Irvin Atkins died July 14 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Ida Mae; and daughter, Marilyn Feiman. Groman

LILLIAN BADEN died July 14 at 90. She is survived by her son, Jerry; grandchild, Dylan; and many relatives. Hillside

Theodore Berg died Aug. 9 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Sarah; daughters, Elayne, Sandi and Judy; grandchildren, Beth and Michael; and sister, Esther Gillman. Mount Sinai

ANNE BOVILL died July 13 at 90. She is survived by her daughter, Davida; son, Martin (Pirjo); sister, Esther Morris; and many relatives. Hillside

Beryl Caron died July 19 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Helene; son, Daniel (Debra); daughters, Cherie Hickok, Kathy Mandell and Suzie Caron; and five grandchildren. Groman

Rose Cohen died July 18 at 87. She is survived by her daughters, Shelley (Mike) Lubinsky and Sandra Gallob; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren; and brother, Meyer (Margie) Jacobs. Malinow and Silverman

STANLEY COOPER died July 16 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; and daughter, Shelley. Hillside

Bessie Farash died July 17 at 93. She is survived by her son, Marty (Judy); daughter, Marilyn (Murray) Cohen; three grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Alexander Farkas died July 19 at 75. He is survived by his wife, R. Barbara; son, Steven (Susan); daughters, Marilyn (Scott) Pilcher and Ellen (Gary) Davidson; and six grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

LOIS FRANKEL died July 19 at 75. She is survived by her brothers, Walter and Richard. Hillside

Abraham Froch died July 15 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Lois; daughter, Alieen (Gil) Borok; sons, Michael (Jill) and Larry (Cari); and five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Karl Gerwer died July 14 at 73. He is survived by his wife, Satoe; and sons, Scott and Eric. Groman

Bess Helen Gold died July 18 at 95. She is survived by her son, Peter. Chevra Kadisha

Sumner Granby died July 18 at 88. He is survived by his sons, Alan and Mark; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

Gloria Glauber died July 18 at 77. She is survived by her daughter, Micki (Mark Flint) Hollien; son, Russ (Olivia); five grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren; brother, Sidney (Dolly) Goodman; and sister-in-law, Judy (Lou) Shaltzer. Mount Sinai

Bertha Hellman died July 16 at 96. She is survived by her son, Bryce (Hannah); daughter, Racelle Manes; eight grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Marilyn Bella Horowitz died July 16 at 76. She is survived by her husband, Irving; son, Alan; daughter, Sherry; and four grandchildren.

Michael Bernard Horowitz died July 18 at 59. He is survived by his wife, Diane Ganley; stepson, Tom Ganley; sister, Margie Bonar; and brother, Thomas. Malinow and Silverman

Ruth Horowitz died July 14 at 87. She is survived by her daughter, Judith; one grandchild; two great-grandchildren; sisters, Frances Aoltz, Belle Schneider and Sylvia Hallman; . Groman

ESTHER HOUGH died July 16 at 53. She is survived by her brother, Randal Grant Powers; and sister-in-law, Shendl Diamond. Hillside

TERRY JACKSON died July 17 at 91. She is survived by her son, Michael (Alana); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Fred Kelly died July 12 at 76. He is survived by his son, Robert (Debbie); daughter, Helaine (Andy) Rogers; and two grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Robert Kranz died July 15 at 63. He is survived by his wife, Madelon; son, Bryan; daughter, Tamara (Eran) Bikovsky; one grandchild; and mother, Irene. Malinow and Silverman

CHARLOTTE LAKSBERGER died July 17 at 97. She is survived by her son, George (Robin) Lakes; daughter, Annette (Ron) Massman; six grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. Hillside

Eve Lester died July 19 at 82. She is survived by her husband, David; son, Larry Gay; daughters, Julie Moores and Susan Meyers; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Groman

CAROL MARJORIE LEVIN died July 15 at 84. She is survived by her husband, Marty; sons, Steve (Pam) and Robert (Julie); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Michael Levine died July 17 at 65. He is survived by his wife, Yehua Zhu-Levine. Malinow and Silverman

Ruth Levine died July 12 at 82. She is survived by her sons, Steven (Elizabeth) and Mitchell (Sharon); and by five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Thelma Jo Lewis died July 19 at 85. She is survived by her friends. Malinow and Silverman

Kay Gertrude Lipton died July 18 at 83. She is survived by her sons, David and Jay; and one grandchild. Groman

SHARON WEISS HARRIS LUSSIER died July 18 at 75. She is survived by her husband, Paul; son, Larry Harris; daughter, Jill Cordova; four grandchildren; and one great grandchild. Hillside

Shirley Manoil died July 17 at 89. She is survived by her daughter, Melinda; son, Robert; three grandchildren; and three great grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Vera Miller died July 14 at 87. She is survived by her husband, Solomon; son, Stephen (Celia); daughter, Sharon (Brian) Olson-Ahern; and four grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Fahimeh Nathan died July 12 at 61. She is survived by her husband, Manoucher; sons, Ramin and Elly; daughter, Noushin (Morris) Farajola; two grandchildren; sisters, Frough (Sion) Shooshani, Mangeh (Manoucher) Gohre, Gili (Firous) Tabiri and Mino (Mandour); and brother, Iraj (Faraba) Raouf. Mount Sinai

Rhoda Neiman died July 14 at 71. She is survived by her husband, Harold; daughters, Jillana and Paula; brothers, Harry, Mark and Bernard Wisner; and sister, Brandi Wisner. Chevra Kadisha

Joe Orloff died July 13 at 96. He is survived by his wife, Ruetta; daughters, Tami (Robert) Finkbeiner, Penny and Rikki; son, Michael (Karen); seven grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Klara Sapirshteyn died July 17 at 93. She is survived by her son, James. Malinow and Silverman

Gertrude Jane Schwab died July 16 at 87. She is survived by her sons, Howard (Michelle) and Richard (Colleen); daughter, Helen; and four grandchildren. Groman

Julius Selinger died July 12 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Elinor; daughter, Anita Anderson; sons, Henry and Gary; six grandchildren; brother, Frank. Malinow and Silverman

Hertzel Shirazi died July 13 at 49. He is survived by his wife, Mitra; brother, Mike; and brother-in-law, Abe Manzour. Chevra Kadisha

Julie Ann Siem died July 19 at 44. She is survived by her daughter, Elisha; son, Jordan; and parents, Donald and Lois Arnstein. Mount Sinai

Dan Silberberg died July 19 at 67. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; daughters, Jennifer and Nicole; brother, Naftali; sisters, Inga Rubin, Ruth Lester and Alice (Leo) Granierer. Mount Sinai

