December 11, 2018

A Love That Never Dies

Photo from Pixabay.

I’m one of those people who feel guilty reading a book twice. So it was with great surprise when my father told me, as we prepared to pack up his belongings, that he’d be taking many of his dust-covered favorites with him.

“But there’s so much out there still to be read,” I argued. “True,” he answered, “but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’d just like to spend the time I have left with some old friends.”

My father is 83 and getting ready to move into the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. His words struck me for their lucidity — he’s been in failing health for years. And so I wondered: What other “old friends” would he be keeping now that he’d chosen to remove mortality’s rose-colored glasses?

A few weeks later, I again found myself at his house winnowing down a wardrobe accumulated over years, holding up various articles of clothing one at a time. Almost as if playing out some macabre Roman tableau, they’d either be given a thumbs up or thumbs down. My father was merciless in the application of his “old friends” rule toward whatever it was I happened to have in hand.

This went on for hours. I’d pull something off the shelf; he’d yea or nay it. The nays were tossed into a pile on the floor that, as the afternoon wore on, rose to the height of my chest. I’m 6 feet 1. The yeas either were returned to the shelf or hung back up and allowed to live another day.

When our days are numbered, I’ve learned that it’s love, above all, that shines the brightest.

For a while it was even fun. Who doesn’t feel the need to clear out their closet? Who hasn’t accumulated clothes they rarely wear? For my father, a retired Conservative rabbi, every item seemed to have a story, whether it was a T-shirt from a visit to the Great Wall of China, a galabeya picked up in Amman, or a sweat jacket given to him by The City of Hope hospital for his volunteer work. Heck, I even scored some stuff that was old enough to be hip (black corduroy jacket, anyone?).

Then we came to his uniform. My father served as a United States Air Force chaplain for four years in active duty and 28 in the reserves. I’m also, in military parlance, an Air Force brat, having been born on a base. We Kollin kids grew up climbing in and out of old bombers, going to air shows and watching space shuttles land. But that’s not what I remember most. The best part was always, always, watching the MPs salute my dad as we drove onto base (he retired as a lieutenant colonel). To this day, my respect and awe for our military personnel is entirely because of him.

I lifted his dress blues, carefully protected in a clear plastic garment bag, sure of which way Emperor Kollin’s thumb was going to point. But I was wrong.

“Dad, they’re your dress blues. You can’t.”

“And when,” he asked, “will I ever wear them again?”

We both knew the answer was never. This was not a book he could re-read and enjoy. This was the memento of a distinguished past he could never recapture. Experience was more powerful than memory.

By putting his dress blues in the “nay” pile, there was no denying the painful truth that my days with my father were numbered — that we were easing past the time of symbols and into the ineluctability of life.

There’s a beautiful song by Tim McGraw called “Live Like You Were Dying,” in which a man who finds out he has months to live, suddenly sees the world in a way he never had before. He loves, he laughs, he forgives and he accepts. And his ode to the world is that all people should learn to live like that, too. This, I believe, is my father’s song.

There’s another song, one by Patty Loveless, called “I Already Miss You Like You’re Already Gone.” That’s mine. Both songs take a hard look at taking nothing for granted like, say, the love between a father and a son.

When our days are numbered — which is true for all of us — I’ve learned that it’s love, above all, that shines the brightest. Love for old books, love for old friends, and love for all those we crave to spend more time with.

Dani Kollin is the award-winning co-author of the “Unincorporated” books and an advertising creative director in Los Angeles.

Happy Birthday Dad

Today, November 22, 2017, marks what would have been my father’s 79th birthday. He passed away when he was only 63, and I often wonder what he would have been like had he been blessed with old age. I wonder how my life would be different had he been here to guide me, and how different my son would be, had he had his influence for longer. It makes me sad and I feel cheated by his dying so young.

Robert Angel was an amazing man and I loved him very much. He took care of me not only when I was a child, but when I was an adult and had a child of my own. He and was the kind of dad who always had a story, or an answer, or a solution, and a joke. It did not matter what was going on in my life, he was able to help me, even if it was just to listen and offer quiet support. I miss my dad more every day.

My son reminds me of my dad. They have similar mannerisms, the same sense of humor, and the same full head of fabulous hair. I can look at my boy and see my dad, which is a blessing. I am thankful my father got to meet my son and get to know him a little bit. He has eight fantastic grandchildren, but sadly didn’t get to meet them all, so I am lucky I have memories of my dad and son together.

My father loved my son and they had a lot of special little things together. He would have been close to my boy had he lived to see him grow up. He would have been the grandpa with pictures on his phone, ready to show anyone who wanted to see his grandchildren. I am certain that just like me, he would have watched my son on television and cried. He was strong, bold, and brave. A wonderful human being.

I will go out tonight and raise a glass in my father’s honor. I will say his name out loud, and thank him for watching over me. I will talk about him with my son so he never forgets him. I will be happy to have had such an amazing dad, and sad to have lost him too early. Happy Birthday Robert Angel. You are loved, and missed, and still the head of our family. I will see you again, so I am keeping the faith.

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to new dads, old dads, estranged dads, moms who are also dads, dads who are also moms, men about to be dads, and dads who have passed away.

I miss my Dad.


All day long.

I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day and may you all be happy, healthy, kind, blessed, and appreciated.

Keep the faith.

Father of 10 killed in terrorist shooting remembered as intellectual and giving man

More than 1,000 mourners attended the funeral for a father of 10 who was killed in a West Bank drive-by shooting.

The funeral of Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark was held Sunday in the Otniel settlement in the West Bank followed by his burial in Jerusalem. Mark was killed Friday when terrorists opened fire on his car as he drove near Hebron.

President Reuven Rivlin, a distant relative of Mark, delivered remarks at his funeral.

“I stand in front of your coffin, Miki, Michael, in sorrow and anguish, and with me stand an entire nation, together grieving,” Rivlin said, according to Haaretz. “Even before the Sabbath began, the murderer’s hand robbed your family of you in cold blood, in front of two of your children, and in front of your beloved wife, Chavi, who was seriously injured.

“Miki, I am sorry to say that I learned about you, only after your death. I learned that you were a loving and beloved father, grandfather and son. An intellectual who was also a man of action. A person who loved hands-on work, but also excelled in the house of learning.”

Mark’s son Yeshoshua said that “as the years pass, we find greater depth. More people you helped. A community of admirers. You taught us to accept the other. You were a giving man with endless time, attention and thought. A man of perception at all levels.”

One of Mark’s daughter, Orit, called her father “the most amazing in the world.”

“How much you gave. How much you did,” she said.

His children, in a video posted on social media, had appealed for mourners to attend the funeral to memorialize their father.

“Come and hear how good our father was, and you’ll be better people, more loving people,” one of his daughters said.

Along with his wife, Chavi, being seriously wounded in the shooting, two of his children were lightly injured.

Hebrew word of the week: abba, imma

In many languages, the words for father and mother — being the first words a baby utters — are quite similar, and they include the labial consonants b, p, m; or dental d, t, n; as papa, dad, (Czech) tata, mam(m)a, mommy, nanny; similar words are used in Chinese, French, Italian, Persian, Turkish (in which anne means “mother”), Yiddish and more.* 

The Hebrew words abba and imma end with an Aramaic suffix, to indicate a vocative form (used when calling someone, as in English, Mom! Dad!) The Hebrew cognates are av for “father,” and em for “mother.”

*So are the word “baby” and other “baby words”: bubba, puppet, mama (“breast, baby food” in other languages; including  mammal, which is a “breast-feeding animal”).

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

Daughter finds the write words from dad

My father rarely wrote anything down. Take birthday cards, for example: While my mother would embellish the printed message with sweet, loving passages and hand-drawn hearts, my father’s heavy script only appeared at the bottom, where he signed his name. It seemed strange for a man who told me, when I began writing fiction in grade school, that he once wanted to be an author.

As I got older, I realized his reticence stemmed from something deeper — it was hard for him to express emotions, either verbally or on the page. He rarely spent quality time with me, and never seemed interested in my personal life. Sure, he would praise a high test score at the dinner table or, on rare occasions, help me with a math problem or science project, but conversation never flowed naturally between us. Our brief exchanges usually petered out when he turned back to the TV or the newspaper, detached. 

I grew envious of my friends’ relationships with their fathers. They had dads who remembered the names of their friends, who shared inside jokes, who lent a patient ear during times of teen angst. I couldn’t imagine confiding in my father about a crush or any kind of school drama. He only seemed to care whether I kept enough gas in the car. There was a moat between us, and eventually, neither of us remembered how to cross it. 

Just before I left for college, we seemed to find common ground. He was perpetually immersed with books about geopolitics, and I was hungry to expand my worldview. He began to treat me as an intellectual partner, if not an emotional one. We talked stocks, commodities markets, global finances. I felt privileged that he was finally lavishing me with attention. 

One day, in a moment of boldness, I suggested, “Why don’t you write me a book?” It would give him a chance to become the author he wanted to be, and it would also fulfill a selfish desire of mine: I craved more communication from him; I was starved for his words. But he never picked up a pen. 

When Alzheimer’s disease began to set in six years ago, my father’s writing, ironically, was our first clue. My mother and I began to find notes around their house — email addresses taped to the computer screen, phone numbers scrawled on the desk and on filing cabinets. Once, we found a short paragraph he had written, describing the nature of his Army service in the 1950s. Its only purpose that we could fathom was to preserve the memory. I held onto it — even a few sentences in his choppy hand were better than nothing. 

The years of distance between us have taken their toll. Now that my father stays in a nursing home, I don’t visit him as often as I could. There is even less to say than before, when he still remembered what I do, where I live, my husband and cats — when he could easily recall my name. 

But a few months ago, my father’s second cousin in Israel called with a bombshell: My dad had written him letters over the years. Lots of them.

Letters? When he could barely sign a greeting card? 

Not only that, but my father’s relative had dutifully preserved them. He scanned a few so I could see them, and I caught my breath as the images popped up on my computer screen. 

October 2000: Rachel has one more year in high school, so we are starting to look for a university she could attend. She is mostly interested in art, literature and creative writing.

March 2002: Rachel will be starting her university education in late August. She will be 200 miles away and we will miss her.

I felt gobsmacked. So there was life on the other side of the moat, after all. And caring. And pride. Had I missed something?

As my father’s illness progresses, the channels between us are opening in other surprising ways: He’s starting to say all of the things he never could when he was well. When he sees me walk into the room now, his knitted brow relaxes and the corners of his mouth turn upward. On walks, he asks to hold my hand. He kisses my fingers and tells me, “You’re beautiful.” 

When I was sitting next to him on the couch recently, he suddenly turned to me, clutched my hand and announced, “My darling girl.” I was stunned. Had I been his darling girl this whole time? Why didn’t he say so?

Yet maybe, in his own way, he did. I printed the letters and showed his heartfelt sentiments to my mother. 

“Shocking, right?” I asked her.

“Not shocking,” she countered. “You don’t remember everything.”

“What don’t I remember?”

“How much he cared for you.”

So maybe there’s another side to the narrative. Maybe I, too, am guilty of forgetting — of focusing only on my resentment and the ways I felt cheated over the years, of holding fast to my grudge. Thinking back, maybe I closed my ears to my dad and ignored the quiet hum of how he felt. Just because he didn’t say kind words out loud doesn’t mean they weren’t there. 

After seeing his thoughts written down — uttered, it turns out, to someone else — I’m starting to re-evaluate his constant inquiries about the gas in my car, about whether I lock my doors at night. That might have been the closest he could come to saying, “You’re important to me.”

I can’t ask my father for closure now; there’s no point in replaying memories he can no longer recall. Maybe memory only has so much value, anyway. Maybe there is healing in letting go. 

Diary of an IDF Father

These are the e-mails of Marvin Hankin, father of two IDF soldiers, Aviel and Gilad, currently stationed in Gaza. Aviel, age 27, is a medical officer for his unit; in August, he will finish the first year of his five-year commitment. Gilad, 22, was drafted into the tank corps at age 19; he will complete his three-year commitment in November. Marvin lives in Jerusalem with his wife Irit.

July 25, 2014

The war here has been going on now for just over 2 1/2 weeks.  Hamas fires 100 to 120 rockets every day into Israel.  Over 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel since this present war started.

When rockets are fired against the targets in Israel, air raid sirens sound out in the target area.  Towns close to Gaza have 15 seconds to run to the nearest air raid shelter. Here in Jerusalem, we have 90 seconds to run down the stairs to shelter in the basement of our building.  Another plus for living on the first floor. Even inside the shelter, we can hear the overhead explosion as the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system intercepts the incoming rocket.  We are instructed to remain inside the shelter for 10 minutes as debris from the overhead explosion fall to the ground, and these can also cause damage and injury.  Actually, it has been quiet here in Jerusalem as we haven't had a rocket here now for the past week.

Aviel and Gilad are both in the army now and are either inside Gaza or on the border of Gaza waiting to go in. They have been there for the past three weeks.  Both are in the tank corps, but in different battalions. Aviel is a medical officer. He is the only doctor for his whole battalion, and as his tank goes into Gaza, he goes in, riding in the back of a tank, treats the wounded soldiers, and sends them back out of Gaza to hospitals for further treatment. Aviel will be in the army for a total of five years. Gilad is in the army for a total of three years, and he now is close to the end of his service — he finishes at the end of November.  He is the gunner inside a tank. His unit is also inside Gaza, but he is just outside the border of Gaza.

We usually hear about once a day from the boys. But Aviel's cell phone battery has just run out, and he has no facilities to recharge.  Out last message from him was yesterday.

The two boys are at an area that must be about the most dangerous a person can imagine. Of course, this keeps Irit and me awake at night.  For the last two weeks now.

There is talk of a cease fire.  On a national level, we feel there should not be a cease fire until the Israeli army has completely destroyed hamas' ability to fire rockets and has completely destroyed all the tunnels.  On a personal level, for us, a cease fire can't come too soon. We haven't seen the boys in almost a month, and we want them home for dinner with us.  The sooner the better.


Gilad just called us.  A soldier in his unit was killed just a short while ago.  He was quite upset. It was also just notified on the TV.

July 28

Aviel has been inside Gaza ever since the ground offensive started. His battery for his cell phone ran out and we haven't heard from him since this past Friday.

We hear each day from Gilad as he is able to keep his phone charged up on the field generator.  He has been on the border of Gaza since this campaign began, but hasn't actually entered Gaza.

Israel has been generally successful in intercepting the hamas rockets using the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system.  Now for a couple of days, hamas has introduced the use of mortars.  These are a low tech short range weapon and the anti-missile system is useless against it. 

