U.S. bill would offer $5M reward for capture of Frenkel’s murderers


Legislation introduced in Congress would post a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Naftali Frenkel, the Israeli-American teen abducted with two others and murdered last month in the West Bank.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) authored the legislation concerning Frenkel, who was abducted on June 12 along with Israelis Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar. Their bodies were found June 30.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) co-sponsored the legislation in the House.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Hamas is behind the kidnappings and killings, which were an element leading to the bombing campaign Israel launched this week against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“The Israeli government’s recent action against Hamas is a just and appropriate mission to both bring the terrorists responsible to justice, and to degrade their capability to launch further attacks,” Cruz said. “No one doubts Israel’s ability to carry out this mission, but given Naftali’s citizenship, I believe the United States should demonstrate our clear support for Israel by offering a reward as we traditionally have in terrorist attacks involving Americans.”

The bill would require Secretary of State John Kerry to use the Rewards for Justice program to offer a $5 million dollar reward.

Egyptian man rewarded for ripping down Israeli flag


The Egyptian man who ripped down the Israeli flag from the embassy in Cairo has been rewarded for his act.

Ahmad al-Shahat climbed up the side of the 22-story building last weekend to the cheers of anti-Israel demonstrators and ripped down the flag, two days after several Egyptian border guards were killed in fighting between Israeli troops and terrorists following a coordinated attack on civilian vehicles near Eilat.

He is reported to have been given a new home and a new job by an Egyptian provincial governor, Reuters reported Thursday, citing reports in the Egyptian media.

Protests continue in front of the Israeli embassy and the home of the Israeli ambassador, where an Israeli flag was also ripped down. The protesters are calling for a million-man protest on Friday to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Egypt.

The road leading to the ambassador’s residence was closed by the Egyptian military in order to protect the ambassador, according to the newspaper Israel Hayom.

Israeli officials have apologized for the accidental killing of the Egyptian troops, which Egypt has said is not enough.

The Heart of Jewish Joy


A modest proposal: As a reward to the Jewish people for having survived the 20th century, let’s make Purim our High Holiday.

Not that there’s anything really
wrong with our current High Holidays. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are compelling days of personal introspection, reflection and evaluation. But after withstanding a century of pogroms, mass dislocation and Holocaust, claiming a tiny sliver of a homeland only to attract the rage of a billion Muslims and the resentment of the rest of the world, we’ve earned a holy day of unconditional joy.

If Jews the world over, including the most alienated and unidentified, are going to find their way to synagogue just once a year, let it be a day we hand them a mask and a grogger and share the jubilant story of a courageous Jewish princess and her triumph over evil. Let it be a holiday celebrating the victory of life over death. Let it be a day of unmitigated Jewish joy. We’ve earned it.

And we need it. The long career of Jewish suffering has twisted the Jewish soul.

I taught Hebrew school years ago, and one Sunday morning I overheard a conversation between a father and his child.

“Dad, I hate Hebrew school,” the kid said. “It’s boring, it’s stupid, the teachers are mean, the kids aren’t nice. I hate it and I don’t want to go any more.”

The father pushed his child up against the wall and said to him: “Look, kid, I went to Hebrew school when I was your age, and I hated it. It was boring, the teachers were mean, the kids weren’t nice, but they made me go. And now you’re going to go to Hebrew school just like I did.”

What a tragedy, what a catastrophe to raise generations who know only a twisted Judaism, a Judaism of coercion, boredom and emptiness.
My grandfather would read the Yiddish papers and mutter, “Shver tzu zeiner Yid” (It’s hard to be a Jew). For my grandfather, being a Jew was an unquestioned destiny, but the world made it so difficult, so painful.

In our time, we’ve twisted this around. It’s no longer a description.

It’s become prescriptive: “Shver Tzu Zeiner Yid.”

We’ve come to expect that anything authentically Jewish must be hard, painful, difficult. No chrain, no gain.

A friend — a truly beautiful soul — converted to Judaism. She came back to see me in deep sadness. Her Christian friends and co-workers congratulated her on her new faith. They bought her gifts to celebrate. Her Jewish friends were openly derisive: Why on earth would you want to be Jewish? What’s wrong with you?