ETHEL SOLOMON died July 17 at 94. She is survived by her friends. Hillside

J. Dorian Sonnenschein died July 17 at 56. He is survived by his brother, Marco; and sister, Miriam (Max) Feit. Malinow and Silverman

Sidney Stonehill died July 14 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Joan; son, Anthony; and daughter, Dena Stonehill Penney. Groman

Theresa Remes Suffin died July 15 at 86. She is survived by her son, Steve (Leah); and daughter, Fay Shinder. Chevra Kadisha

Morton Wolk died July 12 at 89. He is survived by his daughter, Rolinda Suttle; granddaughter, Tessa Suttle; and significant other, Annette Naftal. Mount Sinai

Mitchell Wortsman died July 19 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Edith; daughter, Melissa Applebaum; and brother, Abner. Groman

Yahya Jonathan Yasharpour died July 17 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Louise; son, Sami; and daughter Yasamin. Chevra Kadisha

Marcus Gershun Zilber died July 17 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Anna; daughters, Sima Epshteyn and Masha Serebryany; and grandchild, Inna. Chevra Kadisha


Michael Angel died June 12 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; daughter, Judith (Bob Salvaria); son, Stephen (Ellen); five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Ruth Anne Baim died June 16 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Beverly (Sol) Mandelblatt; grandchildren, Michael Mandelblatt and Andrea (Bobby) Rashtian; and three great grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Yahouda Benji died June 8 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Faideh; son, Albert (Sarah); daughters, Jaklin and Marilyn (Babak) Younessi; and six grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Milton Bloom died June 18 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; sons, Steven (Sue) and Mark (Jill); and five grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Lillian Libby Chester died June 17 at 99. She is survived by her daughters, Sharon Kaye and Sandra Bercow; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Groman

Bernard Corn died June 14 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Judy; sons, Ronald and Robert; daughter-in-law, Eileen Filler-Corn; two grandchildren; and brother, Charles. Groman

Leo Elmon Eisenkop died June 13 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Winifred; son, Dr. Scott (Teresa Claus). Groman

HOWARD ELINSON died June 17 at 65. He is survived by his brother, Mark. Chevra Kadisha

Barbara Essenfeld died June 15 at 58. She survived by her daughter, Lauren (Paul) Di Cocco. Mount Sinai

Bernard John Gales died June 14 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Berta; son, Ron; daughters, Lilly Rubin, Susan Hochstein and Debbie Stern; and five grandchildren. Groman

Abraham Gelfand died June 16 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Beatrice; son, Harold (Janice); six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Steven Gilman died June 12 at 58. He is survived by his wife, Ann; mother, Renee; brothers, Richard and Chuck. Mount Sinai

Cecil Greenwold died June 15, at 92. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Mark (Betty); stepdaughters, Joanne (Jim) Jubelier and Jill (Bob) McKay; three grandchildren; two stepgrandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and sister, Julia Yorke. Mount Sinai

Ruth Haas died June 14 at 93. She is survived by her sister, Florence Levis. Groman

Irving Halperin died June 19 at 101. He is survived by his son, Michael (Marcia); five grandchildren; and sister, Ethel (Leonard) Smith. Mount Sinai

Carol Hersh died June 15 at 74. She survived by her sons, Jeffrey (Arie), Gary (Maria) and Brian; eight grandchildren; and brother, Donald (Geri) Froomer. Mount Sinai

Freda Hinden died June 13 at 95. She is survived by son, Barry (Marilyn); daughter, Sheila Gruskin; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Groman

Josef Hodes died June 17 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Sara; and daughters, Zipora (Tibor) Miller and Etta (Alexander) Kogan; four grandchildren; and great-grandchild, Gabriella. Chevra Kadisha

REUBEN HYAMS died June 14 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Celia; sons, Michael and Steve; brother, Joe (Marilyn) Hyams; sisters, Annette (Louis) Sherman and Freda (Clayton) Ferree; and nieces and nephews. Chevra Kadisha

Yolanda Marie Jimenez died June 12 at 74. She is survived by daughters, Linda (Larry) Ross, Nilza Cusamano, Advilda (Jim) Deleneve and Nivea (Mike) McEachern; five grandchildren; and six great-granchildren. Chevra Kadisha

Ruth Krischer died June 19 at 85. She is survived by her daughters, Naomi (Alan) Spiegelman and Judith (Mike Greene); son, David; four grandchildren; and brothers, David and Paul Levin. Mount Sinai

Roselle Lillian Marcus Lewis died June 14 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Earl; son, Dr. David; daughter, Madeline; and one grandchild. Groman

Jerome Irwin Lopin died June 19 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Hope; sons, Michael (Madonna) and Steven (Ty); stepson, Jeffrey Arden; stepdaughter, June (Stacey) Rios; and seven grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Ruth Lubinsky died June 18 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Katherine Butcher; son, Ralph W. Hood Jr; five grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; one great-great-grandchild; and brother, Robert (Danna) Khaler. Mount Sinai

Hattie Nadel died June 15 at 92. She is survived by her son, Stanley; three grandchildren; one great-grandchild; brother, Jack Adler; and sister, Florence Kusher. Groman

Shlomo Offer died June 7 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Marion; sons, Willie Daniel and Thomas Yecheskel; nephews, Yisroel and Boaz Amit; and nieces, Devora Meschulam and Dita Amit. Chevra Kadisha

Anna Rosenberg died June 11 at 98. She is survived by her daughters, Eleanor (Joseph) Schwarz and Claire (Rabbi Arthur) Abrams. Malinow and Silverman

Meyer Rubin died June 19 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Lessie; son, Craig; daughter, Andrea (Jason) Feldman; and six grandchildren. Groman

Dorothy Salgo died June 15 at 65. She is survived by her son, Charles Rice; daughters, Kathleen Rice and Rosemary Ponder; mother, Shirley; seven grandchildren; and brother, Jeffrey. Groman

Harriet Samson died June 14 at 84. She is survived by her son, Ronald (Janet) Shlesman; daughter, Naomi (Dr. Michael) Bailie; four grandchildren; and one great- grandchild. Mount Sinai

Aziz Sanandajian died June 17 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Maryam; son, Robert; daughters, Rachel, Roya and Rebecca; and five grandchildren. Groman

Rita Scharf died June 19 at 78. She is survived by her sons, Steven and Lance (Renata); five grandchildren; and brother, Jerry Gold. Mount Sinai

GARY JAMES SHAPIRO died June 14 at 68. He is survived by his wife, Louise; daughters, Allison and Jennifer; and son, Darin.