A few hours ago, a mortar was fired over the border and landed very near Gilad.  He was not injured, but four of his friends were killed before his eyes and two others were seriously injured. His unit has been moved a few kilometers further back out of the range of the mortars.  Gilad phoned us.  He is quite upset, very disturbed and very distraught.  He feels he needs to talk right now to a psychologist. Of course, we have an expert psychologist in the family but she is too far away to help. 

How nice if the army would let Gilad come home for a few days.  Would he likely go back to the war after a few days at home?  Knowing his character, the answer would be a loud yes.

July 29

We spoke to Gilad today. He spent a rather restless night, with thoughts of the bloody events from yesterday in his head all night.

He explained to us just what happened.  He was sitting at the encampment with a circle of friends.  He got up to walk over to a box to take out something just when a mortar struck at just the place he had been sitting a minute before.  Four of his friends died and two were seriously injured.  He was unhurt.  But very upset at the sight before his eyes. 

The commander of the unit had a long talk with the soldiers last night and again this morning to reassure them.  An army officer is to visit them later during the day.  She is a social worker and psychologist — I didn't get clear her position.  He did sound a lot better than last night.  Of course, last night just after the event, he was understandably upset.


After not hearing from him since Friday, Aviel finally called this afternoon.  He still does not have any battery on his cell phone, but he was able to use a friend's phone to call us. He is well and was in good spirits.  For most of the last three weeks, he has spent most of his time in the back of a tank. That's how he travels to the battlefield in Gaza.  And it is where he sleeps.  Because it is a safe place, and he is ready to go if he is needed urgently.  The back space in the tank seems to be tiny, but he says that if he is tired enough, he is able to sleep.

Gilad seems to be a lot better.  He is still in mourning for his friends. But when we spoke, he seemed to be in good spirits. A lot better than at this time yesterday.

We hope we will continue to get daily contact with the two of them.

July 31

We spoke this morning with both Gilad and Aviel.  Aviel for only a few seconds as he is always on the move.  But he had a short break and they took them to a facility where they had a shower, and he said he feels like a mensch.  A real treat. Gilad had a little more time to talk with us.  He is better, but we could tell from his voice that he still suffers mentally from his recent tragic experience. They have three army officers who speak to them all the time. I guess we have to expect it to take a while for him.

This is Thursday noon.  If there is not some unexpected drastic development in the next 24 hours, it looks like we will have another erev shabbat dinner tomorrow without our two soldiers.  That makes our dinner table seem way too under populated. We like a nice family crowd for our Friday night dinners.

August 4

Gilad is home!!!   What a nice surprise!!!

There was a memorial service for one of his friends who were killed a week ago.  The memorial service was at his hometown of Safed, and a number of soldiers from Gilad's unit went by an army bus.  When the service was over, they allowed Gilad to come home for a day.  Maybe two??

I just picked him up at Jerusalem's central bus station and brought him home.  We haven't seen him in over a month now.  He looks fine now. How really good to see him.  With a beard.  A bit thinner now.  He hasn't had much of an appetite since the incident a week ago. Maybe some of his favorite home cooking will help him over that.

Now it's Aviel's turn to come home.  Cross your fingers everyone.

Toulouse killer Mohammed Merah’s father suing police

The father of Toulouse killer Mohammed Merah reportedly is suing police for allegedly murdering his son.

Mohamed Benalel Merah filed a lawsuit against the RAID elite police who shot his son, the French news agency AFP reported Monday.

“This is a suit against unnamed persons for murder with aggravating circumstances concerning those who gave the orders at the top of the police,” Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, a member of the legal team representing Mohamed Benalel Merah, told AFP.

Mohammed Merah, who murdered four at a Jewish school in Toulouse in a drive-by shooting on his motorbike, was killed last March by police after a 32-hour siege at his house in the southern France city. Merah was fatally shot while jumping from his window during a daylong siege on his apartment in Toulouse.

“You’ve got 300 to 400 heavily armed people and a guy shut up all alone in his apartment. That alone is enough to raise questions,” Coutant-Peyre said.

Merah had confessed to the school killings, which included a rabbi and his two of his young sons, and the daughter of the school’s headmaster. He filmed himself carrying out the attacks.

AFP reported that the head of the legal team, Algerian attorney Zahia Mokhtari, said he has evidence that Merah was “liquidated,” including videos that Merah filmed himself during the siege.

Katy Perry’s preacher father slams Jews in sermon

The father of pop star Katy Perry, a preacher at an Ohio church, ranted against Jews during a sermon.

“You know how to make the Jew jealous? Have some money, honey,” Keith Hudson, 63, said during a recent sermon at the Church on the Rise in Westlake, the Daily Mail reported.

“You go to L.A. and they own all the Rolex and diamond places. Walk down a part of L.A. where we live and it is so rich it smells,” he said. “You ever smell rich? They are all Jews, hallelujah. Amen.”

Perry’s mother, Mary Hudson, also is a minister at the church.

Ex-congressman Anthony Weiner becomes a dad

Anthony Weiner, who resigned his Congress seat after lying about tweeting an illicit photo of himself to a 21-year-old supporter, has become a father.

The ex-New York lawmaker’s wife, Huma Abedin, gave birth to Jordan Zane Weiner on Wednesday, the New York Post reported.

Weiner, who is Jewish, in June acknowledged inappropriate Internet relationships with at least six women. The pregnancy of Abedin, a Saudi-born Muslim, became public during the scandal.

Controlling who shall live and who shall die … and when

My 93-year-old father and I have little left to say to each other.

He sleeps while I sit by his side. Every so often, Dad wakes up, and looks with some confusion around his small room, at the hospital bed, the TV and the whiteboard where someone has printed in large letters: “Today is WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3, 2011. Your daughter Ellie is coming this morning.”

The visit was an impulsive one, based on the fact that Dad sounded depressed over the phone. I flew to Ohio to give him some TLC.

And I get it back. In fact, most of what Dad has to say these days consists of, “Hi, sweetheart. I love you so much!”

And then he goes back to sleep.

The stroke Dad had 10 years ago left this fiercely independent man — who played tennis into his 80s and helped hundreds of patients deal with phobias and fears — unable to handle many of his activities of daily living.

In the past year, Dad needs help with everything but feeding himself.

One afternoon, during our short visit, Dad had something new to say. “I hate being such a pain to people and needing so much help. I can’t even wipe my own ass. I really wish this would end. El, can you get something to help me die?”

I was not surprised that he wants this to end.

“Of course you can’t do anything. I wish a doctor could give me some poison or something. I’ve had a great life. Enough already.”

Then he looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry to be so negative, sweetheart.”

I assured him that I completely understood.

Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

I recently watched the documentary, “How to Die in Oregon,” which featured a woman with cancer who had a prognosis of six months. Because of Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, she had a prescription for a drug “cocktail” that would end her life. The moving film observed as she, her husband and two young adult children talked about their options, their love for each other, their fears and how to determine when her quality of life would mean that it was time for her to die.

I know that many people consider this “playing God.” When I Googled the Jewish view, I consistently found rabbis rebuking assisted suicide based on Jewish law.

So, I called my friend, Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel, a Reconstructionist congregation in Pacific Palisades, to get his thoughts on the subject.

Rabbi Reuben agreed that Jewish tradition says “it’s not up to us. God gives us life and God decides when life is over.”

“But we have, and we use, a huge array of human interventions in what otherwise would be God’s plan, every time we go to the hospital, go to the doctor or take medication,” he said. “If you can afford it, you can have a new heart! Do you think God intended us to have a new heart?”

Traditional Jewish law says we should not interfere with the natural process of someone dying. We are not supposed to stop it from happening. But we do.

Many people believe that God works through human beings through our creative minds and our ability to constantly invent and create, Rabbi Reuben says. It’s a partnership with God in improving the world.

“We human beings certainly have a long history of abusing the privilege of our own intelligence, from the most egregious experiences that we all know about — of the Mengeles and the Nazis, who used their own brilliance and their minds and their intellect to wreak the most horrendous torture upon human beings. No rational person is going to say, ‘Well, that was part of God’s plan, that human beings could do that.’ “

If he had a mantra, Rabbi Reuben told me, it would be, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” “So, just because we have the ability to extend life and keep someone’s heart beating, that doesn’t mean we should,” he said.

Many years ago, my mother was visiting my very weak and terminally ill grandmother in the hospital. Suddenly a light started flashing on the monitors. Nurses and doctors stormed in with paddles. My mother was desperate to stop what she called “the cruelty” to prolong her mother’s suffering. A physician she knew was walking by and Mom grabbed him, begging him to stop what was about to happen. He did.

For decades, my mother reminded us never to prolong her life. She had a clearly stated Living Will stating this. So, when she was in late-stage dementia, I stopped the staff from tube-feeding her. Mom could barely talk, but when I asked her if that was what she wanted, she nodded. She went into hospice care and died a week later.

“To me,” Rabbi Reuben said, “our challenge is to make the most humane, loving, compassionate and ethical choices that we can, about ourselves and about the world.

“In Deuteronomy, you have life and death, good and evil, blessing and curse. The phrase is, ‘Choose life.’ The way Hebrew is structured, life is linked with good and with blessing, and death is equivalent to curses and evil. Life means choose good, choose blessing. It’s not just life as in ‘my heart is beating’; it’s life linked with good and blessing.

“That’s the area in which I think we need more courage and bold rabbinic and spiritual leadership; to say that what is good and a blessing in life means quality and dignity and respect.”

Rabbi Reuben says we ought to be supporting more assisted-suicide laws, like in Oregon, where people can make rational decisions about ending their own life in advance and give loved ones the power to make loving and compassionate decisions.

Is there the possibility of abuse? Yes. “But, I’d say that everybody I know who is rational and cares about these things believes there’s abuse now, on the other side. So, it’s not about avoiding abuse; it’s about creating more compassion and caring and love,” Rabbi Reuben said.

My father is still going. He sleeps a great deal and sounds very weak on the phone. That is, when I can get him on the phone. Sometimes he doesn’t answer when I call; he’s too tired or the staff has unplugged the phone so Dad won’t call 911 in his confusion. On the rare occasion that Dad answers and he can actually hear me, our conversation is brief. No longer does my father ask me about my love life or my son or my work. There is no more sound advice for my life’s challenges. I feel like I’m losing my father, a tiny bit at a time.

But the deep love remains.

This morning, when he heard my voice, Dad said he was very, very tired. And then he added, “Ellie, I love you so much and have loved you your whole life. I’ve had such an amazing life. But, if God would take me right now, I’d give him a big smooch on the way up.”

Though it’s painful to imagine life without my father, and I haven’t truly let myself think about how much I’d miss hearing his voice and knowing he’s there, the fact that he is so unhappy makes me hope his suffering will end soon.

Ellie Kahn is an oral historian who records family and organizational histories, and is the producer of “Meet Me at Brooklyn & Soto.” Visit her company, Living Legacies, online at

Of Time, and a Father’s First Century

My father understands unwinnable conflicts. He has been fighting a personal war against time since 1911.  “Where does the time go?” he is likely even now to be wondering out loud to a stack of magazines and mail he has yet to get to, but will.

He’s not one for birthdays, his own at least. God willing, his next one is Saturday. One hundred. He’s not going to want a fuss. Chances are, he’ll spend the week as he does every other, fuming at time. Chances are, he’s at it at this very moment.

“Why is there never enough of it?” he will ask, glancing at his watch and the tree-filtered sunlight on his garden. “How can it possibly go this fast?”

It’s only natural to think of time as a threat, an enemy. Impossible to ignore, impossible to defeat, relentless. Then again, there’s the case of my father. After a century of taking its best shots, time has failed to wreck him.

In his case, it is time which has found this war unwinnable. At some point in the last couple of decades, worn down by his perseverance and his emotional armor, time sued for peace.  A rare case of justice. In his working life, which ended relatively recently, my father had been hugely generous with his time in the act of healing others. Time, in the end, was generous with my father, somehow causing him to heal.

You expect aging to close minds and harden hearts, to be something that shrinks us, that turns us rigid, that takes us away, memory by memory, strength by strength. You fear that aging will cause us to become caricatures of some of our less attractive traits. In my father’s case, though, it has been the best parts of him which, in the fullness of these many years, have grown to take him over.

Like many of his generation, people shaped by war and want and uprooting, my father was for much of his life reserved, in many respects a private man, shielded by work and a quiet, at times harsh wit, disinclined to express feelings in word or gesture.

Who’d have guessed that time, of all things, would let the warm, loving, joyous, wounded man inside – the man he’d allowed the world to meet only in unguarded moments – win.

Born in the tiny town of Antopol in what is now Belarus, he lost his father while still a toddler. When he was four, he watched as part of Antopol itself was lost, set ablaze in the midst of World War I. At 10, malnourished, without English, schooled only in the sacred studies, the rich Yiddish, and the corporal punishment of the cheder, he landed with his family in America, where an aunt and uncle had pioneered a move to an unpronounceable place called Los Angeles.

No one ever loved the city better. Or more knowingly. This is a man who to this day relishes discovery, who reads the newspaper every morning, without glasses.

This is a man who can still tell you what blueberries tasted like to a child in Antopol in 1914, the ecstasy of what butter tasted like after a kid’s prison-like stretch in

Ellis Island, the feel of the snow underfoot in Arrowhead when my cousins were small, what it was like to take my mother and sister (in gloves) and me for ice cream in swank, late-‘50s San Francisco on the night train. And this is a man who, in a new century, will tell you that he is closer than ever to his wife of 69 years, and who breaks out with childlike revelry when a grandchild materializes on Skype.

“This is a historic moment,” he announces with his half-frowning smile of surprised delight, speaking live and in color with the other side of the world, with the branch of the family whose roots in the shtetl of Antopol led them to Israel. 

What’s his secret? I don’t believe it was the daily exercise and the drinking in moderation and the no egg yolks and the no smoking and the no salt. 

I believe it was the ice cream. Every night, so late that they were off the nutritional clock, he and my mother would secretly steal into the kitchen, dish up ice cream and stop time.

He would place a spoonful of ice cream in his mouth for, say, half a minute, savoring it, and then take it out, apparently untouched, unmelted, eternal. 

Sages tell us that there is no such thing as coincidence. Sure enough, my dad’s 100th birthday happens to fall on International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Creature of routine that he is, my dad may well not eat ice cream for breakfast on Saturday. But I intend to.

I lift this spoon to you, dad. The sage of Studio City. For teaching me that it is the loves of one’s life that, in the end, defeat time. And if, at the end of the day, you decide to sneak into the kitchen for some of your own, I promise not to tell anyone.

Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper and Senior Editor of, is the son of Dr. Herschel Burston.