The greatest book on American Judaism is Mordecai Menahem Kaplan’s classic, “Judaism as a Civilization.” The first line of that book reads: “Before the beginning of the 19th century, all Jews regarded Judaism as a privilege; since then most Jews have come to regard it as a burden.”

To heal the twisted soul of the Jewish people we need unequivocal expression of Jewish joy. So let’s make Purim our High Holiday.
Purim is a deceptively simple holiday. Its merriment masks a complex set of issues: the power politics of Diaspora, the multiple identities engendered by assimilation, the single-mindedness of evil, the conflicted conscience of the righteous. It is a story of secrets, hidden truths and concealed realities. And somehow we sense the Presence of God in the story’s shadows. But it ends in a flash of light, of truth and of celebration. It is thus a remarkable treatise on the nature of Jewish joy.

Jewish joy is not escapist or delusional. Who knows the world’s darkness and brokenness better than we do? But standing before light and darkness, blessing and curse, life and death, we choose life. It may be the most difficult mitzvah in the Torah to fulfill. But we choose life. That is the heart of Jewish joy.

“The Jews enjoyed light and gladness, happiness and honor” (Esther 8:16). And so may it be for us.

Happy Purim.

Ed Feinstein is senior rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. He serves on the faculty of the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the University of Judaism, the Wexner Heritage Foundation, the Whizen Center for the Jewish Family and the Synagogue 3000 initiative.

A Mensch


A month ago I lost my wallet.

I had just picked my son up from day school at 5 p.m., run an errand, then returned to pick up my daughter, whose religiousschool classes got out at 6:30 p.m.

It was one of those days. My wife was out of town on a work trip, and between my own job and drop-offs and pick-ups, I’d logged about 100 miles, and the day wasn’t over.

I had until 7 p.m. to make it to the auto shop to switch cars, and the clock was still ticking on dinner and baths and bedtime. That last sequence of “Good Fellas” where Ray Liotta has to do a drug deal, launder cash, run family errands and avoid the Feds? That was me, without the drugs, cash and cops.

Trying to shave a minute off deadline, I parked a block from the school, ran at a dead heat up La Cienega Boulevard, grabbed my daughter and power-walked back to the car. Then off through rush hour traffic to Miller Honda, where I arrived as the giant metal garage doors were rolling shut. I hurried to pay for my repairs — without my wallet.

It wasn’t gone, I told myself. It was black, my seats were black and the sun had set. I searched. The kids searched. Small hands went in and out of seat cracks. It took me a good two minutes to go from bemused to perplexed to frantic.

Forget the 100 bucks. What about the credit cards? The driver’s license? The identity theft. The hours on the phone navigating voice commands. A crazed thief showing up at our home address. My ATM card somewhere on its way to Vegas.

I drove back to the school. By cellphone I alerted the security personnel there, who quickly scanned the sidewalk and came up empty-handed. I traced my steps and found nothing.

“If you dropped it in the hallway,” one guard comforted me, “whoever finds it will give it to us. If you dropped it on the street, forget it.”

Of course he was right. It was dark. That section of La Cienega hosted a stream of transient foot traffic from the bus stop to 7-Eleven to dark alleys where pickpockets warmed their hands around trash can fires kindled with the useless receipts from emptied wallets … or so I imagined. I was, at that point, without hope.

And my kids, hungry and tired, were aching for food, which I had no money to pay for.

Just before I left school, I had the idea to call my work phone. Who knows? There was a message, which I’ve saved: “Hi Rob. This is Michael. I’ve found your wallet. Give me a call. I’m sure you’re probably looking for it.”

I pulled over and called. The young man on the other end of the line gave me his address, which turned out to be on Corning Avenue, the next block over. He was waiting out front when I swung around.

I rushed out to shake his hand, to thank him. I thrust a reward at him, which surprised and slightly embarrassed him. Somehow I figured words weren’t enough.

When I drove back to school to thank the security guards and share the good news, they were astonished.

“In this city,” said one of them, “That’s one in a million.”

They asked how old he was. Around 20. They asked what color he was. I said black. They shook their heads. From their faces, I could see their stereotypes melting about as gently as nuclear fuel rods.