Makhlia Shoulov died June 17 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Inga (Moisey) Khanukhov; sons, Joseph (Svetlana) and Yuri (Luda); 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Henry Silber died June 14 at 59. He is survived by his wife, Stephanie; parents, Josef and Esther; brother, Abe (Cheryl) sister, Marlene (Roy) Alter; uncle, Eliezer Klavansky; aunt, Ida Taublib; and many relatives. Mount Sinai

Harold Skolnick died June 12 at 91. He is survived by his friends, Arthur (Esther) Brown and Jerry (Mimi) Sisk. Mount Sinai

William Smith died June 16 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Ray; daughters, Kim (Ken) Leigh and Jill (David) Brody; son, Peter (Lisa); and five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Pearl Starr died June 19 at 95. She is survived by her daughters, Linda (Bob) Russo and Vicki Pass; four grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and nephew, Jim (Linda) Joseph. Mount Sinai

Bernard Stock died June 12 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Claire; sons, Robert and David; brothers, Murray and Malcolm; and one grandchild. Groman

Herman Trop died June 13 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Hilda; sons, Philip (Shelly) and Bob (Billie); daughter, Andrea (Gary) Gleckman; six grandchildren; and brother, Dan Trop. Mount Sinai

Richard Joseph Tuber died June 18 at 74. He is survived by his wife, Iris; sons, Douglas, Rick and Keith; nine grandchildren; one great-grandchild; brother, Arthur; sister, June Lurie. Groman

Renee Viner died June 18 at 71. She is survived by her husband, Jerome; sons, Steven (Suzi) Blonder and Mitch (Jennifer); daughter, Wendi (Jimmy) Gonzalez; and grandchildren, David and Alison. Mount Sinai

Harry Weinberg died June 16 at 88. He is survived by his friend, Mary Mendoza. Mount Sinai

Gilbert Herbert Weintraub died June 15 at 88. He is survived by daughter, Jo Anne Bardini; sons, Alan and Dana; four grandchildren; and sisters, Carrie Werchick and Arlene Lipper. Groman

Esther Winkler died June 17 at 96. She is survived by her daughters, Ann Bose and Joyce Gibson; and four grandchildren. Groman

Esther Winterman died June 13 at 89. She is survived by her daughters, Ruth Zaray-Mizrahi and Lore (Thomas) Sturm; son, Stanley (Viarica); and nine grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Nanette Wintheil died June 10 at age 98. She is survived by her daughter, Perissa Busick. Chevra Kadisha

Sheila Zimmelman died June 17 at 70. She survived by her sons, Mark and Paul (Helen); granddaughters, Molly and Julia; and sister, Randy Medall. Mount Sinai

Shimon Zvi died June 12 at 66. He is survived by his wife, Elana; sons, Ronen (Tanya), Abraham and Guy (Desiree Sanduval); grandson, Jonathan; sisters, Chaya Beran, Zahava and Esther; brothers, Menasha, Meyer and Ezra (Ruthie); and sister-in-law, Sylvia. Mount Sinai


Spectator – ‘Time’: a Truthful Family Portrait

For Los Angeles artist Shelley Adler, the epiphany came after her second diagnosis of breast cancer and near-death from diverticulitis in 2001. Following her lumpectomy and two weeks in the hospital, she returned home and glimpsed cartons of family photographs she had collected since her parents and other relatives had died.

“The black-and-white snapshots revealed little worlds and scenes I wanted to bring alive in color,” said Adler, whose “Shades of Time: The Extended Family of Shelley Adler” runs through July 1 at the Workmen’s Circle. “I wanted to paint them the way the 16th-century Dutch genre painters had done — small portraits of ordinary people in their homes, offering glimpses into their lives.” Yet, she had put off the project until that day in 2001: “I suddenly recognized I might die, and if I was to do the series, it had to be now,” the artist said.

Adler, 69, had not painted in oils for decades; she had grown up Jewish in what she describes as a repressive small town, Minot, N.D., which she escaped to attend art school. But by 1960 she had married, had children and become a librarian in an effort to “conform, to be ‘normal.'” Fifteen years later she was so miserable that she divorced, returned to art school and became a professional illustrator.

After her 2001 epiphany, she left her job as The Jewish Journal’s art director and, between radiation and chemotherapy treatments, spent hours intensely staring at the snapshots.

“Eventually, the body language of the individuals told me things I wanted to communicate,” said Adler, who left The Journal in 2002.

Her realistic paintings include a 1944 winter portrait of her stoic, taciturn uncle Ben, who stands very still in front of his Minot jewelry store, his eyes veiled behind shadowed spectacles. In a painting of Adler’s domineering father and grandmother, his hand clutches her shoulder as if he is controlling her every move. A summer 1930s portrait of Adler’s scowling mother and aunt reveals “two women who are in conflict, yet they’re in a family,” she said.

Sherry Frumkin of the Santa Monica Art Studios, which previously displayed some of the paintings, described them as “intimate little gems, which make you feel transported to another era.”

If the portraits aren’t always positive, Adler said, “I’m a truth teller. I don’t color things with niceties…. [Rather], I hope viewers will feel they’re looking through a window, as if these people will step right out of the frame.”

For information, call (310) 552-2007.


The Many Lives of Lev Nussimbaum


“The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life” (Random House, $25.95).

Lev Nussimbaum lived as though life were theater, inventing an identity, dressing the part, shifting scenes, seeking audiences everywhere. He thought he could keep rewriting the ending, believed he could talk his way out of anything including his Jewish past, but ultimately he could not.

Nussimbaum was born in Baku in 1905, the son of a Russian Jewish émigré who made a fortune in the oil business. In a case of hiding in plain sight, he later on became known as Essad Bey, a well-known writer of books on Islam and global politics, and then Kurban Said, a novelist whose best-known work, “Ali and Nino,” published in 1937, is still in print.

Tom Reiss spent seven years trying to untangle the threads of this most unusual life. His new book is a richly detailed biography that’s also a memoir of his quest and an uncommon view into the Holocaust era. “The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life” (Random House) makes for fascinating reading.

From childhood, Nussimbaum daydreamed of the East, of Turkish warriors, Persian princesses and Arabic architecture. After the Russian Revolution, he and his father fled from Baku to Turkestan and then across the desert in a 50-camel caravan, finally arriving in Constantinople and then Paris. They moved to Berlin, where he secretly attended high school and university simultaneously, “cramming his head full of the mysteries of the East,” as Reiss writes.

At a time when many European Jews were interested in Orientalism, Nussimbaum went a step further and converted to Islam. He enjoyed dressing in full regalia, and was celebrated in literary and intellectual circles for his work, publishing 16 books — including biographies of Lenin and Stalin — before the age of 30. As Essad Bey, he married a Jewish heiress, and when their marriage fell apart in the late 1930s, the story was reported in tabloid newspapers around the world.

He died in Positano, Italy in 1942 at age 36, while under house arrest; although the courtly gentleman was known by townspeople as the Muslim, his Jewish identity was suspect. He was impoverished, unable to collect royalties due on his books. One of the remaining mysteries of his life is why he went to Italy — and offered to write a biography of Mussolini — and then chose to stay there, when he might have had a chance of escaping to the United States or elsewhere. He’s buried in a cliffside cemetery in Positano, the tombstone set to face Mecca.