Rahm Emanuel is a fighting policy wonk with a Jewish soul

Political insight, killer in a fight, Yiddishkayt — it’s an inseparable package when it comes to Rahm Emanuel, say those who know President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to be the next White House chief of staff.

Since his days as a fundraiser and then a “political adviser” — read: enforcer — for President Bill Clinton, Emanuel has earned notoriety as a no-holds-barred politico. Accept the good with the bad because it’s of a piece, said Steve Rabinowitz, who worked with Emanuel in the Clinton White House.

“He can be a ‘mamzer,’ but he’s our mamzer,” said Rabinowitz, using the Yiddish term for “bastard,” speaking both as a Democrat and a Jew. “Sometimes that’s what you need.”

The apocrypha is legendary, if somewhat hard to pin down: Jabbing a knife into a table screaming “Dead!” as colleagues shout out the names of political enemies, sending a dead fish to a rival, screaming at friends and enemies alike for no good reason.

Even his allies acknowledge that Emanuel, 48, can be on edge at times.

“He’s not running for Miss Congeniality, ever,” said U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has known Emanuel since they worked at Illinois Public Action, a public interest group, in the early 1980s. “He is relentless; he doesn’t give up, but in a strategic way. He’s good at figuring out other people’s self-interest and negotiating in a way that comes out in his favor.”

Emanuel, an Illinois congressman who boasts strong ties to his local Jewish community and the Jewish state, also can be seen as embodying Obama’s stated commitment to Israeli security and diplomacy: During the first Iraq War, Emanuel flew to Israel as a volunteer to help maintain military vehicles. Two years later, he was an aide to Clinton, helping to push along the newly launched Oslo process.

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Ari, Rahm recalled, “beat the crap out of him” — not because of the bike, not to protect his brother, “but because of what he said about black kids.”

Rahm defended his brother in terms he might have applied to himself: “Where others see fierceness, I see loyalty. Where others see intensity, I see passion.”

In general, Emanuel is fiercely loyal to his family, and they were a consideration in his hesitation to take work he’s always dreamed of having — he waited two days to say yes. Obama, in his statement announcing the pick, recognized the pain it would cause Emanuel’s wife, Amy, and “their children, Zach, Ilana and Leah.”

Emanuel, born to an Israeli doctor who married a local woman after he moved to Chicago in the mid-1950s, speaks Hebrew and fondly recalls summering each year in Israel as a child — including just after the 1967 Six-Day War. He attends Anshe Sholom, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Chicago, and sends his children to Jewish day school.

His rabbi, Asher Lopatin, recalls Emanuel approaching him just before Rosh Hashanah this year, telling him that an effort to put together a bailout package for the hard-hit stock market before the holiday had failed and asking whether it was permissible to take conference calls on the holiday in order to salvage the bill.

“I asked, ‘Is it as serious as people say it is?'” the rabbi recalled. “He said, ‘Without this bill there could be a meltdown of the financial system.'”

Lopatin considered the effect such a failure would have on children and the poor.

“I felt it was a case of pikuach nefesh, the commandment that places the saving of life above all other commandments,” Lopatin said, and gave Emanuel the OK.

The somberness of the request couldn’t quell Emanuel’s acerbic wit. Lopatin recalled Emanuel’s teasing, wondering whether the status of the rabbi’s 401(k) investments wasn’t also behind the heksher.

“He kibitzed with me about that,” the rabbi said.

Emanuel repeated the story, to raucous laughter, in caucus meetings on the Hill — an example of how he will skid in the same sentence from Judaism to a liberal commitment to social reforms to hard-nosed politics, Schakowsky said.

“There’s barely a caucus meeting where he doesn’t make some reference to being Jewish, often in a humorous way,” she said.

But his Jewishness does more than inform his sense of humor, Emanuel’s rabbi said.

“He has a very deep commitment and feel for Yiddishkayt,” Lopatin said, “and it’s a Yiddishkayt that’s about tikkun olam, having a positive effect on the world.”

The Nimoys: A father and son, with space between them

When Adam Nimoy was growing up, he felt alienated from his famous father.

Leonard Nimoy’s work as the Vulcan Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” and his numerous other film and TV projects on both sides of the camera provided a comfortable West Coast lifestyle for his baby boom family.

But the younger Nimoy said the time-consuming work also deprived him of the steady presence of his father, and when they did share time together, he quickly learned that he had to share his dad with the rest of America.

Given the loyal and obsessive reputation of “Trekkies,” Adam could be forgiven for looking at them as his father’s other family.

“There were times I thought he gave more time and attention to his fan base,” said Adam Nimoy, who has written about that experience and of his adult life in a self-proclaimed “anti-memoir,” titled “My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life: An Anti-Memoir” (Pocket).

He’ll discuss the book Sunday, Sept. 28 at the West Hollywood Book Fair in West Hollywood Park as part of a panel on overcoming addiction. Both Nimoys have openly discussed their struggles with alcohol and, in Adam’s case, marijuana, which he began smoking as a teenager and used regularly through adulthood before entering a recovery program almost five years ago.

The ambiguity of the book’s title stems from the fact that Adam Nimoy would be seen by many as blessed in having a successful, famous father and an entrée into Hollywood life that later opened doors for his own directing career.

But the younger Nimoy describes a father who, like the stoic but dependable starship officer he portrayed, was often distant, putting the greater good of sustaining his family ahead of seemingly extraneous bonding and warmth.

“There’s a lot of Spock in Leonard, no doubt about that,” Adam Nimoy, 52, said in a recent interview in New York.

Leonard Nimoy grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in a Russian Jewish immigrant family in Boston, the son of a barber and a homemaker for whom Hollywood and its trappings seemed as distant as another planet.

“He’s not unlike a lot of Depression-era people, obsessed with generating income,” Adam Nimoy said. “I have friends who have dads cut from the exact same cloth.”

The difference: “If I have a conflict with him, I have to go back out on the street and deal with a public that adores him.”

The book is not, however, the tell-all memoir about “Life With Spock” that publishers and agents wanted him to write.

ALTTEXTRather, it’s a glimpse of how Adam Nimoy grew up with a famous name, inherited his father’s alcohol problem, met lots of interesting and famous people, and dabbled in law before becoming a successful TV director and starting a family, only to see his life come crashing down.

Leonard doesn’t escape some lumps, but neither does he absorb the brunt of the blasts. Adam takes responsibility for many of the failings of his life, including the end of his directing career because of on-set volatility he attributes mainly to his addictions. The deterioration of his marriage is harder to track from the details in the book, but the younger Nimoy makes clear that his wife and two teenagers urged him to reconcile, and that he persisted with the separation and divorce. The dust settled with both sides on good terms.

“I told her we’ll always be family,” he said. “We’ll always have a close relationship.”

Father and son share many traits and experiences, having both gone through divorces (Leonard divorced Sandra Zober in 1987 and is now married to actress Susan Bay) and worked as directors.

“We’re both similar in the sense of our ambition and desire to work and accomplish things,” Nimoy said.

One trait they don’t share is a desire to be in the spotlight, something Adam soured on during the inevitable media intrusions into his family life as a child.

“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t go into acting,” he said. “The idea of celebrity for its own sake was not something that appeals to me.”

Adam’s life these days includes 12-step meetings, dates and teaching directing at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy. Father and son have gone over their differences, and Adam took his father’s acceptance of the book, read before publication, as a gesture of atonement of sorts. Adam’s daughter, Maddy, is attending Bard College in New York and his younger son, Jonah, is finishing high school in Los Angeles.

Both Leonard and Adam Nimoy and their families are affiliated Jews active in the community. Adam became a bar mitzvah at Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles, where his mother’s parents, Archie and Ann Zober, were founding members. His children went to Hebrew school and celebrated their b’nai mitzvah at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Irmas Campus.

In the memoir, the younger Nimoy writes of the importance he felt of not only providing his children with bar and bat mitzvahs but making those occasions meaningful as well. He implored them to not only learn their Torah portions but to delve into their contemporary meanings.

“I come from Orthodox grandparents on both sides,” he said. “That’s a major factor in my life. I find it attractive, and it speaks to me, as well as my dad, so it’s a big part of my experience and something I want my kids to appreciate.”

Nimoy said spirituality and belief in God helped him in his recovery. “You have to believe in a power greater than yourself. A lot of addicts have trouble with the concept of God, because they think they’re the center of the universe. I’m a believer.”

Nimoy said he is working on another nonfiction book, which he declined to discuss, and he is continuing to teach. He’s contemplating a return to directing — “it’s fun being behind the camera” — but he’s happy with things the way they are.

“My dad fulfilled the immigrant’s dream of making it big for himself in America and becoming extremely successful,” Adam Nimoy said. “My journey was different. I’ll never come close to touching the kind of fame and fortune he’s created for himself. On the other hand, I feel very happy with my life, which is much smaller than his.”

Adam Nimoy will sign copies of “My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life” Sunday, Sept. 28 at the West Hollywood Book Fair, West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. The Book Fair runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Dad’s drive

My father, Milt Freudenheim, retired a couple of weeks ago from a job that he couldn’t let go of. Despite the fact that he is 81, he said he still plans to
go on working for as long as he’s able.

I bring this up not only because it’s Father’s Day this weekend, and I feel that anyone who works for 60 years in the same profession probably deserves more than a gold watch (he didn’t get one, actually), but also because I have followed in my father’s footsteps in ways that seem to exemplify all that is Jewish in our family — caring about the world, a need to prove oneself and, of course, guilt.

My dad is a journalist, too. For the past 29 years, his byline ran in The New York Times, mostly on articles covering the intersection of business and health care. Before that, he was a national and foreign correspondent for 25 years for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, and he also wrote for several other smaller papers across the country. When he left The Times, he was, we think, the oldest person working there, and on his last Sunday on the job, he had a byline on the lead story on the front page of the paper. I was proud; his response: “I guess I don’t have to please them anymore.”

It’s that perpetual striving to please that stops me in my tracks.

Dad has always been reaching — not just to satisfy himself, but also to prove himself to the big guys, the great newspaper people in his head who might, somehow, in their wisdom, someday give him their blessing of approval. I have often thought it odd that one would want to stay in the game — any game — so long. That as he got older and his colleagues younger (isn’t that the most disconcerting aspect of aging?) — he should continue to worry whether he could reach the top of the heap. But Dad loves his work; he loves digging around for stories. He loves the potential of unearthing wrongs and of defending the little guy. He’s an old-school investigative reporter with a Rolodex (remember those?) to die for and a tenacity that is matched only by the best of them.

He’s also driven by that funny kind of unsettled feeling that he’ll never do quite enough, that the powers that be might require one more insight before they’ll let him rest. I don’t know whether this kind of self-questioning is justified in his case(I suspect not), but it does seem peculiar to the Jewish character, or at least it’s common among many of the Jews I know.

We’ve got 613 commandments to keep track of, the Torah tells us, and we can all think of a whole lot more we need to do to please everyone else (and ourselves). Although my father is a mostly secular guy, he’s got that particular bug that keeps him always working harder. And, for those of us who are in his sphere, it’s a trait that is both lovable and very annoying.

There’s never been a Sunday when he wouldn’t take a call from “the paper.” There’s never been a morning when he didn’t rush out to read “the paper.” There’s never been a day when I didn’t know that his love was divided between his family — including first my sweet and undemanding late mother, and now my similarly driven and much beloved journalist stepmother, art critic Grace Glueck — and “the paper.”

The nobility of Dad’s calling was never in question when my three siblings and I were growing up. In those days — the 1950s and ’60s — journalists were not seen as “the media,” with all the negatives that implies today. The authority of solid reporting generally went unquestioned, and the lofty goals of the crusty typewriter-toting newspapermen (and women), as they called themselves, were seen as a high calling. I’m sure there were lapses in the field — power plays, inappropriate moves, just like today — but my father was always enormously principled and was willing to earn less money than many of our more business-minded neighbors just for the pleasure of interviewing some of the greatest people of his day.

I followed him into his trade, through different channels — as an editor (the enemy, in his eyes), at the competition (for many years, the Los Angeles Times) and in the arts (soft!), and since coming to The Jewish Journal, my taste in writing for a small community (relatively) that I can address in a very direct way has grown, where he’s looked for the big impact that perhaps only The Times and very few other newspapers can hope for. But from him I’ve learned never to willingly settle for less than the best — deadlines permitting — and never to trust only one authority.

I’ve learned that revelations in the press, small and large, can change the world. That one person’s willingness to listen to other people’s concerns — and then share those concerns — can affect how we all live. Dad’s dedication to unearthing bad business practices in the health care industry has, I know, affected national policy on some level, if only to remind the powerful that they are accountable.

I went back East for his retirement lunch and listened to his colleagues laud and cajole him a bit, and then listened more as he told his own war stories about meeting the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and others decades ago. It’s hard to imagine the time span that such stories transcend, but the pleasure he got in talking about those highlights was shared by his many friends.

For me, Dad remains an inspiration: Never to rest on my laurels. Never to imagine that the job is completely done. Never to lose the curiosity to ask more questions, to wonder who, what, when, where and how something came about.

But I also have earned my own bit of wisdom that didn’t come from Dad. I’d like to see my octogenarian father feel comfortable that, even if he wants to go on writing — and we know he will do it — that the powers-that-be, if not some Power even higher than that, already are looking down on him and saying, “Good job, Milt. Enjoy your retirement.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

The figurative father

Every year, as the third Sunday in June approaches, it happens: along with the ads for neckties and iPods come the endless conversations on single-mom blogsand parenting sites about what to do on Father’s Day with kids like mine who don’t have fathers. One mom wanted to honor her daughter’s anonymous sperm donor with a “family picnic” comprised of half-siblings also conceived from that donor — a sort of thanks for the DNA, if not the memories. Other suggestions ranged from volunteering at a soup kitchen (you don’t have a dad, but at least you have clam chowder) to going on a camping trip (you don’t have a dad, but at least your mom kills spiders).

This year, though, the whole discussion bores me. Because after raising a kid on my own for the past two and a half years, now I have a man in my life. And this has made handling Father’s Day without a father feel like small potatoes compared to handling the other 364 days of the year with one.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve wanted, even craved, a male presence in our family. In fact, as soon as I found out I was having a boy, the first thing that occurred to me was, how could I teach him to be a man if I’m a woman? I know it sounds silly — as one friend pointed out, you don’t need to have cancer to be an oncologist. But an oncologist thoroughly understands carcinomas. I, on the other hand, never quite understood the male species. If I understood men better, I told my friend, I’d probably be living with one more than 20 inches tall.

Even worse, after Zachary was born, I noticed that I couldn’t fill in my knowledge gaps with Google. Sure, I could easily learn what an excavator truck looks like, but I did not find information on whether wielding a blow drier as a surrogate penis to help show a flummoxed toddler how to urinate while standing would result in his college fund being diverted into a therapy fund. Nor was Google helpful on the subject of what to do when your 1-year-old calls his female nanny “Daddy.”