A little while later I called Michael Evans to thank him a bit less breathlessly.

On the one hand, he didn’t cure cancer or rescue an endangered species or rush into a burning building. On the other hand, he found a wallet full of cash on a dark street, made the effort to contact the owner, and returned it. No big deal? Not if it were your wallet.

Michael told me he is 22. He was born in New York City and moved out here when he was 10. His parents died when he was 4 — not a subject he wanted to delve into — and he was raised by his grandmother, a retired schoolteacher. She’s 92 now, and Michael decided to live with her to watch after her.

Michael attended Carthay Circle Elementary, Hamilton High and Los Angeles City College. He works as an accountant in Burbank for Smith Mandel and Associates.

The night we met, he was walking up La Cienega toward the 7-Eleven to buy his grandmother a newspaper when he saw my wallet.

“I thought I might as well go and help this person,” he told me, verbally shrugging off the whole incident. “It’s not inconvenient, and I’d want somebody to do the same thing for me.”

He searched out my business card, called me and e-mailed me. “I don’t think it was too much trouble to go and do that.”

I told him what the security guards said, that in a city like this, he’s one in a million.

He laughed.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “There really was no other option.”

This is the second year The Jewish Journal has compiled a list of our “Top Ten Mensches.” Let other magazines slobber over the 50 Sexiest or the 400 Richest or the 20 Most Influential. Rich, sexy and powerful are easy. Mensch is hard.

How hard? You could make all those other lists and still not qualify for ours. There are three crowns, says the Pirke Avot, the crown of the law, which is knowledge; the crown of royalty, which is power and wealth, and the crown of priesthood, which is holiness.

But the crown of a good name surpasses them all.

Thus, Michael Evans.

We Must Condemn Heartless Bilge


“It is not in our hands to explain the prosperity of the wicked or even the sufferings of the righteous.” So said Rabbi Yannai in the Mishna some 2,000 years ago. The Talmud (Kiddushin 39b) insists “there is no reward for mitzvot in this world.” We have had a long time to read and understand the Book of Job, and we know that the calculus of reward and punishment is more perplexing and agonizing than we can know.

Than we can know, but not, apparently, than Rav Ovadiah Yosef, a former chief rabbi of Israel, can know. Rav Ovadiah is an ilui, a genius of halacha.

His memory is astonishing, his range remarkable. Unfortunately, his theology is appalling.

American citizens died in the hurricane, according to Rav Ovadiah, because President Bush supported the pullout from Gush Katif. Just in case there was a corner of decency that was left unoffended, Rav Ovadiah went on to say that the devastation of Katrina was also punishment for lack of Torah study, since after all, kushim, that is black people, don’t study Torah. To hope that he would revise his opinion of even that egregious statement in light of the Ethiopian population of Israel is apparently too much to expect.

If this were the isolated opinion of an older man, whose crotchets are overcoming his considered judgments, it would not merit comment. But such pronouncements are not new for Rav Ovadiah, and other rabbis have astonishingly concurred in this opinion. His influence is great, and so must be the reaction against such theological thuggery.

It is painful to contemplate that a learned rabbi could be so parochial, so narrow, so besotted with our tiny people alone that he chooses to pour rhetorical venom on the victims of a hurricane half a world away. I yearn to hear repudiations, not from secular Jews, but from those who look to Rav Ovadiah as a guide and a mentor.

This is the worst kind of cruel speech in the name of God, a religious racism that forgets the words of Amos, “Are you not as the children of the Ethiopians to me, O children of Israel?” (Amos ch. 9). Apparently Rav Ovadiah knows something Amos does not, for in his remarks he used the same Hebrew word, kushim, as did the great prophet.

There is no more poisonous strain in contemporary religious life than leaders declaring “deserved” death.

Hurricanes are weapons in the hands of an angry or disappointed God? When Christian fundamentalist preachers offer up such justifications, we rise to condemn them, and ask decent Christians to do the same. It is our turn.

Imagine the victims who lost home, possessions, family — the mother bereaved of her children and the child mourning his father — who would not blanche at the callousness that attributes their anguish to the displacement of 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip? The heavens weep for that part of our tradition that could persuade a leader, a venerated rabbi, to spout this heartless bilge.