It’s no surprise that researching a life as unusual as this one would entail remarkable adventures. Reiss, who was dogged in his research and reporting, traveled to 10 countries, interviewing a range of relatives, publishers, aged childhood friends of his subject in Baku, others who claimed to know another author of “Ali and Nino.” Doors seemed to open to Reiss at unexpected moments, yielding gifts.

Reiss found the woman who took over the publishing company (after the Jewish owners were expelled) that published much of Nussimbaum’s work in Vienna. She had gone to see Lev in Positano, and returned with six small leather notebooks in which he had handwritten his final and unpublished work, “The Man Who Knew Nothing About Love.” She kept them in a closet for more than 50 years and presented them to Reiss, who was then able to fill in many gaps in the story. Another great discovery was a box of letters, recording a correspondence between Nussimbaum and Pima Andreae, an influential Italian salon hostess who tried to help him in Positano. Nussimbaum was a man who never wrote a boring letter. Theirs was an intellectual love affair, and she was his last link to the outside world. He reveals his deep sadness that in the end he could no longer protect his father, who ultimately died in Treblinka.

Reiss was drawn to Nussimbaum’s story during a trip to Baku in 1998, on assignment for a travel piece. A friend recommended “Ali and Nino” as a useful guide to the city. The author named on the cover was Kurban Said, and Reiss learned there was some disagreement as to Said’s true identity. At the same time, he happened to pick up one of Essad Bey’s early books in his hotel, a memoir and history titled “Blood and Oil in the Orient,” and he immediately saw connections between the two works.

As he got more involved in tracking down the truth about Nussimbaum, the 40-year-old Reiss came to see his subject as a character he had been waiting his whole life to meet, as he said. Reiss is the grandson of German Jews who left in the 1930s, although many relatives remained trapped in Europe; his mother came to the United States in 1948 as a French Jewish war orphan. In his early childhood years, Reiss lived among relatives in Washington Heights before his family moved to Texas and then Massachusetts. The book is dedicated in part to his late great-uncle Lolek, an émigré who would have been Nussimbaum’s contemporary and regaled him with stories of his adventures.

Offhandedly, Reiss refers to himself as a novelist.

“That’s how I write,” he said, “through the experiences of individuals. I think of myself as a novelist who must write the truth.”

He added that he has been obsessed with facts since childhood.

If there has been a theme to Reiss’s books and articles — he wrote about neo-Nazis in Dresden for The Wall Street Journal, a book called “Fuhrer-Ex” on the neo-Nazi movement in Europe — it has been “trying to find the back door into the Jewish experience in Nazi Europe,” he said. “I’ve always tried to find a way of seeing it that pulled me away from the clichés of the era.”

“In some ways, I’m very attracted to the assimilated Jews of Europe,” he said. Reiss has come to see assimilation as a profoundly creative act, particularly in Nussimbaum’s case.

“He was a Jew being forced to become anything else but a Jew,” he said. “Forced to assimilate all the other cultures of the world as a way of running away from being Jewish.”

In talking about his subject’s capacity for self-invention, Reiss sees Nussimbaum “as an unusually American character for a European Jew.”

Over the years, in his different guises, he rewrote his autobiography several times, another quality that strikes Reiss as American.

The multicultural Nussimbaum didn’t write directly about Zionism but one of his last published works, “Allah is Great: The Decline and Rise of the Islamic World,” published in 1936, was co-written with Wolfgang von Wiesl, a leading Zionist who was Vladimir Jabotinsky’s right-hand man. In Weimar Berlin, Nussimbaum found a number of other Jewish writers who “sought refuge from the new political realities in esoteric vistas on sympathetic Orientalism.” They saw the Jews as mediators between East and West.

Working on this project has influenced the author’s view of history.

“It made me see the whole early 20th century as one continuous tragedy beginning in 1905 and ending in 1945,” he said. “It was a disaster that began in Czarist Russia, for Jews and for everyone else.”

Did Reiss like his subject?

“I grew very attached to Lev, as often happens with a biographer,” he said. “I grew defensive of him in an odd way and went through stages of being disturbed by his disguises and choice of friends. Over time I grew to not exactly admire him, I grew deeply sympathetic. I guess that means I like him.”

“He feels like a friend who you would want to shake, to come to his senses,” he added. “But what does it mean to come to one’s senses if living in Nazi Europe. If he was crazy in behavior, most people were much crazier. There’s something inspiring in him — he’s someone who creates ways of escape even if in the end it’s just imaginative.”

Reiss, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his wife and two daughters, still has the last notebooks and correspondence. His hope is to find an institution, perhaps in the United States or Israel, interested in creating a collection. He could see the letters published as “one of the most interesting 20th-century correspondences.”

To Andreae’s practical questions, Lev would often respond with fantastical tales, drawn from the invented life he lived.

“Up until his last letter,” Reiss said, “he thought he could save himself.”


Jewish Groups Join Quake Relief Efforts

For thousands of young Israelis, the sun-drenched archipelagos of Southeast Asia were the perfect destination to forget the rigors of military service.

But this week, that post-Zionist nirvana became a nightmare. The tsunami that swept India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands on Sunday plunged hundreds of Israeli families into a frenzy of worry over relatives feared lost while touring.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that witness testimony suggested that at nearly 70 of the approximately 500 Israeli tourists still unaccounted for in hard-hit Southeast Asian nations may have been swept out to sea and drowned. At least 33 Israelis are receiving treatment in hospitals in the region, the Foreign Ministry said.

For thousands of families living in or visiting the Indian Ocean region, Sunday’s catastrophe confirmed their worst fears: At least 45,000 people were killed by the devastating earthquake and tsunami, mostly in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

A Belgian Jewish couple reportedly lost their 11-month-old son in the disaster. According to Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper, Matan Nassima’s body was found Tuesday near the Thai resort where his family had been vacationing.

Details were not immediately known, but it also was believed that members of the South African, Australian and New Zealand Jewish communities were missing.

Immediately after the tragedy, Israel and Jewish groups swung into action. Israel’s Foreign Ministry set aside $100,000 in aid for each of the countries hit by the tsunami. Four top doctors from Israel’s Hadassah Hospital were dispatched to Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the ministry’s request, Hadassah said. Among them were the hospital’s head of general surgery and trauma, its chief of pediatrics and two anesthesiologists.

On Tuesday, Sri Lanka turned down an Israeli offer to send military personnel to help with search-and-rescue efforts but said it would accept a smaller team.

