Ellen Geller Kamaras
“My work in pediatric hematology/oncology gives me a real sense of purpose. I feel like what I do really matters. I sleep at night knowing I make a difference.” ~~ Gladys Mordekai~~
Please meet Gladys Mordekai, a smart, talented, determined, and energetic pediatric registered nurse.
On Instagram she uses the moniker “sy in li,” a playful take on the fact that she’s a Syrian living on Long Island.
Let’s follow Gladys Mordekai on her trajectory to becoming a successful and passionate nurse, mother, CPR instructor, and food blogger.
Gladys Mordekai was born in Brooklyn to Saul and Sari Tawil. She is the oldest of five children and has three sisters and one brother. Gladys Mordekai attended Magen David Yeshivah for elementary school and transferred, as did her father, to Yeshivah of Flatbush High School.
Gladys Mordekai excelled academically, and was an honors student in high school. Gladys Mordekai describes herself as independent, stubborn, and strong-willed. “I always had a group of friends but liked to do my own thing as well.”
After graduation, Gladys Mordekai spent her gap year in Israel at Machon Gold and entered Stern College when she came back to New York.
It was in high school that Gladys Mordekai fell in love with the sciences and took Advanced Placement Biology and Physics. Her science teachers, including Lonny Benamy, a”h, inspired her. She continued studying science at college and thought she would go pre-med. That changed when she worked as an intern at the Montefiore Hospital Pediatric Emergency Room. “The experience I received there, shadowing different health professionals, was invaluable. I realized that Debbie, a nurse and not a doctor, was running the entire show in the ER. She was so capable. Debbie opened my eyes about what nurses do. I decided to pursue nursing instead of medicine.”
Marriage, Family, and Career
Gladys Mordekai met her naseeb, Ben Goldstein, of Ashkenaz descent, in high school. He was a classmate at Flatbush Yeshivah and was studying in yeshivah in Israel when Gladys Mordekai was at Machon Gold. They got married during Gladys Mordekai’s junior year at Stern.
After graduating Stern, Gladys Mordekai enrolled in an accelerated 15-month nursing program at NYU. Obtaining her RN was especially intense, as Gladys Mordekai was expecting her first child, who she gave birth to right before Pesach. Gladys Mordekai took two weeks off and finished nursing school eight months later thanks to lots of help and support from her mom, her husband, and her mother-in-law.
Upon receiving her nursing license, Gladys Mordekai got her first job at Maimonides Medical Center as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse. Gladys Mordekai had greatly enjoyed her NICU rotation during nursing school, which influenced her decision to pursue her first job in the NICU.
“I was a brand-new nurse. It was scary, intimidating, and very difficult, but I loved the NICU. I had 12-hours shifts including Sundays. Working on Sundays meant giving up the zoo with Ben and our daughter or seeing her perform at ballet recitals.”
The Family Grows
Gladys Mordekai gave birth to her second child, a boy, while she was an NICU nurse. After three years in the NICU, she decided to transfer to the outpatient Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Unit at Maimonides. Gladys Mordekai chose pediatric oncology because she had volunteered at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center during college and had found her connection with the children to be very rewarding.
She remained in that unit for two-and-a-half years. Gladys Mordekai felt devastated when one of her cancer patients died. Gladys Mordekai needed a break from oncology. She left Maimonides and became the school nurse at Flatbush Yeshiva High School for one year. After her third child, a second son, was born, Gladys Mordekai took maternity leave for six months.
Then, Gladys Mordekai felt ready to go back to Pediatric Oncology. She secured a position at Cornell in the outpatient Pediatric Oncology Unit and stayed there for two years.
Gladys Mordekai’s next career move was to Cohen Children’s Medical Center in the outpatient hematology/oncology unit. She has been at Cohen for seven years and finds her career very fulfilling. Gladys Mordekai works two ten-hour shifts per week.
“My work in pediatric hematology/oncology gives me a real sense of purpose. I feel like what I do really matters. I sleep at night knowing I make a difference.”
In addition to her position at Cohen, Gladys Mordekai teaches CPR classes. “I am very passionate about CPR instruction. I teach people how to save lives. As a NICU nurse, I could not discharge a baby unless the parents were trained to do CPR. Learning CPR, a life-saving skill, is one of the best things I’ve done. Everyone should know CPR.” Gladys Mordekai’s group CPR classes are given in shuls, in schools, and for organizations, and she also teaches CPR privately, one on one, or to families.
How does Gladys Mordekai do it all?
“You make it work. Ben is a very hands-on dad and I have a lot of support from family. Being efficient with my time is a key factor for my success with balance. We strive to foster independence and purposefulness in our children, and they are very proud of my work as a nurse.”
On the days that Gladys Mordekai is home early enough, she likes to have supper ready for her children, something her mother did when Gladys Mordekai was a child. Both her mother and her mother-in-law are wonderful role models for Gladys Mordekai.
“Ben asked me early on if I want our daughters to be professionals/working mothers who follow their passions. When I responded affirmatively, he said, ‘Then you have to be a role model for them.’ My mother-in-law Rena is an attorney and was a working mother. She has been one of my mentors.”
Gladys Mordekai’s Essence
What defines Gladys Mordekai? She answers that she is loyal, friendly, ambitious, self-motivated, and efficient. She prides herself on not wasting her patients’ time or her own. Gladys Mordekai considers the best compliment from her patients is that she is efficient, fast, but thorough. “I also am driven and have a lot of will power.”
Community and Passions
Gladys Mordekai and Ben live in Woodmere, NY, and have four children, two daughters, ages 16 and 15 months, and two sons, ages 14 and 9. The older children are in yeshivot in the Five Towns. The family prays at the Irving Place Minyan and are active in the community. Ben practices law in Brooklyn.
Gladys Mordekai is still involved with the Syrian community and takes her family to Brooklyn for the holidays. Now that Gladys Mordekai is a parent herself and lives in Long Island, she especially appreciates her childhood community. The way she shares and holds on to her Syrian traditions, is with “food in house.” Gladys Mordekai cooks all the Syrian specialties for her family and friends.
Her passions include her family, pediatric oncology, CPR instruction, weightlifting, and food.
“Fitness, especially weightlifting, lights me up and helps me unwind. I used to be a barbell coach in a gym. Unfortunately, the gym closed during the pandemic, but I bought some of the equipment for my home gym.”
Gladys Mordekai’s nursing job at Cohen was not affected by the pandemic. Her kids, however, were home, and she cooked a lot and did lots of puzzles with her children when she wasn’t at the hospital. She started another side hustle, a new business from home. Gladys Mordekai became a recipe developer and sold mazza, homemade breads, and desserts. She is currently more selective and sells on a smaller scale.
Her grandmother, Rae Dayan, is a highly-regarded chef and baker and is the author of For the Love of Cooking. Gladys Mordekai experiments with updating and tweaking some of Rae’s recipes and creates recipes for her Instagram page.
“The kitchen has always been my safe space. After a long day at work, I like to unwind by baking. I bake for hagim, my kids’ school events, and donate baked goods for causes, like a shuk for a recent Israel fundraiser.”
You can connect with Gladys Mordekai at email@example.com. Or follow her on her two Instagram pages, @Mozellegoldstein and @sy_in_li.
Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching. Ellen is active in her community and is currently the Vice-President of Congregation Bnai Avraham in Brooklyn Heights. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.lifecoachellen.com).