No one who quotes Rav Ovadiah as an authority or who treats his name with respect ought to be permitted to sidestep this issue. It is imperative that these statements be condemned not by those who are outside his circle, but by the community of those who learn from him and venerate him.

It strikes to the heart of our tradition to believe that God drowned citizens in New Orleans because of Divine ire over Israel’s policy of disengagement from Gaza. Where are the rabbis to rise up and say, “This is cruel, this is wrong, this must not be permitted?”

About a year ago, I received an appeal. Rav Ovadiah, whose discourses were carried on the web, had lost funding, and they were to be discontinued. Would I contribute to keep this Torah scholar’s teachings available to all? I sent in a contribution.

I wish I had it back. I’d send it to the victims of New Orleans. Judaism is not about finding reasons why God is making people suffer. Judaism is about finding ways to help them.

David Wolpe is rabbi of Sinai Temple in Westwood and the author of several books, including “Floating Takes Faith: Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World” (Behrman House, 2004).

 

Briefs


$10 Million Offered for Information on Missing Flier

Israeli emissary Uri Chen of the Born to Freedom Foundation visited Los Angeles last month, not to ask for money but to offer $10 million.

The money has been put up as a reward to anyone “providing proven and reliable information” on the whereabouts or fate of Israeli Air Force officer Ron Arad. Arad’s plane was hit over Lebanon in 1986, and the then 28-year-old navigator was captured by Amal, an Iranian-backed Shiite group.

The last contact with him was in September 1987. Since then, there have been occasional reports that Arad was being passed from one Iranian-backed terrorist group to another, or that he was being held in an Iranian prison.

“Israel has unsuccessfully exerted every diplomatic and military effort to find and free Arad,” Chen said. “We are working on the assumption that he is still alive, and the $10 million offer may be our last chance.”

Arad, who will be 47 in May, was married shortly before his capture and has a 19-year-old daughter, Yuval.

Chen, a former official in the prime minister’s office, is CEO of the foundation, which, he said, has collected the money through a government grant and private donations in Israel.

The Born to Freedom Foundation has set up an office and Web site, which can process tips and leads in English, Arabic, Farsi and Russian. Since launching the campaign in December, the foundation has received about 1,000 calls and e-mails, which analysts are now examining.

“We take each tip seriously and are leaving no stone unturned,” Chen said.

He has placed ads in international publications and aired commercials on television networks and has had surprising success in dealing with the Arab media.

“We have been interviewed by Hezbollah TV and Al-Jazeera and have had large newspaper ads in Egypt and Lebanon,” Chen reported.

By contrast, his requests for commercial airtime were rejected by CNN as “too political” and by the BBC and Eurosport network without explanation.

While in Los Angeles, Chen met with Jewish and Muslim leaders of the large Iranian expatriate community here and with managers of about 10 Farsi-language television and radio stations with large audiences in Iran.

The foundation is focusing on Arad but intends to also investigate the fates of other Israeli soldiers and airmen missing in action.

“It is written in Jeremiah that ‘the sons shall return to their own border,'” Chen said. “That is not just a slogan, that is our flag.”

For additional information, visit www.10million.org. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Courts Act on Two Cases Involving Nazi-Looted Art

In two closely watched cases on Nazi-looted art, actress Elizabeth Taylor has retained a prized Vincent van Gogh painting, while in another case, descendants of Holocaust-era German Jews advanced their claims to works by Pablo Picasso and Camille Pissarro.

At stake in the Taylor case is Van Gogh’s “View of the Asylum and Chapel at Saint-Remy,” which the actress bought 41 years ago for $257,000, but which is now believed to be worth between $10-$15 million.

Her ownership has been contested by Canadian attorney Andrew Orkin, who claims that the painting had been confiscated by the Hitler regime from his great-grandmother, Margarete Mauthner, then a Berlin resident who later emigrated to South Africa.

In a decision announced Feb. 8, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles ruled against Orkin, because the applicable statute of limitations had been exceeded.

Orkin said he had been advised not to comment on the case, but his attorney, Tom Hamilton, issued a statement claiming judicial errors and announcing a possible appeal.