North American Jewish groups also were participating in the relief efforts. The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) was expecting to send its first shipment of medicine Tuesday to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. It has been coordinating with 23 partner organizations in the region to assess needs on the ground. The group is hoping to receive donations to cover the cost of emergency supplies.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is working with its office in Bombay and elsewhere to coordinate relief efforts. The organization is hoping to provide food, water, clothing and shelter to countries affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Chabad of Thailand responded to the crisis by dispatching a rabbi to Phuket to aid rescue efforts and turned the three Chabad Houses of Thailand into crisis centers where survivors can call home, get a free meal or receive funds for new clothing and medical help.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has established a Southeast Asia Relief Fund. To contribute, call (323) 761-8200, or send a check payable to The Jewish Federation at 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048 and write Southeast Asia Relief Fund on the memo line.

For families of potential victims, the waiting for news was excruciating.

At Erez Katran’s home in Haifa, a 24-hour vigil was set up next to the telephone in hopes that he would call. His family hoped Katran’s silence was due to the fact that he was incommunicado while sailing in the Bay of Bengal. Katran was among the Israelis who remained unaccounted for Tuesday, despite urgent Foreign Ministry efforts to track them down.

In addition to delivering bad news, the Israeli communications industry pitched in with the search efforts. Every major Web site set up a page where pictures of missing tourists could be posted in hope that someone would report their location, and one cellphone company offered its Israeli customers in Southeast Asia 10 minutes of free air time to call home.

JTA staff writer Matthew E. Berger in Washington contributed to this report.

Relief Donations Sought

The following Jewish organizations are seeking funds to assist in the relief effort:

• American Jewish World Service, ” target=”_blank”>, (212) 687-6200, ext. 889.

• B’nai B’rith, or by mail to the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund, 2020 K St., NW, Seventh Floor, Washington, D.C., 20006.

• Chabad of Thailand, 96 Thanon Rambuttri, Bangkok, Thailand 10200; For U.S. tax deductibility, checks should be made out to American Friends of Chabad of Thailand.)

Wonderousness of the First Time

A bar mitzvah is a time of becoming an adult. While my son was ready to proclaim, "Today I am a man," he also had to go through life with his voice changing and the wearing of braces for a perfect smile.

My first experience with this momentous occasion was after our son celebrated his first birthday. His grandfather, marveling at how bright he was, told everyone, "In 12 years we will have a bar mitzvah!"

It was an occasion he longed to see and, fortunately for all of us, he did.

As the years progressed, each year he would remind Bobby. Each time there were similar remarks followed by, "I know, Papa. Only six more years!"

While his grandfather often went over the prayers with him and his grandmother was in awe of how tall he was growing, my concerns were more about planning the event. We had been to a few bar mitzvahs during the year and everyone seemed to be similar. I guessed one copied another.

When the date was set, everything came into focus. He really will become a bar mitzvah. How exciting the whole year became. Bobby knew his prayers and haftarah very well. No one was concerned about that. He began to work on his sermon and master that, too.

Our synagogue does not allow music during Shabbat, so this had to be our plan: After Friday night services we had the regular pareve desserts — since most who keep kosher have a meat meal on Friday night and could not have dairy afterward — fresh fruits and lots of pick-up desserts, which worked very well.

We had invited my parents’ friends and my in-laws’ friends, plus all of our relatives. In addition, there were our friends, plus our children’s friends. We were hoping for 100, but stopped counting as the response cards surpassed that number.

Two days before, I followed Bobby and his Papa to shul, where my father bought Bobby a tallit. On the bimah, before his lesson was to start, I was fortunate to be able to take pictures of Daddy as he unfolded the tallit and showed Bobby how to say the prayer and wear it. Since we could not take photos on Shabbat, I instead look back on this time with fond memories.

Because we had hired a fabulous caterer, I was not worried. The florist was also terrific. Friday night came and went and we were very proud. We were to have a quiet Shabbat lunch after services and since we can play music after Shabbat ends, following the evening service there would be a big celebration.

Saturday morning is a long service. As we sat in the second row, always reserved for the family, we were so proud of our little man. He chanted with great confidence. The aliyot went by very well. When it was time for his haftarah, he started beautifully. Somewhere in the middle, he paused and cleared his throat.

While he seemed to be searching for the next note, I was worried because his wonderful teacher, our cantor, did not jump in to help. Finally, he cleared his throat again and continued without a hitch. I felt so bad for him. There was too much for him to do, I whispered to his dad. He reassured me that all would be fine.

The rest of the service was wonderful. Soon we were down in the sisterhood hall, enjoying the compliments from everyone on the services, and the beautifully served food. Some time later, I asked him if he hesitated because he was nervous or because he forgot the words.

Bobby laughed and leaned over.

"The reason I paused," he told me, "is because I swallowed one of my rubber bands. Darn braces!"

Joan G Friedman, lives in Reading, Penn., and can be reached at

The hidden benefits of Meshuggeneh relatives

The Passover seder is a wonderful chance to connect with
certain relatives that you love, along with hearing again the inspiring account
of moving out of enslavement and fear while moving toward freedom and
compassion for all who are hungry or mistreated. But for the majority of Jewish
families, it’s also a stressful time when personality clashes and unresolved
conflicts with a few particular relatives spring up once again.

In fact, from the research study of over 1,350 people that I
did for my recent book, “When Difficult Relatives Happen To Good People,” it
was found that more than 70 percent of us have at least one relative who gets
on our nerves year after year — a parent, sibling, child or in-law who tends to
be judgmental or asks invasive questions such as, “When are you getting
married?” “Have you put on some weight?” “When are you going to have children?”
or “How come your kids aren’t as well-behaved as your sister’s kids?”

So you might ask, “Why should this Passover be different
from all other Passovers?” Will it be just another long evening of feeling
irritated by your most difficult relatives, or is there some other way to
handle the situation more effectively?

A Change in Perspective

One way to deal more effectively this year with your most
difficult relatives is to change the way you view them. For example, here are a
few hidden benefits from having meshuggeneh relatives who (like the charoset
and bitter herbs we eat together in the Hillel sandwich) are a little bit
nutty, somewhat sweet at times, and occasionally bitter or hard to take. Please
see for yourself if the following perspectives on difficult relatives might
assist you in enjoying more fully the upcoming seder.

1) Having Some Kvetches in the Family Can Remind You of What
It Was Like for Our Ancestors in the Desert. 

If you study the Book of Exodus, you will notice that
there’s a lot of complaining. Even within a few days after the miracle of the Sea
of Reeds parting, many of our ancestors were complaining about the food, the
weather, the lack of structure as compared to how familiar everything was
during slavery and the fact that their leader, Moses, kept going off to take
meetings without letting them know when he would return.

So when one or more of your relatives start complaining that
the seder is too long or too short, or that the matzah balls are too hard or
too soft, you can say a prayer of thanks that, “You have blessed us, Holy One,
with a chance to remember that we were fearful slaves in Egypt. Please help us
overcome our fears so that we no longer will be such kvetches and we will
instead trust that You are guiding us in a holy direction.”

