Hedy + Yumi
“The COCONUT” or how I came to know and love
Hedy and Yumi Schleifer
by Lenny Roland, writer, from an introduction in Isleworth, Florida
This extraordinary twosome, Hedy and Yumi Schleifer, deserves a special introduction, not just “I have the pleasure.” As our good friends, Hedy and Yumi have celebrated with us, mourned with us and carried us on their backs when we didn’t have the strength to walk another step. And though they are often millions of miles away conducting their relationship building workshops, I know that they will continue to be here for us as they have in the past.
They understand on a profound level the connection between one human being and another, between one human being and the universe. I have learned from them in many ways, through our enduring friendship and shared experiences, through my observances of their interaction, and through their workshop my husband and I attended many years ago.
By now you must be wondering, what is the connection between the object I am holding in my arms and the Schleifers? Have I lost my mind? That is certainly a possibility. But the connection was clear to me when I lifted up this natural creation from the sand of a Longboat Key beach.
No, it isn’t a football or a chestnut on steroids or an enlarged prostate. It is what you think it is, a coconut, but it is so much more. I cannot read its origins nor its life span, for I am untrained in that field, but I know, having inhaled the beginning chapters of Michener’s Hawaii, that this large seed and many others, big and small, in tandem with other powerful life forces, can grow something magnificent, such as the group of islands we know today as Hawaii.
Hedy and Yumi Schleifer are precious seeds in their own right and planters of seeds worldwide. Both Hedy and Yumi are European-born, Hedy in a refugee camp in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the end of WWII, Yumi in Transylvania, part of Romania. Both suffered wrenching family losses from the Holocaust. From their shared painful past and their deep conviction that war was abominable and peace a goal for all times, emerged a passion to understand the whole of the human connection, both its light and darkness. Several years after the Schleifers moved to Florida, in the late 1970s, where our two families first connected, Hedy, mother of two young sons, having worked as a licensed clinical psychologist in Israel, opened a very successful private practice in Winter Park and environs, as a licensed mental health counselor. She counseled individuals and couples, trained and supervised therapists and advised health professionals in many disciplines, which she still does today. Yumi’s resume is every bit as astounding. A former electronic engineer in Israel, he worked at Martin Marietta in Orlando when I first met him. Later he struck out on his own as an independent businessman before teaming up with his wife in their Grand Adventure as cosmopolites, citizens of the world, carrying their relationship-building message to all corners of the globe.
During the past years they have presented their relationship workshops in four languages, and in many countries and continents besides our own: Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America. Using an interactive approach, they create a safe environment with compassion, generous listening, and even humor and joy, one in which people can clearly see and sense the significant others in their lives.
In their 45-year marriage they have faced many of the struggles we all face, developing as distinct individuals and as a couple. In many ways their responses to each other mirrored those of all married couples, yet given their sensitive and enhanced consciousness about their relationship, their connection seemed more enlightened. They did their work with each other every day, every week. A prime example was their weekly preparation for their Friday night Sabbath meal and the observance of their day of rest was taking a bath together. It was a cleansing session of the highest order, a week in review to wash away the miscommunications and missteps that had accumulated during the past seven days. It cleared the space for them to fully appreciate each other and the week ahead.
One Vancouver couple was so touched by their relationship workshop that they fully funded the making of a documentary, Hedy & Yumi: Crossing the Bridge, about their relationship building for themselves and others. Late last year it won first prize in the documentary category at a Hollywood film festival. It is now available on DVD.
And so this coconut I am holding in my hand represents the seed that the Schleifers have planted in fertile soil, and which has blossomed into a world wide harvest.