The second case has been met with even greater interest in the legal and art worlds, because of a ruling that an art dealer or gallery owner can be sued for his proceeds in selling Nazi-looted paintings.

Although the case involves two different families and two different paintings, the pleadings were combined, because they involved the same art dealer and identical issues, said Los Angeles attorney E. Randol Schoenberg. The art dealer is Stephen Hahn, a gallery owner formerly in New York and now in Santa Barbara.

According to court records, in 1975 Hahn sold Picasso’s “Femme en Blanc” (Woman in White) to Marilyn Alsdorf, a private Chicago collector.

In 2002, Thomas Bennigson, a University of California law student who lives Oakland, tracked down the painting’s provenance, which showed that the Picasso had belonged to his grandmother, Carlota Landsberg of Berlin, before being taken forcibly by the Nazis.

In 1976, Hahn sold Pissarro’s “Rue de Saint Honore Apres Midi, Effet de Pluie” to Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen, whose family allegedly had close ties to Hitler. Recently, Claude Cassirer of San Diego spotted a picture of the painting in a catalog of the Thyssen collection.

Cassirer’s grandmother, Lilly Neubauer-Cassirer, of a German-Jewish family, had been forced to sell the Pissarro for a fraction of its value under Nazi pressure.

In her ruling, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise deBellefeuille found that the use of a “constructive trust” on the sale proceeds of the two paintings was a proper remedy, when a person earns compensation from the sale of property belonging to another.

Schoenberg noted that “this is the first time, that I know of, that someone has tried to sue downstream to recover from a dealer who sold Nazi-looted paintings.”

However, he acknowledged that many Nazi-looted art cases represented a “Solomonic problem,” pitting heirs of the original owners against someone who might have purchased the painting later in good faith.

“But you can’t cut the painting in half,” he said, “So under American law, the original owner gets back the property.” – TT

Center Seeks End to Warning on Israel Travel

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is urging the U.S. State Department to remove its warning on travel to Israel, in light of the improving security situation in the country.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean, wrote that besides the economic effect on the Israel’s tourism industry, the travel warning has led some U.S. insurance companies to deny coverage to Americans who frequently travel to Israel.

Cooper added that “now is the time to encourage Americans of all faiths to visit the holy sights in Israel, for students to take advantage of schools of higher learning and for families and friends to reconnect after years of fear and frustration.” – TT

Milken Student Earns Science Contest Honor

Josh Skrzypek’s explanation of plasma physics sounds like an excerpt from a doctorate dissertation. It’s no wonder that the Milken Community High School senior was recently chosen as one of the 300 semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS), America’s oldest and most highly regarded precollege science competition. The honor, which until 1998 was sponsored by Westinghouse, is often referred to as the “junior Nobel prize.”

“I enjoy the discovery of different things,” said Skrzypek, 17. “Even if it’s something that somebody already knows, figuring it out for myself is an incredible high.”

The Pacific Palisades resident has been figuring things out for himself at the UCLA plasma physics research lab for high school students, where he has worked and studied since his ninth-grade year at Milken. Skrzypek’s lab experiences set the groundwork for his Intel competition entry, a report detailing his discoveries in launching radio waves into plasma (a gas).

Skrzypek’s access to college-level research is linked to the Mitchell Academy of Science and Technology, Milken’s unique science education program. In Skrzypek’s junior year at Milken, the academy created the Science Research Institute, a three-year science research elective that prepares students to publish science research at graduate school levels and prepare for prestigious competitions.

Headed by science chairman Roger Kassebaum, the academy allows students to work in an intern capacity with research scientists at university and industry locations.

While Skrzypek was not enrolled in the program (it didn’t exist when he was an underclassman), Kassebaum allowed the motivated student to incorporate elements of the institute into his studies, which led to his Intel STS entry.

Skrzypek plans to study physics in college and hopes to become a university physics professor.

“It’s a big thrill when a concept just clicks, but what’s even more invigorating for me is to be able to teach it,” the young scientist said.

He is already getting some mentor experience by helping a new generation of plasma physics students in the UCLA lab.

While the competition is over, Skrzypek is far from finished with his research and is already planning a follow-up experiment to his Intel project as he decides where he will attend college next year.