2) Consider the Possibility that a Difficult Relative Is
Like Sand in an Oyster. 

In order to become a pearl, you might need to practice and
improve your own skills at combining chesed (lovingkindness) and gevurah
(limit-setting or firmness). Our Jewish teachings say it’s important to stand
up to people who are saying or doing hurtful things, but never to shame, attack
or mistreat someone (because each human being contains a spark of holiness —
even if it’s extremely covered over in your particular family member). A
difficult relative is sometimes like a good workout at the gym — you might feel
the burn but hopefully you will be successful at treating your most meshuggeneh
relative with a balance of kindness and firmness.

3) Having Some Disagreements at the Seder Table Can Remind
Us That We Jews Are Supposed to Be “Yisrael,” the Ones Who Wrestle and Strive
With God.

Don’t worry if your Uncle Harry is a dogmatic nudge, if your
sister-in-law is a devout atheist or if your family is constantly arguing about
their diverse ways of practicing (or not practicing) their Judaism. The word
Yisrael literally means the people who wrestle and strive with the mysteries of
the Eternal One. We argue and we discuss, therefore we exist. If we stopped
arguing and discussing, we would no longer be on this chosen journey of
searching for truth, fairness and the repair of the world.

4) Don’t Get Bent Out of Shape If You Have Relatives Who
Show Up Late, Have an Attitude or Don’t Show Up at All. 

If you look at one of the most fascinating passages in the
seder, you will see it says there are four types of people: The one who fully
partakes of the tradition; the one who questions and wonders if it applies to
him or her; the one who stands off to the side; and the one who is too young or
simple to ask questions.

Your task, according to the seder text and Jewish teachings,
is to treat each of these four individuals with dignity and love. They each
have something to teach the rest of us. They each are a part of our extended
family and, possibly, are each a part of our own inner psyche.

Maybe each one of us has a part of our minds that can accept
miracles and ancient teachings without question, while another part of us needs
to ask difficult questions, a third part of us feels isolated or left out at
times and, finally, there is a part of us that is either so very young or so
extremely pure in our souls that we don’t ask questions at all.

To love and appreciate each of these parts of ourselves and
to treat with compassion each guest at the table is one of the great teachings
of the Passover seder. Good luck!

Leonard Felder is a licensed psychologist whose eight
books on how Jewish spirituality applies to daily living have sold more than 1
million copies. His most recent book is “When Difficult Relatives Happen To Good
People” (Rodale, 2003). For more information, log onto

Sound of Silence

"So, maybe we should get to know each other."

My husband Glenn’s voice cracked like an adolescent as he broke the hour-long quiet inside the car. Glenn looked expectantly toward Jacek, a partner at a Warsaw-based software company and Glenn’s business contact.

When I had decided to tag along with my husband on his business trip to Poland, I had been surprised when his colleague volunteered to drive us during the three-day vacation portion of our trip.

Now Glenn’s suggestion lingered in the air, as did most of our attempts at chatting with our new acquaintance over the last few hours. I felt bad for my loquacious husband, who rarely struggled for conversation. Funny, I always thought I’d enjoyed silence. As an only child until my teen years, I often relished quiet moments to myself. This week, it felt like I had a few too many. As our time with Jacek progressed, I noticed a parallel between our host’s behavior and the history of his country.

A few days earlier, I had gone sightseeing in Warsaw. Unable to secure a tour from a local Jewish organization, I joined a regular bus and walking tour. I was baffled when the guide took us to the grounds of a historic palace and rattled on about government buildings for over an hour, but simply skimmed over the Jewish parts of the city. I was in total disbelief when we merely stopped by the Warsaw Ghetto. The other passengers agreed that since it was drizzling, we would view the Monument of the Ghetto Heroes through the cloudy bus windows rather than getting out to see it up close. Luckily, Jacek had taken us to the ghetto and the Nozyk Synagogue, Warsaw’s only shul that survived World War II, the night before. During the visit, I’d assumed that his silence was a sign of respect.

After six of the quietest hours of my life, we arrived at Auschwitz. Before we got out of the car, Jacek reminded us that we still had a few hours of driving to get to our final destination, a mountain resort called Zakopane. I felt pressured as we entered the concentration camp I’d heard about since my Hebrew school days. Every time Glenn and I exited one of the exhibits, Jacek was waiting for us, having finished moments before. While I did my best to take everything in — most memorably, a display containing a huge pile of human hair, a bin filled with confiscated children’s clothing, suitcases marked with handwritten family names and rows of mug shot-like pictures of the prisoners — I could swear that I felt Jacek’s mounting impatience. My unease continued as we headed for Birkenau, the larger camp.

The gravel crunched under our feet as we made our way up the railroad tracks leading to the entrance. The sheer size of the facility was startling. Even though birds chirped and the grass sparkled green, I had the same sick feeling I get when I visit a cemetery. I became conscious of my furrowed brow. Glenn was contemplating whether it was wrong to take pictures. I assumed Jacek was thinking that we needed to hit the road. But this time, I was wrong.

"My father was Jewish," Jacek revealed quietly as we walked along the same tracks where more than a million Jews were sent to die. "Some of his family was killed here."

This time I couldn’t speak. Why hadn’t Jacek mentioned his half-Jewishness earlier? We mentioned our religion at least of dozen times in (attempted) conversation. Was he ashamed of it? Disconnected from it? Or did he, like me, feel hollow visiting the site where family members were killed?

It suddenly occurred to me that the Holocaust was an attempted silencing of the Jews. While World War II was decades ago — and the camps were liberated — the quiet lingers. We’re so far away from it all in the United States. In Poland, the wounds are still raw and it isn’t something that the locals are comfortable talking about.

I wondered if we reminded Jacek of his Jewish roots and brought up issues he didn’t want to think about. Maybe he wanted to put history behind him. Or maybe we’re simply very annoying guests.

Whatever the reason, Jacek’s silence gave me the time to reflect and feel connected to my long-gone relatives in Poland. I hope our presence helped him feel more comfortable with his Jewish identity.

Getting Genealogy Help Off the Net

Joanna Rubiner, a 33-year-old actress from Los Feliz, sits in front of a microfilm reader that is likely older than she is. With a turn of the hand crank, she slowly scrolls through page after page of a ship’s manifest hoping to find the name of an elusive ancestor who immigrated to America.

Rubiner, who started collecting family stories at her grandfather’s funeral in 1986, has been coming to the Mormon-run Family History Center for more than a decade to pore over records. The information she’s seeking is not available online, and if it were she’d still want to track down the original document to confirm its accuracy.

“Sometimes I think a seance would be easier,” Rubiner said, referring to the decidedly low-tech medium of microfilmed records.