Meanwhile, the fathers I knew seemed loving, involved and willing (if not proud) to carry a Diaper Dude bag — despite my married friends’ complaints about their husbands not helping with the kids enough, or doing things “wrong.” I don’t know all the details, because just like their husbands, I’d completely tune them out the second I’d hear a whiney tone of voice that began with, “Can you believe he…?”

I didn’t get it: What could possibly be so bad about a “he” who changed diapers and walked around wearing a Baby Bjorn?

I imagined it must be nothing short of fabulous.

Then, six months later, I found out. Or, rather, I got a boyfriend, and he and Zachary hit it off in a testosterone-fueled love-fest. Suddenly, there was a father figure around, and let me tell you, be careful what you wish for. Oh, sure, it was fabulous — at first. While I got an extra hour of sleep in the morning, my boyfriend would dunk Zachary in the hamper, “fly” him around the house and “read” the newspaper to him at breakfast. On weekends, he’d kick a soccer ball with him at the park or shoot baskets with him in the yard. Mostly, though, Zachary would chortle and yell, “Again!” while my boyfriend tossed him up and down, side to side, and in dizzying circles.

But the more involved in our lives my boyfriend became, the more I discovered definite downsides to having a dad-like presence around. To my surprise, unlike the mythical fathers I’d conjured in my mind, my boyfriend wasn’t, shall we say, on the same page with my parenting style. My boyfriend, who boxes at the gym and talked about teaching Zachary one day, didn’t understand why I felt boxing was too violent (Me: “How can you not understand the difference between boxing and karate?”) and he, in turn, didn’t understand why I’d exclaim, “Good job!” whenever Zachary made the slightest move (Boyfriend: “What does ‘good talking’ even mean? What’s ‘bad talking’ — silence?”).

When Zachary asked why he couldn’t stand in front of the microwave, I was taken aback when my boyfriend said matter-of-factly, “Because you’ll get cancer” — leaving me to explain what the heck cancer is — instead of just saying, “Because microwaves aren’t safe.” (Cancer, in case you’re wondering, is “a really bad cold.”) As I told my boyfriend later, not only did I think rampant cell division was beyond the typical toddler’s comprehension level, but I wondered why we couldn’t keep the world a safe place for his tender young soul.

“But if we’re not honest with him,” my boyfriend said, “how is he ever going to trust us?”


Wow. When I was single, there was no “us.” With just a “me,” I had the luxury of raising my child my way, without third-party interference. Now, everything had changed. Unlike bumbling sitcom dads, who are annoying but innocuous, my boyfriend wanted to be an equal, adult partner. Which sounded great in theory, but in practice, it meant that while he’d be acquiring some of my more unpleasant responsibilities (like running out to buy Pedialyte at midnight), he’d also be taking away some of my more pleasurable ones (like having final say in the gazillions of daily issues that arise).

Juice or water? TV or no TV? Time-outs or no time-outs? Private school or public school? Now, instead of dismissing my married friends’ gripes about their husbands, I totally sympathized.

“Can you believe he…” they’d say, and I’d answer with a raucous and supportive, “Ugh! How frustrating!”

But unlike them, I’m done complaining. I’ve wanted a guy around for a long time. It’s just that it’s been a little like trading in one set of problems for another.

Meanwhile, I still don’t know what we’re doing on Father’s Day. Maybe we’ll just go iPod shopping and call it a day. Or maybe I’ll let my boyfriend decide what to do.

Now that’s a gift he’ll appreciate.

Lori Gottlieb is a commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and she is currently writing a book based on her recent Atlantic piece, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.”

Books: Exile from Egypt through a daughter’s eyes

“The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World,” by Lucette Lagnado (Ecco, $25.95).

When Leon Lagnado would walk at his brisk pace through the streets of Cairo in the 1940s, heads would turn: He was said to resemble Cary Grant. The suave, elegant gentleman made deals in several languages, played the stock market and made himself essential to business transactions all over the city. Evenings, he frequented Cairo’s liveliest nightspots, where he was known as Leon by the owners and as Captain Philips by the British soldiers who enjoyed his presence.

Dressed in one of his signature white sharkskin suits and two-toned shoes, he dined and danced with exuberance, appreciated the company of women and loved “the shuffle of a deck of cards and the spin of a roulette wheel.” As a bachelor and then a married man, Lagnado was a prince of the night, sometimes invited to join King Farouk for a round of cards at his table. For Lagnado, a descendent of a long line of rabbis from Aleppo, Syria, religion was taken as seriously as his pastimes. Friday nights and Saturdays, he went to synagogue.

In “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World,” Lucette Lagnado, an award-winning investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, portrays her father and the cosmopolitan Cairo he loved and had to flee in 1963 when life became exceedingly difficult for the Jews, in the decade after King Farouk’s fall and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ascent to power. While her father had encouraged his siblings years earlier to leave for Israel, the one country that would take them unconditionally, he initially insisted on staying, not able to imagine life outside of Egypt. But as synagogues were shuttered, cemeteries looted and Jewish shops abandoned, they boarded a ship for Marseilles, France.

Forced to leave their wealth behind, they went to Paris before they were able to enter the United States and eventually moved to Brooklyn. But if Cairo was a well-cut suit for Leon, America was a baggy coat that never fit. He lost his home, his culture, his professional life and his buoyant spirit. Although the family settled in a neighborhood with others of Levantine background and he found some comfort in the shuls that were familiar, he never regained his stature or his ability to help his family. The resettlement officials who were to aid them had little understanding or respect for their background. Even in Leon’s last days, he had a suitcase nearby, ready to return to Egypt.

The strength of this memoir is in the writer’s prose, at once graceful and powerful. Reporting on her father with the awe of a child and the wisdom of a grown-up, she manages to make the reader understand his charm and foibles and her love for him, and to feel his loss deeply. She also captures her extended family and the complexities of their lives and longings with depth and compassion. She joins memoirists Andre Aciman (“Out of Egypt”) and Gini Alhadeff (“The Sun at Midday”) in writing lyrical, personal books that are important documents of communities that have been extinguished.

Lucette Lagnado is wearing all white when we meet. White cotton, not sharkskin. She’s not sure she’s ever seen sharkskin, and her requests for a fabric sample through friends in the textile business haven’t met with success.

A petite whirlwind, she bounces into M. Rohr’s, a cafe on East 86th Street where she greets the owner, who asks about her debut reading the previous evening, and then is embraced by a group of regulars. One filmmaker friend exits and rushes back with a copy of the book, just purchased, and asks her to sign it. This is the place where she sat every day, working on the book, when she’d take breaks from the quiet basement bedroom of her nearby duplex apartment. The 50-year old author admits to being a woman of routine, in part superstition: Every day she’d order ice coffee and two homemade Mexican wedding cookies. (The superstition was about writing, not marriage: She’s been married to Douglas Feiden, an investigative reporter for the New York Daily News, since 1995.)

This cafe seems a much less formal place than La Parisiana, the popular Cairo cafe of the book’s opening scene, where her parents first met. She describes that as a place where different languages are spoken at different tables, sometimes in the same conversation and even in the same sentence. In 1943, Leon, then 42, eyed a beautiful, demure 20-year-old woman across the room and knew that she was the one he’d finally marry. In a romantic moment of film quality, he had a waiter deliver a note to her, “I find you very beautiful. Would it be possible for us to meet?” and then joined her and their mother at their table. Edith was a teacher and librarian, hardly worldly, and thought Leon to be one of the most handsome men she had ever met. A big wedding followed soon after, but their marriage wasn’t a happy one, as Leon promptly reverted to his nightly adventures.

Throughout her childhood, Lucette heard this story replayed. She was 6 when they left Cairo, and retells the story of their exile through the eyes of Loulou, as she was known. As the youngest child and often one facing illness, including cancer at 16, she spent the most time with her parents. Like her siblings though, she became assimilated and Americanized, and left the Brooklyn community.

“I wish I had written this when they were alive,” she says of her parents.

“I have a lot of memories. I have this terribly unwieldy mind,” she notes, crediting her training at the Journal with helping her to write without sentimentality.

The seed for this book — and the title — was planted soon after Leon’s death in 1993. Lucette began attending services at the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, where, although the congregants were mostly of Moroccan and Algerian decent, she was reminded of him as she mourned. After services one day, she was approached by a woman who asked if she was related to Leon Lagnado of Cairo. This woman knew Leon as a young man who’d visit her mother’s Cairo home, always wearing white sharkskin. She became a great source of information for Lucette. In 2004, Lagnado wrote a Father’s Day piece for the Wall Street Journal about her father and his gradual repayment of his debt to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Soon after, she had a book contract.


Michael Avganim died Jan. 27 at 61. He is survived by his daughters, Dorit and Corinne; mother, Margalit; and sister, Haya. Sholom Chapels

Bernard Barens died Feb. 2 at 96. He is survived by his son, Arthur; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and sister, Ellen Kaufman. Malinow and Silverman

Beverley Becker died Jan. 13 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Claire Bowman; son, Steven; sister, Selma Steinberg; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Nora Cohen Breckler died Jan. 30 at 81. She is survived by her sons, Peter and Andrew; and granddaughters, Emma and Charlotte. Hillside

Anne Caplan died Feb. 2 at 87. She is survived by her four nephews; three nieces; and sister-in-law, Ruby (George) Kuntz. Mount Sinai

Joseph Aaron Cohen died Feb. 5 at 79. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; and sons, Aaron and Vidal. Malinow and Silverman

Ruth Copper died Jan. 31 at 92. She is survived by her son Leon (Bobette); daughter, Fern (Michael) Chorna; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Hillside

Alex Cramer died Feb. 4 at 97. He is survived by his son, Irl (Dina). Sholom Chapels

Harold Dresser died Feb. 2 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Norine; son, Mark (Carole Del Signore); daughters, Andrea (Barry) Fisher and Amy (Julio) Trejo; four grandchildren; and brother-in-law, Mickey Shapiro. Mount Sinai

Herman Friedberg died Feb. 5 at 98. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; sons, James (Susan) and Thomas (Sarah); two grandchildren; brother, Bernard (Arlene) Richards; and sisters, Miriam (Paul) Shulman and Flora (Moe) Schwartz. Mount Sinai

Rose Friedland died Jan. 31. She is survived by her nephew, Dieter (Sarah) Goldschmidt; and great-nieces, Lisa and Lori. Hillside

Fay Gak died Feb. 5 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Miriam (Jack) Grund; son, Carl (Carol); three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Dr. Fred Geller died Jan. 31, at 80. He is survived by his wife, Lyla; daughters, Bonnie (David) Aylesworth and Valerie; grandchild, Adam Aylesworth; and sister, Jacqueline Pearlson. Hillside

Hannah Gertz died Feb. 3 at 85. She is survived by her sons, Sherwin (Penny) and Bob; daughters, Sherry and Paula; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Lee Glanzer died Jan. 20 at 101. He is survived by his daughters; Rosalie Zemansky and Joan Rosenstein; three grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Groman

Fredrick Raymond Glassman died Feb. 3 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Carol; daughter, Robin (David) Harris; son, Ramond; stepson, Gabriel Romero; two granddaughters; two great grandchildren; and brothers, Sheldon (Jerry), Charles (Linda) and Ray (Sharon). Malinow and Silverman

Arlene Grubman died Feb. 3 at 84. She is survived by her daughters, Judith Whitmore and Patricia; son, William; six grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and sister, Fern Siegel. Malinow and Silverman

Sylvia Goldstein died Jan. 31 at 94. She is survived by her daughter, Harlene Schwartz; and sister Frieda Ellis. Hillside.

Nora Hecker died Feb. 4 at 97. She is survived by her son, Fred. Malinow and Silverman

Rhoda Heirshberg died Feb. 4 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Ben; sons, Art and Stan (Diane); daughter, Gayle (Richard Mah); and five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Elizabeth Izenstark died Jan. 29 at 82. She is survived by her husband, Joseph; daughter, Susan Rosenthal; one grandchild; and one great-grandchild. Groman

Ida Jarrett died Feb. 4 at 106. She is survived by her nieces, Mona (Arnold) Root and Audrey Croft. Malinow and Silverman

William Klein died Jan. 26 at 82. He is survived by his son, Leonard; daughter Beverly; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Groman

Abram Kleinman died Jan. 30 at 92. He is survived by his daughter, Margarita; son Mark (Tanya); and grandson, Ethan. Hillside

Marion Koran died Feb. 2 at 93. She is survived by her sister, Vivian Katzin; and nieces, Roberta Bronstein and Geri (David) Small. Mount Sinai

Edna Kotick died Jan. 31 at 87. She is survived by her husband, Harry; daughters, Judy (Bob) Heimlich and Bonnie; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Joseph Linsman Feb. 4 at 97. He is survived by his daughter, Connie Gale; son, William; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Hillside

Joseph Litvak died Jan. 31, at 92. He is survived by his son, Michael (Georgia); two grandchildren; and two grea- grandchildren. Hillside

Bernard Mack died Jan. 31 at 92. He is survived by his children, Pamela and Alan; two grandchildren; and brother, Lou. Mount Sinai

Rebecca Masliah died Jan. 30 at 93. She is survived by her husband, Albert; son, Errol; daughter, Esther; grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Sholom Chapels

Carolyn Meltzer died Feb. 4 at 90. She is survived by her daughters, Terri Menter and Linda (Benjamin) Rubinstein; son, Dr. Larry (Joan); nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Lillian Mattis-Russin died Feb. 2 at 84. She is survived by her son, Ronald Palmieri; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and brother, Jack Mattis; Groman

Pauline Ofman died Jan. 31 at 99. She is survived by her son, Dr. William (Sheila); daughter, Dr. Anna (Thad) Berger; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Marly Rauchway died Feb. 2 at 91. She is survived by her children, Susan (Harold) Fetterman, Enid (Erlend) Graf, Michael (Audrey) and Amy; six grandchildren; and three great grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Dr. Robert Rosen died Jan. 31 at 73. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; daughters, Deborah (Reno) Goodale, Rebecca and Stephanie; and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Jane Rosenfeld died Jan. 31 at 59. She is survived by her mother, Paula; brothers, Gary (Alice) and John (Frances); and sister, Ellen (Jeffrey) Arrow. Malinow and Silverman

Benjamin Saget died Jan. 30 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Rosalyn; son, Bob; four grandchildren; and sister, Thelma (Jonah) Shorr. Mount Sinai

Regina Sarko died Feb. 4 at 83. She is survived by her friends. Malinow and Silverman

Marie Sautman died Feb. 3, at 83. She is survived by her husband, Irving; children, Susan, Barry, Steven and Michael (Jullie); and six grandchildren. Hillside


Kate Altman died Dec. 28 at 97. She is survived by her daughter, Sheila (David) Aenis; son, Gerald (Sharon); five grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and brother, Yale (Bobbi) Simons. Mount Sinai

Anne Bergstein died Dec. 23 at 90. She is survived by her sons, Ralph and Roger. Malinow and Silverman

Mortimer Berkey died Dec. 23 at 97. He is survived by his nieces, Lynn (Larry) Robbins, Lolly Coria and Barbara (Cal) Miller; and nephews, Burt (Helene) Homonoff and David. Mount Sinai

Gerald Bernstein died Dec. 20 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons, Stephen and David (Patrice); and two granddaughers. Malinow and Silverman.