Over the past six decades, Intel STS alumni have received more than 100 of the worlds’ most coveted science and math honors, including Nobel Prizes, national Medals of Science and MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. – Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Contributing Writer

Philosophy of a Philanthropist


On the wall of philanthropist and humanitarian Richard Gunther’s office hangs a photo of a man triumphantly standing atop a Western Nepal mountain peak.

While Gunther is not the man in the picture, he is the photographer, and the photo perhaps symbolizes his view of the world. Gunther, 77, lives by two self-coined mottos: 1) "Life is a great big adventure," 2) "Live life with a sense of awe and mystery."

His great big mysterious adventure culminated in receiving the 2002 UCLA Community Service Award on May 18, joining a prestigious group of past recipients that includes actors and community leaders.

While the honor marks a major pinnacle in his life’s journey, Gunther says he never set out in pursuit of reward. Instead, he merely lives by the philosophy that he developed for himself. "I divide my life into thirds," Gunther said, noting the components are business affairs, physical and emotional fitness and involvement in public interest.

Gunther meticulously divides public interest into three categories: 1) the Jewish world, 2) adult development and aging and 3) microenterprise and microfinancing. "It is not a rigid formula, but a vision of the elements in my life," he said.

Yet Gunther chooses his causes carefully. "I like to participate in things as best I can. Not just money, but energy, too," said Gunther, who is constantly out in the field. "I assess a cause from the heart-level. I have to relate to it emotionally, and it has to make sense intellectually."

"A lifetime of experience gives me the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of things," he said, adding that he has not forgotten the importance that Judaism plays in his life, and he has dedicated countless hours to the Jewish world. For example, during one of his first jobs, Gunther’s boss insisted that he attend a weekend at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley. "It opened up a world to me," Gunther said, noting that his Judaism had not previously played a significant role in his life. Since then, tikkun olam has been Gunther’s driving force. "You have to get beyond yourself," Gunther said.

His past Jewish activities include president of Peace Now, co-chair of Operation Exodus, co-chair of The Jewish Federation Council Committee on Jewish Life and founding chairman of the Israel Economic Development Task Force in Los Angeles. Gunther currently sits on the boards of the Joint Distribution Committee, the Executive Committee of the Israel Policy Forum and The Jewish Journal.

Next on Gunther’s public service agenda is what he refers to as "the business of aging." He is a member of the Commission on Aging for the State of California, the principal advisory body on all issues affecting senior citizens, including health, housing and transportation. Gov. Gray Davis appointed Gunther to the commission in 2000 for his prior contributions in aging advocacy. However, the aspect that Gunther is most involved with is "rebranding aging completely, by changing the consciousness of the population" with efforts such as teaching aging in schools. "Aging should really be looked at as a third stage in life where people can be contributing at that stage and not looked at as a burden," Gunther said.

Most significantly, in 1997 Gunther created the Legacy Award Program, recognizing seniors who make unique contributions in their communities. The program is still in existence today.

Microenterprise and microfinancing, the third objective on his public service agenda, has taken him around the world in his work with Grameen Bank, a bank offering microloans without collateral to 30 million poverty-stricken families. He traveled to Bangladesh and China where he helped extend Grameen’s efforts. "It could make a major dent in world poverty," he said.

Gunther’s life has come full circle: from the day in 1943 when he began classes at UCLA after being discharged from the Army, to the 2002 recipient of the UCLA Community Service Award. He associates positive memories with his alma mater, including sitting in the stands for numerous basketball games. But "my wife is the most important thing I took from UCLA," Gunther said. Gunther and his wife, Lois, proposed to each other on the steps of Royce Hall. Fifty-five years later, they have three married sons and three grandchildren. A fourth grandchild was fatally injured by a drunk driver five years ago.

Now that Gunther has reached the top of the mountain, there are many things that he looks forward to doing while he is there. "I want to participate in the growth of my grandchildren," said Gunther, who is co-authoring a science fiction story with his 12-year-old grandson, Sam. In addition, he and Lois have an annual tradition of choosing a particular state or country, studying it and touring it by way of bicycle. Next year’s destination — perhaps Vietnam.

"I want to continue the life I have," Gunther said. "I feel very fortunate."