and changed the lives of so many people, Terry and myself included. We will miss her deeply.

Shosh was taken from us far too early and far too young, yet paradoxically, we feel truly blessed to have had her for so long. She brought together an extraordinary blend of personal and professional capabilities: self-insight, spirituality, wisdom, intellect, clarity, love, care, warmth, kindness, empathy, openness, tolerance, passion, dedication, self-sacrifice, humility, modesty, rigour, logic, stamina, patience, a fierce work ethic, determination, professionalism, a moral compass, unimpeachable values, supreme people skills and an unstinting commitment to helping people uncover their own insight.

Such a person is simply irreplaceable.

Above all, Shosh was utterly devoted to her beautiful family that she adored beyond measure. It is remarkable to think that a person so consumed with making a difference to the lives of so many others, could also manage to be so immersed in the lives of each and every one of her precious family members. Shosh was an absolute bedrock of unconditional love and wisdom for her dear husband Hershey, five children, two sons-in-law, two-daughters-in-law, seven grandchildren, her mother, sister and two brothers. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy go out to them all.

The Starfish story concludes something like this: The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

Shosh leaves an extraordinary legacy of loving-kindness. A legacy of making a difference to each and every person she encountered. This is what her life was about. Like the little girl in the story, she looked us all in the eye, then bent down quietly and unassumingly, got on with her work, and made a difference to another one. To another soul.

It is incumbent upon us to be inspired by Shosh’s story, by her legacy. More importantly, we should strive to do more with that inspiration: to do better; to continue to love, support, help, care for and educate as many people as we can possibly can. In so doing, we will not only be doing great honour to her memory and her life’s work. We will be doing exactly what Shosh would have wanted; what she taught us all to do.


Terry and Brian Rubenstein

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