Irene Bistreich died Dec. 23 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Wendy. Malinow and Silverman.

Abraham (Abe) Blumberg died Dec. 28 at 85. He is survived by his wife, Sadie; sons Eddie, Geoffrey and Aubrey; daughter, Beverly; stepdaughter, Ethne; stepsons, Morris and Colin (Sharon); seven grandchildren; two stepgrandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Eden

Miriam Dybnis died Dec. 29 at 86. She is survived by her husband, Henri; daughter, Monique (Moshe) Goldwasser; son, Dr. Sacha (Bunny); and grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Rachelle Elek died Dec. 29 at 87. She is survived by her daughter, Gwynne; sister, Eve Rosove; brother, Sheldon (Babs) Bay; sisters-in-law Phyllis and Rita Bay; nieces; and nephew. Hillside

Helen Joseph Epstein died Nov. 17 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Joni (Monte) Gordon; brother, Benjamin (Ellen) Joseph; grandchildren John (Sun Xin) Gordon and Elizabeth (Jack) Stephens-Morgan; and three great-greatchildren. Hillside

Mildred Ettlinger died Dec. 19 at 94. She is survived by her sister, Bertha Carp. Malinow and Silverman.

Paulette Gast died Dec. 27 at 87. She is survived by her daughter, Nancy; son, Allen; four grandchildren; and sister, Selene Sheriff. Hillside

Sylvia Eleanor Goldstein died Dec. 27 at 89. She is survived by her daughters, Elaine (Berwyn) Bleecker Friedman and Rosalyn Gilman; son, Charles (Suzanne); eight grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; sister, Gertrude Sunshine. Malinow and Silverman

Sadie Grossman died Dec. 20 at 101. She is survived by her son, Barry; and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman.

Ruth Hoffman died Dec. 24 at 89. She is survived by her son, Paul; sister, Gloria Wolen; and nine grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman.

Esther Karpel died Dec. 24 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Susan; sister, Mathilde Goldstein; two grandchildren; brother, Morris Weiss. Malinow and Silverman

Esther Kaufman died Dec. 28 at 90. She is survived by her sons, Rick, Ken (Karen), Ben and Mike; daughter, Sonya Schus; and five grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Frank Lerner died Dec. 17 at 73. He is survived by his wife, Lillian; daughter, Shari (Henry) DeCambra; sons, Mark (Noreen) and Stuart (Karen); six grandchildren; and sister, Nessa (Bob) Wilk. Malinow and Silverman.

Leslie Howard Levin died Dec. 22 at 81. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn; daughter, Diane; son Jeffrey, (JoAne); and brother, Bill. Malinow and Silverman.

Libby Levine died Dec. 22 at 96. She is survived by her daughters, Wendy (Bill) Carpio and Julie (Bob) Sutton; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Bruce Liebovich died Dec. 24 at 43. He is survived by his sons, Yehuda, Mordy and Joshua; daughter, Ester; and parents, Ted and Shirley. Chevra Kadisha

Jerome Barry Ludgin died Dec. 23 at 65. He is survived by his wife, Rachelle; daughter, Debra (Scott) Klein; brother, Arthur (Bobbie); and sister, Janice (Mickey) Stevens. Malinow and Silverman.

Shirley Markson died Dec. 20 at 80. She is survived by her son, David; daughters, Stacey (Vince) Winninghoff and Peggy; brother, Marc (Louise) Monheimer; and six grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman.

Marcia Merritt died Dec. 27 at 66. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Michael; sons, Brent (Hilleri) and Steve; two grandchildren; and brother, Richard (Barbara) Fine. Malinow and Silverman

Sylvia Muchnick died Dec. 29 at 88. She is survived by her son, Dr. Carl; sister, Ethel Rosenfeld; and three grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Harry Phillips died Dec. 26 at 91. He is survived by his son, Frank; daughter, Sandra Schur; and three grandchildren. Hillside

Louis Pomerantz died Dec. 24 at 91. He is survived by his daughter, Doreen (Shalom) Cohen; granddaughters, Lori (Roger) Lampert and Wendy (Philip) Anthony; and great-grandchildren, Brian and Rachel Lampert. Mount Sinai

Susan Ponedel died Nov. 14 at 60. She is survied by her mother, Mollie; and sister, Ann Bourman. Home of Peace

Nathan Rauchway died Dec. 29 at 92. He is survived by his wife, Marly; children, Enid (Erlend) Graf, Susan (Harold) Fetterman, Michael (Audrey) and Amy; and six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Leo Rosenbaum died Aug. 14 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Gloria; daughters, Leslie and Lori; son, Louis; grandchildren, Alexis and Zachary; and sister, Janet Cornblatt. Hillside

Rose Sahlman died Dec. 25 at 93. She is survived by her friends. Malinow and Silverman

Theresa Schneider died Dec. 15 at 87. She is survived by her daughters, Leah (Gregory) Bergman and Diane; son, Alan; three grandchildren; and brother, Bernard Gershman. Malinow and Silverman.

Joseph Schwartz died Dec. 26 at 84. He is survived by his wife, Marcia; daughter, Sandra (Stephen) Brown; son Stephen; and eight grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Bella Smolyakova died Dec. 27 at 97. She is survived by her nephew, Yesim (Polina) Koretsky. Malinow and Silverman

Suzanne Stolnitz died Dec. 23 at 69. She is survived by her husband, Art; son, Scott (Cindy); granddaughter, Skye; and sister, Barbara Kantro. Mount Sinai

Joan Lenore Strong died Dec. 24 at 71. She is survived by her husband, Dr. George; daughters, Cori Persky and Nikki Shocket; sons, Evan Peller and Shannon; seven grandchildren; and brother, Dr. Paul Rubinstein. Malinow and Silverman

Edward Leon Vendt died Dec. 29 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Lillian; daughter, Sheila (Dick) Miller; sons, Jack Bellano and Steve (Cheryl); and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman

Bess Warren died Dec. 25 at 88. She is survived by her son, Roger; daughters, Beverly Safsel and Rhonda Diamond; six grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; one great-great-granddaughter; and sisters, Natalie Apple and Grace Feuerberg. Chevra Kadisha

Thelma Weiss died Dec. 21 at 79. She is survived by her son, Michael. Malinow and Silverman.

The Journal publishes obituary notices free. Please send an e-mail with the name, age and survivors of the deceased to note: Longer notices will be edited. Deadline for publication isMonday at 9 a.m.

B’nai Mitzvah: It’s OK! Go ahead and cry

I don’t remember much about my own bat mitzvah many years ago, but I do remember this: My father cried as he turned to speak to me after the conclusion of the Torah reading.

I can’t remember a single word that he said, not a one, but I do remember his wet eyes and the sound his voice made when the words came from his heart, rather than his head. He cried when he spoke to my brother at his bar mitzvah a year later, when he told my sister how proud he was at her bat mitzvah four years after that, and he cried again at my baby sister’s bat mitzvah 13 years and two months after mine. If you were doing the math, you would have correctly guessed that my mother was very pregnant at my bat mitzvah.

(This was very disconcerting, because it meant that all of my friends knew that my elderly, 30-something parents were still having sex! Talk about gross.)

Considering I had only witnessed my father crying one other time during my 13 years of existence — the sound of his sobs snuck under the crack of his bedroom door after he learned that his close college friend dropped dead before his 34th birthday — I was stunned by his open display of emotion.

The image of my father crying at my bat mitzvah came back to me recently as I witnessed two of my closest friends stand on the bimah facing their own children on two different Shabbats. Each of these lifelong friends became choked with emotion as they tried to express to their kids the joy that they have brought into their lives and their dreams for their futures.

My 12-year-old daughter, Rachel, after witnessing these two normally cool, collected parents and their husbands become victims of their emotions, wondered why parents always seemed to cry when they spoke to their newly bar and bat mitzvahed children. I didn’t know the answer to that question when my father (and it goes without saying my mother) teared up at my bat mitzvah, but I think I understand it now.

Rachel, this is why parents cry at bar and bat mitzvahs:

We cry because we can’t believe we are old enough to have a 13-year-old child.
And we cry because there are many people that we loved and desperately miss — grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes parents or friends — who died, but should have been sitting among the other beaming friends and relatives that fill the congregation.

We cry because it is one of the few times in your life when nearly everyone who cares about you will be in the same room, at the same time.

We cry because we wasted so much time agonizing about finding the “perfect” caterer, invitation, DJ, photographer and videographer; choreographing seating charts (Aunt Martha can’t sit within 100 feet of her ex-husband and his new trophy wife); finding the perfect mother-of-the-bat-mitzvah dress (conservative yet fashionable), when it suddenly becomes clear that this is the moment that really mattered all along.

We cry out of happiness that we will no longer have to listen to your endless complaints about attending Hebrew school and have to nag you to study your Torah portion and out of sadness that that yet another chapter of your life is behind you.

We cry because your innocent childhood years are now behind you, and the angst-filled teenage years lie ahead.

We cry because we remember all of the moronic things that we did when we were teenagers, which could have ruined or ended our lives but didn’t, and we are terrified that you won’t be as lucky.

We cry because we can foresee that the opinion of the kids who sit together in the back row of the congregation, whispering during the service and checking out each other’s evolving bodies, will matter more to you in a year or two than our opinion.

We cry because we wanted to leave you the world a better place than we found it, and that seems unachievable.

We cry because we are terrified that you might make one seemingly small mistake — forget to wear a seat belt, get in a car with a teen driver who had too much to drink, have sex without a condom, or become addicted to a drug — and forever alter the course of the life that we envisioned for you months before your umbilical cord was cut.

We cry because we are grateful that we live in a country that allows us absolute religious freedom.

We cry because millions of Jews haven’t been as lucky.

We cry because even though we spent hours thinking about what we would say to you at this moment, we really just want you to understand how much you are loved, but the words don’t exist.

And we cry because we are frustrated that you can’t possibly comprehend why this day, this moment, is so compelling. We know you won’t “get it” until you are standing on the bimah talking to your own child many years from now. We know this because we didn’t get it when our parents stood on the bimah of our childhood synagogues with tears in their eyes, with voices overtaken by emotion.

But Rachel, I can promise you this: If your father and I are lucky enough to sit in the front row seats reserved for grandparents at your child’s bar or bat mitzvah, we will cry again, thrilled and relieved that you had the opportunity to cry at your own child’s bar mitzvah.

Wendy Jaffe is a freelance writer and the author of “The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide To Staying Married” (Volt Press, 2006). She can be reached at

French railway lawsuits divide plaintiffs and country’s Jewish groups

Mayer Grosman thinks back to Feb. 2, 1944, all the time.

French policemen and militia members came to his parents’ apartment in Paris with orders to take two Grosman males — Grosman, age 6, and his father.

But Grosman’s grandfather, whose name was not on the paper, insisted on going in place of 6-year-old Mayer. After jewelry and money exchanged hands, the police and militia agreed.

Grosman’s father and grandfather, both Polish-born Jews, were taken on a train of the SNCF, the French national railway, to the Drancy internment camp north of Paris. From there, another SNCF train took them to Auschwitz, where they were gassed.

Grosman’s mother took him and his sister and fled, hiding in French homes and churches. They survived the war.

Grosman, along with other deportees’ families, received a settlement worth about $24,000 from the French government in 2000. But when Alain Lipietz, a French deputy in the European Parliament whose father and uncle were rounded up and sent to a holding area during the war, won a cash indemnity worth about $77,000 from the SNCF — the railway is appealing the case — Grosman decided he’d also sue.

“I’ve never forgotten and never forgiven,” said Grosman, 68. “I want recognition, and if my children and grandchildren can receive financial compensation, all the better.”

More than 1,000 people, both Jews and non-Jews, have filed similar claim letters since the Lipietz case in Toulouse last summer. Under French law, the SNCF must respond to each letter individually within two months, or legal proceedings begin automatically.

Jewish community leaders in France have come out against the claims against SNCF. They argue that of all the state-run institutions active during World War II — including banks, insurance companies, the education system and many others run by high-level civil servants in prestigious posts — SNCF officials have made the greatest effort to be transparent and truthful in explaining their wartime activities to the French public.

“I understand the families,” said Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewish groups. “I can feel their pain, but the SNCF has really made an effort to put together exhibits in train stations and other educational tools. If people take the SNCF to court, they could begin doing the same with other state-run groups, such as the police, and then why not private companies? I understand the claims, but is this the right path to take?”

CRIF officials and community leaders — such as Serge Klarsfeld, the well-known Nazi-hunter, lawyer and head of the Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France — have criticized the lawsuits, but CRIF has taken no official position.

The story gets more complicated. Klarsfeld’s son, Arno, was highly praised in 1998 for representing plaintiffs in the trial against Maurice Papon, a Vichy police boss who directed deportations from Bordeaux and went on to a decorated civil service career.

Arno Klarsfeld now represents the SNCF in New York, where deportees’ families filed a class-action suit against the French railway. He also works closely with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on providing legal papers to certain illegal immigrants in France, leading some to charge that his SNCF work is politically motivated.

Neither Serge nor Arno Klarsfeld returned phone calls for this article.

Historians consider the Holocaust the industrialization of mass murder on an unprecedented scale. In France, that industrialization is represented by the SNCF’s efficiency in deporting mostly Jews, but also Resistance fighters and even railway workers who joined the Resistance.

“Right after the war, De Gaulle did a brilliant thing,” said Corinne Hershkovitch, a lawyer representing about 500 families who have filed claims against the SNCF. “All the major institutions, the banks, insurance companies, construction companies and so on, were issued a presidential pardon for collaborating with the Nazi regime, in the interest of French national unity. He managed to convince the French people that France had won the war.”

Among the groups receiving the pardon, which was political and not judicial, was SNCF. But now, the railway has a dilemma on its hands: There are no class-action suits in France, so each of those 1,000 letters could lead to a hearing or trial. An SNCF official said the letters were being answered individually and not with a form response.