With software packages like Family Tree Maker and the growing availability of genealogy databases online, family-tree research is being marketed to consumers as an easy, accessible hobby. According to a 2000 Maritz Research poll, nearly 60 percent of people surveyed expressed an interest in genealogy, a 15 percent increase from 1995. This growing interest has spawned the PBS series, “Ancestors,” and the Museum of Tolerance’s new exhibit “Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves.”

But the rose-colored picture sold to consumers of tracking down great-great-grandparents via the Internet in 30 minutes or less typically falls short. While the availability of records on the Internet is growing, public expectations still outstrip the reality of what’s out there. Most databases have been rushed and are rife with errors, especially when it comes to records with Jewish names. The end result has been a boon for Jewish genealogical societies and online resources, which are increasingly called on to help novice genealogists navigate resources on and off the Internet.

Recently, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation
( joined with the
Mormon Church to make available the passenger records of 22 million people who
entered America through the Port of New York and Ellis Island from 1892-1924.
According to  editor Warren Blatt, the database has a 40-percent error rate.

“If you’re a Mormon in Salt Lake City, you’re not going to know how to translate the name Yitzhak,” said Blatt, who will be speaking to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles (JGSLA) about Jewish given names and JewishGen’s databases on Monday, April 21 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Blatt, 40, said that JewishGen has set up its own Ellis Island database — one of 50 the nonprofit makes available to the public — which takes into account spelling variations of Jewish names to help narrow a search.

“The Internet is a way to jump-start your research, but for serious research you need to consult the original documents,” Blatt cautioned.

Cyndi Howells of, an index to online genealogical resources, echoed Blatt’s view. She said that the information entered into most Internet databases is about as accurate as a game of telephone.

“You should always be trying to get back to that original document. There’s too much room for error in transcription,” she said.

Tarzana residents Annette and Joe Corn recently joined JGSLA to get help researching their family tree. The 70-something couple received a copy of Family Tree Maker as a gift from a relative but has been unable to make headway with online research.

“I tried filling out as much as I could,” said Joe Corn, who was at the Family History Center learning how to find relatives on the U.S. Census. “I’ve been frustrated with the results on the Internet.”

The need to do research offline has led to a membership increase for groups like JGSLA, which has seen a 20 percent growth in the last few years.

“The person-to-person contact is invaluable to people,” JGSLA President Sonia Hoffman said.

The society itself works directly with the Los Angeles Family History Center and helps augment the center’s holdings by purchasing books and microfilmed records of interest to the Jewish community. But the group’s alliance with the Mormon Church does make some members uncomfortable.

The Mormon Church, which requires its followers to research their own family trees and submit the names of non-Mormon ancestors for baptism by proxy, recently came under fire for posthumously baptizing Jews, especially Holocaust victims. Church leaders pledged to end the practice last December.

“Some people’s attitudes are, ‘What do we care?’ Other people get offended,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman added that JGSLA’s relationship with the Mormon Church has been very good. When a Jewish name periodically appears in the church’s online International Genealogical Index, she said that the society is able to get it removed.

For Rubiner, a five-year JGLSA member, the records offered by the society and the Family History Center are an invaluable resource. She said the details on the shipping manifest can tell her a lot about the relative she’s researching, like how much money they were carrying at the time, who traveled with them, where they departed from and where they were going.

Researching one relative can take anywhere from hours to weeks, but the allure of discovering details about a person’s life through vital records makes her regular trips to the center worth the effort.

“You get obsessive,” Rubiner said. “It’s never-ending.”

Warren Blatt, editor-in-chief of JewishGen, will speak
at the Skirball Cultural Center on Monday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. For more
information, visit .

Candles Shine From L.A. to Tel Aviv

The miracle of Chanukah took on a double meaning Dec. 4, when Los Angeles Holocaust survivors participated in a menorah-lighting ceremony with their counterparts in Tel Aviv via videoconferencing.

"We celebrate the miracle of Chanukah, and we also celebrate the miracle that we survived," said Eva David, a survivor originally from Romania-Hungary. "Who would have thought when we were weak and hopeless that we would reach old age"?

The event, which was staged by Cafe Europa, a Jewish Family Service program that serves as a social outlet and offers financial assistance and emotional support to Holocaust survivors, allowed those who shared a common experience to also share the joy of Chanukah with one another. Cafe Europa has served the Los Angeles survivor community for 15 years, but the candle-lighting celebration marked the Tel Aviv group’s first anniversary since its establishment.

"It’s inspiring for me to see how much your group has grown there. I’m kveling right now," Eleanor Marks Gordon, coordinator of Los Angeles Cafe Europa, told the nearly 50 participants in Tel Aviv.

Many Los Angeles residents at the event had friends or relatives in the Tel Aviv group. Lydia Bagdor saw her cousin’s daughter, who, when she last saw her, was 4 years old and is now a young adult. "You are my only cousins from my old family," Bagdor said.

Guta Schulman was able to spend Chanukah with her Auschwitz bunkmate, Chaya Rabinowitz, who had settled in Tel Aviv after the Holocaust. Schulman said that she owes her life to her friend, because Rabinowitz convinced her to leave Auschwitz, although her sister-in-law was not allowed to leave. "I have goose bumps," Schulman said after their emotional conversation.

As the Los Angeles group watched, a survivor lit the candles on the menorah in Tel Aviv. Then all the survivors — in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles — joined in singing "Hatikvah."

Wordless Lessons

The proverbial apple may not fall far from the tree. Often, though, the question is: which tree?

The Torah portion opens by tracing Pinchas’ lineage back to his paternal grandfather, Moses’ brother, Aaron. Pinchas, it will be recalled from last week’s reading, dramatically put an end to Israel’s calamitous flirtation with Moabite women and false gods. According to the Talmud (Sanhedrin 82b), Pinchas’ pedigree is given in answer to critics who thought it unseemly that this foreign shoot (his mother’s father was not ethnically Jewish) should rise up against the mighty oak of Zimri, the blue-blooded leader of a Jewish tribe.

Doesn’t this miss the mark, asks a contemporary Jewish sage, Rabbi Meir Tzvi Bergman of Bnei Brak? Pointing out his illustrious Jewish relatives would hardly quiet those who saw him as an outsider for not being as "purely" Jewish as they.

The issue, Bergman says, was not the purity of Pinchas’ bloodline, but the purity of his intention. Some suspected him of perpetuating the religious fervor and unchecked passion of his maternal forebear, a spiritual seeker who had flipped between competing deities as if they were hamburgers on a grill. His gambit had worked — but did it come from a holy place? The Torah testifies in response that Pinchas was a rather reluctant zealot, a chip off a very different block. He was motivated only by the desire to save lives, and followed the example of his other grandfather, Aaron, beloved by all as the great pursuer of peace (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:12). Pinchas did not act on anything he had heard directly from Aaron, but rather on who Aaron really was, in his essence.