However, SNCF General Director Guillaume Pepy told a Paris TV station earlier this year that “the SNCF board has decided to reject the requests by plaintiffs for cash indemnities to be paid by the railway. The SNCF was requisitioned and was acting under constraints from the Nazi regime. We think it would be unfair and a historical error to find the SNCF guilty for the deportations.”

Hershkovitch disagrees.

“This is the continuation of the Papon trial. Papon was the first individual to take the stand, and the SNCF may be the first company,” she said.

The SNCF officially opened its wartime archives in 1992. The Bachelier Report, commissioned by the SNCF and written by a private French institute, was issued in 1996 and made available to the public in 1998, revealing some ugly details.

For example, the report noted that the Nazis asked for big barrels of water to be placed in each train car so people could quench their thirst on the trip to Auschwitz.

“French SNCF officials at the time refused to do so,” Hershkovitch said. “They said putting barrels of water in each car could easily delay the trains and upset the schedule. They said that their job was to keep the trains rolling on time.”

Another lawyer handling more than 400 claims, Avi Bitton, said it was normal to ask for financial reparations, “even though the French quickly link the money with the claimants being mostly Jews, and that is negative.

“The SNCF role was about money from the very beginning,” Bitton said. “According to the Bachelier Report, the French railway billed the Vichy government for every person who was deported. And they billed Vichy for the use of third-class cars but put the deportees in cattle wagons.”


Mildred Ball died Sept. 23 at 91. She is survived by her sons, Joseph and David. Malinow and Silverman

Albert Benaltabet died Sept. 28 at 93. He is survived by his wife, Allegra; daughters, Lynn (Don) Sonderling and Michele Smith; four grandchildren; one great-grandchild; brother, Samuel; Malinow and Silverman

Albina Bennett died Oct. 1, at 83. She is survived by her son, Dr. Martin; and daughter, Marilyn (Larry Mott). Mount Sinai

Edythe Bennett died Sept. 22 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Benjamin; daughter, Nina Cantley; and three grandchildren. Groman

Ann Boodnick died Sept. 24 at 94. She is survived by her son, Jerome (Aliza) Ben-Ner; daughter, Margartet (Norman) Arinsberg; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Groman

Sheldon Cohen died Sept. 22 at 60. He is survived by his father, William; and social worker, Ivette Rodriguez. Groman

Selma Comsky died Aug. 24 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Michelle Margolis, Jan and Andrea; sons-in-law, Jack Cousin, and Mark Margolis; and two grandchildren.

Sarah Decovnick died Sept. 22 at 100. She is survived by her sons, Stanley and Harvey; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Groman

Anthony Peter Merrill Dent died in July at 61. He is survied by his friends.

Gil Donchin died Sept. 26 at 42. He is survived by his parents, Emanual and Rina. Malinow and Silverman

Jean Dreisen died Oct. 3 at 86. She is survived by her daughters, Janet and Betsy; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Hillside

Selma Ruth Cohn Erso died Sept. 28 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Henry; son, Harold Rice-Erso; daughter, Robin (Michael) McIntyre; five grandchildren; and sister, Marcia Spiegel. Mount Sinai

Edward Ezra Feinstein died Sept. 23 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Li Jiang; and nephew, Dr. Eben. Malinow and Silverman

Anna Fox died Sept. 30 at 93. She is survived by her daughters, Helen MacKinnon and Marilyn Cooke; and three grandchildren. Hillside

Minnie Garr died Sept. 27 at 83. She is survived by her sons, Norman and Rabbi Ronald (Minda); three grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sisters, Fay Levy and Tamar (Dr. Gerald) Freeman; and brother, Nathan Frankel. Mount Sinai

Hanne Gilinsky died Oct. 1 at 73. She is survived by daughter, Margaret (Thomas) Noble; in-laws, Barbara and Jerry Werlin and Richard and Hetty Gilinsky; nieces; and nephews. Hillside

Elsie Goldstein died Sept. 29 at 95. She is survived by her sons, Maurice and Gerald (Naomi); and eight grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Harris Goldstein died Oct. 5 at 64. He is survived by his wife, Andrea; sons, Matt and Dave; two grandchildren; parents, Harold and Adeline; and brothers, Joel and Gary. Mount Sinai

Frances Shirley Kass died Oct. 3 at 86. She is survived by her husband, Reuben; daughters, Ilene Blok and Anne Bowman; and four grandchildren. Groman

Myer Keleman died Oct. 4 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Helen; daughter, Dorene (Steven) Shapiro; son, Steven (Laurie); four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Sylvia Keys died Sept. 27 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Stan (Dorothy), Paul (Carmen) and Harvey (Mickey); six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Alvin Klugman died Oct. 2 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Marjorie; daughter, Peggy (John) Cronin; grandsons, Paul and Bryan Cronin; and sister, Faye Hershman. Hillside

Sally Kraft died Sept. 28 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Sheila (Dr. Elliot) Leifer; three grandchildren; and five great grandchildren. Groman

Sol Lederman died Oct. 4 at 84. He is survived by his daughters, Jill Fine, Patti Rose and Sue Minkoff; four grandchildren; and sister, Rose Silverstein. Groman

Bernard Lifson died Oct. 3 at 94. He is survived by his son, Allan; daughter, Barbara (Mendel) Kahan; and grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Dr. Irving Madoff died Oct. 2 at 96. He is survived by his wife, Frances; daughters, Cindy (Bertrand) Marcano and Jane; grandsons, Stewart and Scott Marcano; and great-granddaughter, Hannah. Hillside

Benjamin Gale Mannis died Sept. 25 at 94. He is survived by his daughter, Lynn Hill. Malinow and Silverman

Steven Jules Markman died Sept. 30 at 59. He is survived by his mother, Esther Kevenson; son, Joseph; sister, Barbara (Bert) Pronin; and brother, Larry. Malinow and Silverman

M. Stanley Muskat died Oct. 3 at 96. He is survived by his daughters, Joyce and Carol; and nephew, Harvey Kates. Malinow and Silverman

Joseph Nathenson died Oct. 4 at 80. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Larry; daughter, Jill (Thomas) Bassett; one grandchild; and sister, Shirley (Ken) Bassett. Mount Sinai

Denise Rachel Oschin died Oct. 1 at 52. She is survived by her daughter, Ritta Sophia Papadopoulos; stepmother, Aggi; sister, Renie. Groman

Edythe Pauline Ouslander died Sept. 28 at 91. She is survived by her son, Arnold; and one grandchild. Groman

Constance Passamaneck died Oct. 5 at 69. She is survived by her husband, Steven; daughter, Julia (William) Jensen; stepchildren, Evi (Scott) Graham and Daniel (Kelly); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Howard Pearlman died Oct. 4. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn; son, Larry, (Janelle); daughter, Judy; three grandchildren; great-granddaughter, Georgia; and sister, Bernice; Hillside

Leslie Preston died Sept. 29 at 63. He is survived by his brother, Monty (Polly); and nephew, Darren. Mount Sinai

Maurice Rabin died Oct. 1 at 83. He is survived by his nieces, Wendy (John) Kelsey, and Maxine Blaurock; and nephew, Michael Pantel.

Walter Roth died Sept. 29 at 85. He is survived by his sons, Albert and Edward; and former wife, Henny. Sholom Chapels

Arthur Rothenberg died Oct. 2 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Maxine; sons, Richard, Howard and Phillip; daughter, JoAnn Mercer; six grandchildren; and three great- grandchildren. Hillside

Davis Sarkin died Oct. 3 at 80. He is survived by his sons, Allan (Lisa) and Ralph; daughter, Robin Haines; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Groman

Rabbi Richard Ira Schachet died Sept. 20 at 70. He is survived by his daughter, Tamara (Wally) Schachet-Briskin; stepchildren; and two grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman


Werner Anders died Sept. 27 at 91. He is survived by his wife, Lily; daughter, Rachel (Leo) Woss; son, Gideon (Leslie); five grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchildren.
Roberta “Bobbie” Bernstein died Sept. 25 at 67. She is survived by her husband, Hy; sons, Steve and Keith; daughter, Deanna; and four grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha
Shari Cohen died Sept. 25 at 78. She is survived by her husband, Harry; daughters, Barbara Racklin, Margie Baumbac and Debra (Stuart) Blum; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai
Jonathan Comras died Aug. 8 at 44. He is survived by parents, Jackie and Richard; and brother, Lawrence. Mount Sinai
Selma Comsky died Aug. 24 at 79. She is survived by her daughters, Michelle Margolis, Jan and Andrea; sons-in-law, Mark Margolis and Jack Cousin; and two grandchildren.
Harry Drucker died Sept. 8 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; and son, Barry. Sholom Chapels
Mae Falikoff died Sept. 20 at 95. She is survived by her son, Marvin. Sholom ChapelsJordon Feldman died Sept. 27 at 70. he is survived by his wife, Bette; son, Adam; and daughter, Abbie. Mount Sinai
Isaac Fields died Aug. 26 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Dora; son, Allan (Elyse); daughter, Pauline (Milton) Zablow; six grandchildren; and brothers Max (Betty) and David (Gladys).
Mildred Handelsman died Sept. 17 at 91. She is survived by her husband, David; and sons, Burton and William. Groman
Jeffrey Michael Harman died Sept. 22. at 48. He is survived by his wife, Debbie; son, Eric; parents Martha and Sam; brothers, Harvey and Steven; and friends. Beth Israel Cemetery
Alice Horowitz died Sept. 14 at 90. She is survived by her son, David (Miriam); daughter, Phyllis (Dr. David) Katzin; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Sholom Chapels
Ayouch Yechiel Ifrah died Sept. 18 at 85. He is survived by his sons, David, Albert, Gabriel, Raphael and Max; daughters, Jacqueline, Annette, Helen, Tersa and Judith; 14 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Chevra Kadisha
Herman Klein died Sept. 10 at 91. She is survived by her daughters, Jenny (David) Cohen and Rose Margolis; son, Larry; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Sholom Chapels
Semen Khanukayev died Sept. 20 at 87. He is survived by his wife, Olga; sons, Josef and Igor; daughter, Anna; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Chevra Kadisha
Aaron Phillip Moss died Sept. 19 at 89. He is survived by his son, Jack Crayne; daughter, Phyllis; and stepson, Richard Cohen. Groman
Herbert “Lou” Press died Sept. 25 at 83. He is survived by his wife, Ina; daughter, Susan Shulman; son, Evan (Isis); four grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; sister, Evelyn Lehman; and brother, Burt (Trueen). Mount Sinai
Martin Alden Rohrlich died Sept. 17at 87. He is survived by his daughters, Janice Lang, Linda Cohn and Andrea Cohen; and six grandchildren.
Alfred Ross died Sept. 12. He is survived by his brother, Max (Doris). Sholom Chapels
Martin Saben died Sept. 26 at 82. He is survived by his sons, Jack and Gary; and cousin, Glenda (Larry) Carver. Mount Sinai
Diana Ruth Siegel died Sept. 21 at 98. She is survived by her sons, Robert (Sally) and Allan (Melinda); daughter, Elaine (Harry) Smith; seven grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and brother, Al Powell. Mount Sinai
Sarah Silverberg died Sept. 17 at 88. She is survived by her nephews, Marvin Kay, Howard Rudnick and Jeff Monka. Sholom Chapels
Bess Smith died Sept. 25 at 89. She is survived by her sons, Murray and Barry (Denise); three grandchildren; and brother, Max Muravnick. Mount Sinai
Judith Tiger died Sept. 26 at 74. She is survived by her husband, Siggy; sons, Michael and Peter (Lynn); daughters, Inez (Mark) Tiger-Lizer and Leone (Etai) Zion; son-in-law, Drummond; and six grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Clues to family drama’s Jewish roots finally add up on ‘Numb3rs’

Add family drama plus FBI action, and the sum equals CBS’s hit drama, “Numb3rs.”The show, which just started its third season, is as much about fathers and sons as it is about using mathematics to solve crimes. Alan Eppes (Judd Hirsch) is the widowed patriarch to two disparate sons: son Don (Rob Morrow), an FBI agent, and Charlie (David Krumholtz), a math genius who works as a consultant for Don. The subtext is that Charlie the prodigy, is the favored son, while Don feels abandoned and bitter and yearns to connect with his father. The Oct. 6 episode deepens this dynamic while “outing” the family as Jewish.
This time, the brothers investigate a piece of Nazi-looted art that may belong to a Holocaust survivor who lost her family in the camps. Don is deeply moved by her story and by his father’s revelation that a cousin of theirs also lost all her relatives in the Shoah. The agent tells his father he would like to investigate what happened to them — an unusually emotional statement for a character who tends to repress his feelings.
“This episode gives us a glimpse into Don’s soul,” Morrow told The Journal. “Don feels a yearning to connect to his heritage, which reflects his longing for his father and for connections in life.”
At a time when crime dramas abound on prime time (think “C.S.I.,” “Law & Order” and their various spinoffs), “Numb3rs” stands out for its focus on family and “unexpected shades of character,” according to Newsweek.
Yet one aspect of the characters has been neglected, at least until tonight’s show — their obvious Jewishness. After all, these actors are well known for playing members of the tribe: Hirsch, 71, was cabbie Alex Rieger on “Taxi”; Morrow, 44, played Dr. Joel Fleischman on “Northern Exposure,” and Krumholtz, 28, portrayed numerous “neurotic shlubs,” in his own words, before landing the “Numb3rs” gig.
“When they cast the show, an executive said the poster was going to show the three of us emerging from shul triumphant,” Morrow says with a laugh.
Even the series’ creators, Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci, say they had envisioned the Eppes as Jewish since casting the show in 2004. (The first hire was Krumholtz, partly for his uncanny ability to make math sound cool, even though the actor had flunked algebra twice.) The producers say they were waiting for the right story to “out” the characters, and they found it in the headlines about Nazi-looted art. They feel the onscreen family chemistry works, in part, because the actors share culturally Jewish New York roots. A subtler dynamic helps the performers create the favorite son/black sheep son nuances on the show.
Neither Hirsch nor Krumholtz have previously worked with Morrow (although they enjoy doing so now), but they share a rich performance history together. Krumholtz got his big break playing Hirsch’s son in “Conversations With My Father” on Broadway 15 years ago.
Krumholtz was 13 at the time and had no previous acting experience, nor had he ever been to the theater. He auditioned on a lark — “something to do on a Saturday afternoon” — and landed the role, in some measure, because of his resemblance to Hirsch.
“I was frightened for David,” the older actor recalls. “His first production was going to be this extremely violent, emotional play, and he was going to be an ‘object’ in it.”
Hirsch’s character, a volatile Jewish immigrant, chokes, grabs and smacks his son, and also chases him around the stage with a strap. Hirsch worried the production might overwhelm the ebullient, novice performer.
Hirsch’s solution, Krumholtz recalls, was a form of theatrical “tough love.”
“Teasingly, he pointed out every little thing I did wrong,” the younger actor says. “I was extremely unprofessional; I had an opinion about everything, and every time I was loud or said something when I was supposed to be quiet, or missed a line, he was right there with a big ‘shut up’ or ‘That’s you, kid,’ or ‘get with the program.’ It was rough, but I knew he was doing it because he believed in me. By the end of the show I had learned about professionalism, and I loved Judd with all my heart. I now call him my ‘acting father,’ because I feel I owe him my career.”
When Krumholtz eventually left “Conversations” to pursue movies, he cried so effusively that Hirsch sat him on his lap to comfort him.
The father-son dynamic is still apparent as the two sit side by side over lunch in a studio cafeteria. The boyish Krumholtz avidly listens as Hirsch tells long stories, with relish, about thwarting anti-Semitism in the Army and how his own father chased him around the house with a strap. Both recount growing up in working-class homes (Krumholtz’s “Conversations” salary paid for his bar mitzvah reception) and describe Morrow as “more of a Westchester County [a.k.a. wealthy] Jew.”
In a phone interview, Morrow laughs ironically when told of the “Westchester” remark.
“I was as working class as they were,” he says, sounding a bit like his misunderstood “Numb3rs” character. Actually, he grew up comfortably middle class in White Plains, N.Y., until his parents divorced when he was 9, and his father, an industrial lighting manufacturer, moved to Manhattan and later to Florida. Morrow stayed behind with his sister and his mother, who went to work as a dental hygienist to support the family.
“Suddenly money was a real issue, but my mother was determined to keep up appearances, so we moved to Scarsdale and we were living on the fringes of this wealthy enclave,” he recalls.
Like the fictional Don, he says he felt somewhat abandoned by his father (“suffice it to say I spent a lot of years in therapy”), and he has channeled those feelings into his “Numb3rs” character.

Traveling with my father

When I found out my dad was dying of cancer, I spent a lot of time in New York with him and my mom, rather than in Los Angeles, where I was living at the time.

of the good things about being a road comic is you can live anywhere and book yourself out of wherever you are. Road comics have no office. So New York became my base.

My dad loved my act. He thought I was the funniest person in the world. I guess you are the funniest person in the world if someone thinks you are. My dad and mom came to see me at least a hundred times before he died in 1988. He would come and see me wherever I was doing a show. And he always got dressed up for the show.

I would say, “Dad, you don’t have to wear a sport coat. I’m at the Comic Strip, not the Copa.” And he’d say, “I don’t care. If I’m going out on a Saturday night with your mother, I’m not going to look like a slob.”

I remember him asking me to do certain bits about my mother. He loved it when I talked about how they’d been married so long, she’d sucked the brain out of his head.

“She loves when you talk about her,” he said. “Do me a favor. Do that thing about her cleaning the house.”

My dad really loved my mom. He was just so proud of her. And with me an only child, we were his life.

I remember when my dad had just gotten out of a hospice, and they sent him back home to die. The night he came home, I had a show to do. I said, “Dad, maybe I should stay home instead.” He wouldn’t hear of it. “You go and be funny.” I did.

About three days later, I had this gig about two hours away in upstate New York. That afternoon, we were all sitting at the dining room table when my dad said in the weakest of voices, “Can I come with you tonight? I’d really like to see your show.”

I knew what he was saying. He was saying: “I really want to see you one more time before I die.”

I asked my mom what she thought.

“If you think you can handle him, then fine,” she said.

My dad was very weak, but he could go a short distance if you helped him. I said “Yeah, I can do it.”

That night as we were leaving, my mom said, “You boys have a nice time tonight. I’ve got things to do here at home. Call me when you get there.”

So off we headed to my gig. It was a cold winter night, and a light snow fell for most of the drive. We didn’t talk much on the way up. As I remember, my dad slept most of the way, anyway. I kept looking at him as he slept in the car. I cried most of the way up, but that was OK; I was with my dad.

When we got to the hotel parking lot, we noticed that it was empty, except for three or four cars. “Hey Marko” my dad said, “Can I drive around the lot?”
My dad loved to drive. He was the one who’d taught me to drive, just a few years earlier, in the empty parking lots of New York on Sunday mornings. He’d done every single bit of the driving for the 39 years he was married to my mother.

She never drove once.

Now he was asking me to let him drive. “Sure dad,” I said.

So I got him around to the driver’s seat, and for two minutes he drove very slowly around the lot. “That’s great,” he said.

I helped him park, and we checked into the hotel and went to our room. It was still early, so I helped him off with his pants, and he took a nap. I called my mother, told her we were safe, and she started crying. “Take good care of him. I love him,” she said.

I said, “I love him, too, and I also love you.”

At about 8 p.m., we went over to the club, which was attached to the hotel.
Before we went in, my dad said, “Thank you for taking me.”

I said, “You’re welcome. Thank you for being a great father.”

Then he asked me to do the routine about my mother that he always liked. I did them all for him.

A few weeks later, he died. About a year later, my mother came to see me work.

On the way to the club, she asked me to do the routines about my father. I kissed her on the head and said sure. I also did the ones about her, because I knew he would have wanted to hear them.


Mark Schiff is a standup comedian who has been on all the major talk shows and has recently been touring with Jerry Seinfeld. “I Killed: True Stories of the Road From America’s Top Comics” is his first book.


Gladys Bloom died Aug. 27 at 87. She is survived by her daughters, Penelope Rosenberg and Lois Tunick; six grandchildren; three stepgrandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Groman

Our Uri

Hours before the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah went into effect, Israel Defense Forces tank commander Uri Grossman, the son of acclaimed Israeli novelist David Grossman, was killed by an Hezbollah anti-tank missile. This is an excerpt of the eulogy David Grossman delivered at his son’s funeral:

At 20 minutes to three in the morning, between Saturday and Sunday, our doorbell rang. Over the intercom, they said they were from the army. For three days,
every thought began with a negative: He won’t come. We won’t speak. We won’t laugh. He won’t be that kid with the ironic look in his eyes and the amazing sense of humor. He won’t be that young person with understanding beyond his years. There won’t be that warm smile and healthy appetite. There will no longer be that rare combination of determination and refinement. There won’t be his common sense and wisdom. We won’t sit down together to watch “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld,” and we won’t listen to Johnny Cash, and we won’t feel the strong embrace. We won’t see you going to talk to your brother, Yonatan, with excited hand movements, and we won’t see you hugging your sister, Ruthie, the love of your life.

Uri, my beloved. For your entire brief life, we have all learned from you. We learned from the strength and determination to go your own way. To go your own way even if there is no way you could succeed. We followed with amazement your struggle to get into the tank commanders’ course. How you never compromised with your commanders, because you knew you would be a great commander. You were not satisfied to give less than you thought you could. And when you succeeded, I thought, “Here’s a man who knows his own abilities in such a sober and simple way. Here’s a man who has no pretensions or arrogance, who isn’t influenced by what others say about him, whose source of strength is internal.”

From childhood, you were like that. A child who live in harmony with himself and those around him. A child who knew his place and knew that he was loved, who recognized his limitations and strengths. And truly, from the moment you forced the army to make you a commander, it was clear what kind of commander and person you were. We hear today from your comrades and your subordinates about the commander and friend. About the person who got up before everyone else in order to organize everything and who went to sleep only after everyone else had. And yesterday, at midnight, I looked at our house, which was quite a mess after the visits of hundreds of people who came to console us and I said to myself: “Nu, now we need Uri, to help us get everything together.”

You were the leftie of your unit, and you were respected for it, because you stood your ground without giving up even one of your military assignments…. You were a son and a friend to me and to Ema. Our soul is tied to yours. You felt good in yourself, and you were a good person to live with. I cannot even say out loud how much you were “Someone to Run With.” Every furlough you would say: “Dad, let’s talk,” and we would go, usually to a restaurant, and talk. You told me so much, Uri, and I felt proud that I was your confidante.

I won’t say anything now about the war you were killed in. We, our family, have already lost in this war. The state of Israel will have its own reckoning….
Uri was such a quintessential Israeli boy; even his name was very Israeli and so very Hebraic. He was the essence of Israeli-ness as I would want it to be. An Israeli-ness that has almost been forgotten, that is something of a curiosity.

And he was a person so full of values. That word has been so eroded and has become ridiculed in recent years. In our crazy, cruel and cynical world, it’s not ‘cool’ to have values, or to be a humanist, or to be truly sensitive to the suffering of the other, even if that other is your enemy on the battlefield.

However, I learned from Uri that it is both possible and necessary to be all that. We have to guard ourselves, by defending ourselves both physically and morally. We have to guard ourselves from might and simplistic thinking, from the corruption that is in cynicism, from the pollution of the heart and the ill-treatment of humans, which are the biggest curse of those living in a disastrous region like ours. Uri simply had the courage to be himself, always and in all situations — to find his exact voice in every thing he said and did. That’s what guarded him from the pollution and corruption and the diminishing of the soul.

In the night between Saturday and Sunday, at 20 to 3 a.m., our doorbell rang. The person said through the intercom that he was from the army, and I went down to open the door, and I thought to myself — that’s it, life’s over. But five hours later, when Michal and I went into Ruthie’s room to wake her and tell her the terrible news, Ruthie, after first crying, said: “But we will live, right? We will live and trek like before, and I want to continue singing in a choir, and we will continue to laugh like always, and I want to learn to play guitar.”

And we hugged her and told her that we will live.

We will derive our strength from Uri; he had enough for many years to come. Vitality, warmth and love radiated from him strongly, and that will shine on us even if the star that made it has been extinguished. Our love, we had a great honor to live with you. Thank you for every moment that you were ours.

— Father and Mother, Yonatan and Ruthie.

Translated from the original Hebrew by professor William Cutter, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Fleeing Nazis Breaks His Father’s Spirit

My father, rarely impetuous, married my much younger mother when he was 46, and he was 49 when I was born.

When I was a toddler and we went occasionally together to the Berlin zoo, people came up and congratulated my father on his cute grandson. So there was this age gap, to begin with. We went on vacations together to a Baltic Sea resort or Denmark, but we never kicked a soccer ball around (who knew about baseball?).

My father, Dr. Gustav Tugendreich, was a well-known pediatrician and a pioneer in infant health care who had served as a frontline medical officer for four years in the Kaiser’s army during World War I.

He was profoundly steeped in German culture, could probably recite most of Goethe’s and Schiller’s works by heart and was an enthusiastic classical music buff.

As in most upper-class German Jewish families, the upbringing of my older sister and I was left largely in the hands of a devoted governess.

Typical of the time and class, my parents were completely assimilated, much more so than American Jews of that era. My earliest recollection of any religious rite was standing around the Christmas tree with the servants and singing “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night, Holy Night”).

Yet, my father’s assimilation had its limits. When he was offered the directorship of the Berlin municipal hospital, on condition that he convert to Christianity, he refused.

Everything, of course, changed in 1933, when Hitler came to power — but only gradually. First, my father could no longer treat his “Aryan” patients. Then our beloved governess had to leave under a new law that no Aryan woman under 45 could work in a Jewish household.

For me, living in cosmopolitan Berlin, the change was hardly noticeable. I had gone to a private Montessori school, so didn’t have to switch. Now I was sent to a suburban Jewish boarding school, where I had the time of my life, the best teachers I have ever known and lived in Albert Einstein’s summer home, which he had donated to the boarding school.

In the beginning of the Nazi era, my father, thanks to his international reputation, was offered various positions abroad, including, oddly enough, at the main hospital in Tehran, but he couldn’t conceive of leaving Germany. Like many old-time German Jews, he looked on Hitler as a temporary aberration, which the good sense of the German people would soon reverse.

We still spent our family vacations abroad, the only prolonged stretches of time I recall with my father.

It’s odd what sticks in your mind. In 1935 or 1936, we vacationed on the idyllic Danish island of Bornholm, staying at a boarding house. One morning, a German man and his family arrived, and when the Danish host tried to introduce him to my father at the breakfast table, the German bowed briefly and stiffly but did not shake hands. My father responded in kind.

What puzzled me at the time was why the German wouldn’t shake hands, and later, how he knew immediately that we were Jews.

Finally, in 1937, two years after the Nuremberg laws consigned all Jews to third-class status, my father reluctantly agreed that it was time to leave. As in most families faced with life-changing decisions, it was my mother who was the more flexible, resolute and pragmatic.

But by now, all potential countries of refuge had pretty well closed their borders, and there was a line stretching ahead for years to get an American visa.

We were saved, in retrospect, by one of those odd happenstances that determine our lives.

Back in 1919, British and American Quakers sent missions to defeated Germany to help feed its hungry children, and my father was appointed liaison to the Quakers by the German government. Now my father recalled the brief relationship and tracked down the Quakers.

By a quirk of the U.S. immigration laws, academicians who had taught at a foreign university before emigration, and were guaranteed a one-year position at an American college, were granted a “nonquota” visa and skipped the immigration line.

Though my father had never been a professor, the British and American Quakers went to work and arranged a lectureship in public health, first at the University of London, and then at Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia.

So it was decided that my father would go ahead, spend 1937-38 in London and 1938-39 at Bryn Mawr, at which time the rest of the family would join him.

My mother was then head of the German WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) and reluctant to leave her post, and, anyhow, what was the hurry? Everybody in Germany knew that Hitler was so shrewd that he would get what he wanted without a war, and of course, anything like a Holocaust was beyond imagination.

My father was always a bit of a worrywart, and I clearly remember how we chuckled over his increasingly urgent letters, especially after the 1938 Munich pact, begging us to forget about bringing the furniture and money and come to America right away.

So we took our time and left flag-bedecked Berlin in style on April 20, 1939 — Hitler’s 50th birthday — flying from Tempelhof Airport to London, and then traveling on a German passenger ship from Southampton to New York, arriving in the middle of May.

We were met at the harbor by my father and some old Berlin friends (I believe we skipped Ellis Island), but I have no emotional recollection of the reunion.

I do remember that a few weeks later, the reunited family left for a couple of weeks for New Hampshire’s scenic White Mountains. There the Quakers had set up a camp with young American counselors to introduce the new refugees, mainly Jewish, to the native customs of their new country.

One lesson was that after each meal, the assorted ex-professors, doctors and lawyers and their wives and children had to bus and clean their own dishes. You have to know the ingrained European class distinctions to realize what an absolute shock this request represented.