The most profound lessons we teach are not conveyed through direct clarification, but by showing who we are and what we stand for, by laying bare the consistent themes in our lives. Call it trickle-down ethics. We fail to understand that we often teach lessons — positive and negative — when we are least aware.

No one needs to know this more than parents.

When we get angry around our kids, what ticks us off? Violations of ethical principles, or small perturbations of our sense of order? What does this show them regarding what we are really passionate about?

Then, there are more subtle points. Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky, one of the most esteemed deans of American yeshivot, once found himself on a plane with a childhood acquaintance who had become a ranking official in the Histadrut, the Israel Labor Organization. The acquaintance was quite taken by the stream of grandchildren who punctuated the flight by coming over and asking Kaminetsky if there were anything they could do to make him more comfortable. The acquaintance admitted to not being treated with as much solicitude by his own grandchildren, whom, in fact, he saw rather infrequently. Why the difference, he asked?

"Quite simple," Kaminetsky responded. "Your children and grandchildren picked up your world view, in which all life evolved by complete chance from primordial chaos. Naturally, they look at older things as more primitive, less developed, and wish to distance themselves from them. To them, you are one generation closer to a common ancestry with apes. Mine believe in a moment of Revelation at Sinai, with generations born afterward looking with awe at those who stood there. I represent something positive, a link with the greatness of those who came before me."

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the great 19th-century mussar (ethical development) campaigner, had a pithy way of illustrating the power of unspoken lessons. "Find a horse thief, and there is a good chance his father was a hard-working butcher — who sometimes kept his thumb on the scale. And his father was likely a Torah sage who ‘borrowed’ the thoughts of others without attribution."

Insanity, goes the old saw, is hereditary: you get it from your kids. What our kids get from us may be much more important, and is certainly far more subtle.


En route home were Alice and Leo Howard and their 14-year-old grandsons, Yoni Howard and Adam Blitz, all of whom had survived the July 30 suicide bombings in Jerusalem’s crowded Mahane Yehuda.

After the El Al jet landed, the relatives greeted each other with hugs and tears and counted themselves lucky. The bombs that killed 13 bystanders (as well as the two Hamas terrorists) and wounded nearly 170 people, had left the Howards relatively unscathed. Leo incurred whiplash, Yoni had glass shards embedded in one leg, and most had painful ringing in their ears. But the close family friends who had been with them at Mahane Yehuda were seriously injured and remained hospitalized.

The memories of that nightmarish day were so vivid that the Howards decided to cut their Israel trip short and return home.

“It’s been very traumatic,” says Leo, a soft-spoken CPA who lives and works in Encino. “But this will not scare us off from visiting Israel. None of us have any concerns about going back. We’re going to show our support for Israel.”

This Zionist point of view is typical of Leo and Alice Howard, who have been active in Israel Bonds and at Valley Beth Shalom, and who have traveled some 25 times to the Jewish state. Two of their children, Jane Howard Blitz and Alan Howard, lived for a time in Israel.

Alan, who lived in Israel from 1972 to 1990, attended dental school at Hebrew University; married a Chilean-born Israeli; stuck out the Yom Kippur and Lebanon wars; and named his son, Yoni, after Yoni Netanyahu, the martyred Entebbe hero. His best friend, Shlomo Shimonovitz, remains in Israel, and Yoni is good friends with Shlomo’s sons, Itamar, 10, and Zvika, 14. (The Shimonovitz boys were with the Howards during the bombings.)

Alice Howard, for her part, is a national board member of NA’AMAT USA and, over the years, she and Leo made a ritual of taking their grandchildren to Israel. Several years ago, it was their teen-age granddaughters’ turn, and this summer was slated for Yoni, who attends Oakwood School, and Adam, who’s entering 10th grade at Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple.

The day before leaving for the proposed 3 1/2-week trip, Leo Howard proudly told a friend, “Tomorrow, I’m taking my grandsons to Israel.”

The next time the friend spoke to Leo, it was two days after the bombings; he remained characteristically stoic. Leo says that on the morning of July 30, he and Alice had taken the boys, along with Itamar and Zvika, to visit Masada. Afterward, they had stopped at Mahane Yehuda for an Iraqi-style falafel.

Just before 1:15 p.m., as they ducked into a bakery to buy dessert, Yoni remarked on a strange-looking man who was wearing a black suit and tie and carrying a briefcase in the stifling summer heat. The sightseers thought little of it as they resumed walking. When they heard a loud explosion — the first of the two bomb blasts — the Howards assumed that it was a sonic boom.

When the second explosion struck, violently strewing food and fire and body parts with an incredible heat, they did not realize that they stood less than 20 feet from the second suicide bomber. Ducking into that bakery saved their lives.

“It was mass chaos,” Leo says. “Everywhere, people were bleeding. Zvika had a big hole in his arm. And I saw Yoni running toward me, carrying a small child with a hole blown through his chest. I did not, at first, recognize that it was Itamar.”

Grandfather and grandson, with ears splitting, ran wildly away from the blast site, and when Yoni saw a charred body upon the ground, he breathlessly advised his zeyde not to look. Leo finally took Itamar from his grandson; his shirt and shoes became soaked with blood. He yelled for a doctor, and a pediatrician miraculously appeared and held the boy’s chest closed until the ambulance arrived.

Meanwhile, amid the sirens and soldiers scurrying everywhere, Adam had become separated from the others, pushed out of the way by the frenetic photographers; he wandered around in shock and half-dressed, having given up his shirt to dress Zvika’s wounds.

The family members ended up in different ambulances. Some time after being reunited, they learned that Zvika needed tissue and blood vessel grafts and that Itamar’s wound was less than half an inch from his heart. The 10-year-old boy had half a lung removed and was on a respirator, in critical condition. Had it not been for the pediatrician, the boy would have died, the doctors said.

While the Howards did not suffer much physical damage from the bombings, there was an emotional toll. The family suffered sleepless nights, and the grandsons were frightened by crowds and loud noises and showed other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A psychiatrist advised that the boys remain in Israel just long enough to see that their friends were healing; then they should immediately return home to their parents. On Saturday, the Howards revisited Mahane Yehuda, and amid the flowers and the yahrtzeit candles, they attempted a sense of closure.

Today, back in Los Angeles, Alan Howard is searching for an Israeli-born therapist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. He is also purchasing airline tickets to take Yoni back to Israel on Aug. 13. “My son wants to go back, to make sure his friends are OK,” Alan says. “And I don’t want his memories of Israel to consist only of fiery bombs and dead bodies.”

Leo, meanwhile, insists that Israel “is still much safer than most of Los Angeles. If people now refuse to visit Israel, it means that the terrorists have won.”