My father, who had a great sense of humor, laughed the whole thing off and complied readily. But as I was carrying my dishes, an elderly refugee came up to me to express his shame and horror that the son of Herr Doctor would be asked to perform so menial a task.

Of course, the “yekkes” — German Jews — who arrived in Palestine in the 1930s had to undergo similar adjustments but perhaps with less sympathy from the old-time inhabitants.

Three months after that experience, and to my immense astonishment, Hitler invaded Poland, and World War II was under way.

My father tried hard but unsuccessfully to overcome his heavy Teutonic accent, but, in truth, the forced emigration had broken his heart and spirit. After his Bryn Mawr lectureship expired, he was too old, too ill and too weary to start from the beginning and try to study for an American medical license.

I was then a pimply teenager, completely self-centered, trying to cope with a new culture and language. I was of little help and solace to my father and happily enlisted in the U.S. Army as my first chance to get away.

My father died in 1948 at the age of 71. I recently received a very polite letter from the German Association of Pediatricians, mentioning my father’s name and expressing remorse for the treatment of Jewish physicians by their Aryan colleagues during the Nazi era.

It was a little too late.



Leonore Arvidson died April 26 at 80. She is survived by her daughter, Enid; son, Dean; grandson, Ben; sisters, Bea (Max) Perlberg and Char Goldberg; and brother, Stan Charnofsky. Mount Sinai

HERMAN BRAGER died April 23 at 76. He is survived by his wife, Betty; son, Steven; daughter, Rhonda; one grandchild; and sister, Estelle Singer. Hillside

Rodman Rubin Cohen died April 27 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Rose; sons, Jeffrey (Judie), Paul (Kathy) and Mark (Maribel); daughter Joan (Steven) Soltz; 12 grandchildren; and brother, Herman (Terry). Mount Sinai

SONDRA SHAMES-COHEN died April 27 at 73. She is survived by her husband, Morton Cohen; children Mickey (Steven) Lewis and Brad (Julie) Shames; 11 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. Hillside

Nettie Condon died April 26 at 91. She is survived by her sons, John (Cyd) and Frank; and granddaughter, Chloe. Mount Sinai

SUSAN COOPER died April 29 at 62. She is survived by her husband, Steven; son, Todd (Alexandra); and three grandchildren. Hillside

Morris Farkas died April 26 at 93. He is survived by his son, Morris. Groman

Jerry Freeman died April 30. He is survived by his wife, Aviva; daughters, Leslie Aaronson and Nili Ovsiwitz; one grandchild; and sister, Judith Kahn. Groman

MAX GEFFNER died April 26 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Valerie; sons, Sandy (Ellen) and Bob (Ellen); daughters Nola (George) Geffner-Mihlsten ; stepson, Steve; and eight grandchildren. Sholom Chapels

Zena Gold died April 30 at 90. She is survived by her daughters, Judith (David) Rosenthal and Maxine (Lloyd) Kouri; grandchildren, Greg (Barbara) Rosenthal and Tina Kouri; and sister, Ina Gruman. Mount Sinai

Mae Goldberg died April 8 at 98. She is survived by her son, Maurice; daughter, Marcia Gomberg; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Bertha Goldstein died April 24 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Julian; son, Steve (Judy); daughter, Ellen (Stephen) Goldstein-Tersigni; three grandchildren; brother, Irving (Arlene) Shapiro. Mount Sinai

DOROTHY SARA HOFFS died April 22 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Dr. Josh (Tamar) and Dr. Malcolm (Ellen); six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Hillside

JACK JOSEPH JACOBSON died April 26 at 93. He is survievd by his wife, Libbie; children, Annee Tara (Tom Rumpf) and Tom Jacobson; grandchildren Ethan Jacobson and Leah (Jake) Schug; and great-grandchild, Alexander Joaquin Schug. Hillside

Arnold Kaplan died April 28 at 63. He is survived by his wife, Sheila; children, Alison (Jan) Kelleter, Howard and Lorn; two grandchildren; and mother, Mildred. Mount Sinai

Charlene Karwoski died May 2 at 74. She is survived by her daughters, Marcy Brenner and Rose Arellanes; sons, Sanford (Lena) Brenner, Frank (Kim), Vince (Mary) and William Arellanes; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and brother, Howard (Bea) Block. Mount Sinai

Morris Katz died April 24 at 92. He is survived by his sons, Martin and Carl; brother, Nathan; and sister, Gertrude Linder. Mount Sinai

Dr. Gregorio Kazenelson died April 24 at 71. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; and daughter, Debra (Jeff) Dean. Malinow and Silverman

Rose Kravitz died April 30 at 89. She is survived by her sons, Sheldon (Denise) and Herbert (Eleanor); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

MATTHEW CAMERON LEWIS died April 26 at 18. He is survived by his parents, Adena Berger and Robert; grandparents, Sheldon and Venita Berger; and sisters, Rachel, Lilly and Olivia. Hillside

EMANUEL LIGHT died April 24 at 90. He is survived by his wife, Celia; sons, Jeffrey (Francine), Donald (Jane) and Dennis; four grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. Hillside

Carol Love died April 25 at 56. She is survived by her sons, Bellaamy Mitchell, and John Brink; daughter Maydee Mitchell; and three grandchildren. Groman

Evelyn Magid died April 29 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Bonnie (Barrett) Bearson; son, Jerry; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

RICHARD NEAL NORTH died April 26 at 53. He is survived by his father, Milton; and cousin, Don Preston. Hillside

LISA BLOCH OLSHANSKY, died April 29. She is survived by her husband, Richard Olshansky; children, Amy Rose, Chaysen and Max; parents, Richard and Nancy Bloch; and brothers, Andrew and Jonathan Malinow and Silverman

Teresa Perchuk died May 1 at 88. She is survived by her daughters, Felica Lopez and Silvia; and two grandchildren. Mount Sinai

MAC RAFF died April 29 at 86. He is survived by his son, Mitch; and sister, Sally Springer. Sholom Chapels

Nat Regenstreif died May 1 at 89. He is survived by his wife, Vivian; sons, Ron (Roxann) and Allan (Adele); three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and sisters, Irene (Martin) Travis and Marlene Semel.

Rebecca Rosen died April 29 at 91. She is survived by her son, Albert Rosen; daughter, Elissa Berzon; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Groman

Judy Rothstein died May 2 at 75. She is survived by her sons, Ron, Glen and Kenny; daughter, Gail Ream; two grandchildren; brother, Leonard Abraham. Groman

MARY ANN SACHERMAN died April 21 at 82. She is survived by her daughters, Lynne (Dennis) Fliegelman and Lynda (Michael) Rubenstein; grandchildren, Natalie and Alex; and sister, Sally Cole. Hillside

EDWARD SARROW died April 24 at 82. He is survived by his companion, Phyllis Ames; son, Ron; three grandchildren; brother, Arnie.

Marion Schneider died April 24 at 82. She is survived by her husband, Martin; children, Ronald (Terry), Avery (Barbara) and Wendy; granddaughter, Juliette; and brother, David (Gina) Tepper. Mount Sinai

ALAN SCHULTZ died April 21 at 61. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; sons, Randy (Jill) and Rob; mother, Bella; brother, Steven; sisters, Gail and Joy; and friend, Elaine Saller. Hillside

John Bruce Sills died May 1 at 62. He is survived by his wife, Patricia; mother, Edythe Fahringer; and brothers, Steven and Mickey. Groman

Henry Silver died April 27 at 94. He is survived by his nieces, Miriam (Asher) Harel and Jean Priver. Mount Sinai

Howard Sookman died April 30, at 80. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughters, Barbara (Cantor Edwin) Gerber and Sheryl; and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

SHERRI LEE STONE died May 1 at 59. She is survived by her husband, Michael; children Aaron (Lisa) and Joshua; mother, Rebecca Orinstein; sisters Carol (Jon) Swinnerton and Harriet Orinstein; parents-in-law, Oscar and Shirley; brothers in-law, Bruce (Susan) and Hal (Lynda Stone); and eight nieces and nephews. Hillside

Adele Strauss died April 28 at 93. She is survived by sons, Dr. Ronald (Susie) and Stephen; granddaughter, Valerie; and niece, Helen Kurtz . Mount Sinai

Shirley Venger died April 27 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Paula (Ed) Albert; and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

RANDY LEE WEIL died April 25 at 52. She is survived by her mother, Ruth; sister, Sharon (John) Aaron; and friend, Rabbi Judith Halevy. Hillside

SPENCER JAY WILLENS died May 1 at 78. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; children Douglas, Donald, Michael, Damon and Stacey; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Hillside

Gazella Yaffe died April 24 at 89. She is survived by her son, Richard; daughter, Barbara Feinberg; and two grandchildren. Groman


Ruth Adler died April 8 at 85. She is survived by her daughter, Michelle (Gevik) Bachoian; son, Frank (Karen); five grandchildren; and sister, Bella Cohen. Mount Sinai

Elana Belinkoff died March 13 at 80. She is survived by her husband, Adar; daughters, Dalia (Ira), Alisa (Howard), Dena (Sol); seven grandchildren; and sister Rama Zamir. Hillside.

Betty Bledy died April 9 at 77. She is survived by her husband, Arthur; sons, Mark and Leslie; four grandchildren; and two great- grandchildren.

Blanche Bloom died April 11 at 87. She is survived by her son, Noel (Susan); daughter, Maggie; three grandchildren; brother, Hal (Pat) Alexander; and nephew, Rob (Lisa) Miller. Mount Sinai

Israel David Borenstein died April 8, at 84. He is survived by his sons, Larry (Laurie) and Jeff (Judy); daughter, Blanche (Mark) Kraveitz; six grandchildren; and sister, Anna Gutwillic. Mount Sinai

Harriett Cherney died April 3 at 87. She is survived by her brother, Victor Bochacki; and sisters, Annette Bafo and Majorie Adamski. Malinow and Silverman

Allan Davis died April 13 at 77. He is survived by his wife, Beryl; sons, Gary (Victoria) and Paul (Ginnie); five grandchildren; and brother, Cyril Davis. Mount Sinai

Betty Ducat died April 7 at 92. She is survived by her daughter, Shirley Laderman. Malinow and Silverman

Shirley Mae Epps died April 4 at 81. She is survived by her daughter, Lorry (Mate) Greenblatt; son, Jack (Cynthia); and four grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Emanuel Finkel died April 7 at 94. He is survived by his son, Ted; and daughter, Irene Landsberg. Malinow and Silverman

Rose Fisher died April 4 at 94. She is survived by her sons, Arnold and Robert (Ofra); daughter, Verna Erez; six grandchildren; and sister, Ida Chisvian. Mount Sinai

LARRY GOLD died April 4 at 52. He is survived by his wife, Cindy; children Andrew, Olivia, Ian and Madeline; mother, Beverly; siblings, Donna (Bruce) Rothstein, David Ross and Lisa; sister-in-law, Penny (Jerome) Madden; and three nephews. Hillside

Mae Goldberg died April 8 at 98. She is survived by her son, Maurice (Arline); daughter, Marcia (Jerome) Gomberg; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Florence Goldstein died April 3 at 91. She is survived by her daughter, Elsie (Jack) Hunn. Malinow and Silverman

Henry Goldstein died April 4 at 94. He is survived by his daughter, Beverly Cohen. Malinow and Silverman

Jack Greenberg died April 14 at 98. He is survived by his son, Anthony. Malinow and Silverman

Clifford Harris died April 7 at 58. He is survived by his wife, Ellen; sons, Kevin (Joanna) and Scott (Sierra); daughter Meggan (Adam Miller); and three grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Florence Kauffman died April 11 at 88. She is survived by her husband, Richmond; sons, Andrew and Richard; four grandchildren; and brother, George Hausman. Malinow and Silverman

Rosaline Klein died April 5 at 92. She is survived by her daughters, Roberta Thompson and Francine Denmeade; six grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren. Groman

Anne Ladon died April 3 at 90. She is survived by her daughter, Carol Alpert; and granddaughter, Julie Alpert. Mount Sinai

Michelle Ann Leve died April 2 at 34. She is survived by her mother, Deborah. Malinow and Silverman

Marian Le Vine died April 6 at 86. She is survived by her daughter, Marsha Krieger; son, Jerry (Carole); six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Harold Milton Lewis died April 11 at 95. He is survived by his wife, Harriet; son, Steven; daughters, Lynn Alschuler and Babette Walter; sister, Jean Remar; 14 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Malinow and Silverman

Sam Lereya died April 14 at 100. He is survived by his daughters, Rachel Aflalo and Zaava. Malinow and Silverman

Max Lipshultz died April 9, at 84. He is survived by his children, Diane (Tony) and Michael; two grandchildren; brother, Fred; and sisters, Sara Agata and Eva. Mount Sinai

Mindla Majdat died April 3 at 94. She is survived by her stepson, Percy (Natalie) Cooper. Mount Sinai

Louis Marder died April 9 at 84. She is survived by her son, Sheldon; and granddaughter, Jennifer. Mount Sinai

Monroe Miller died April 7 at 90. He is survived by his sons, Kenny (Martha) and Jeffrey (Rich); and daughter, Marsha. Mount Sinai

Linda Barbara Moffa died April 6 at 58. She is survived by her husband, Philip; daughters, Sharon (Dr. Andrew) Horodner and Dr. Allison; and one grandson. Malinow and Silverman

Yetta Newman died April 9 at 88. She is survived by her sons, Dale (Carolee) and Jeffrey (Lila); six grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; sister, Helen (Sam) Weingard; and brother, Marvin (May) Berman. Mount Sinai

Dorothy Nissenson died April 10 at 92. She is survived by her son, Bernie (Marcia) Labowitz; grandchildren, Paul Labowitz and Shannon (Michael) Coleman; great- grandchildren, Kyle and Rachel Coleman; and cousin, Fern. Mount Sinai

Yoram Pourtavosi died April 10 at 48. He is survived by his wife, Shadi; children, Cobby, Elliot and Kevin; mother, Nosrat; sisters, Mehri (Hooshang) Davdodpour and Minou (Yoel) Eshagian; brothers, Yahiah (Dina Asheghian) and Joseph (Sohila); and cousin, Abbey Tabariai. Mount Sinai

Molly Rael died April 6 at 90. She is survived by her husband, Irving; son, Michael; and sisters, Eileen Phinney and Frieda Uretz. Mount Sinai

Beatrice Weisstein Ridgley died April 4 at 91. She is survived by her husband, Paul; son, Larry; daughter, Renee’ (Linda) Perez; three grandchildren; and sister, Thelma Sundick. Malinow and Silverman

Gloria Rudolph died April 4 at 78. She is survived by her son, Randy. Malinow and Silverman

Judith Sandler died April 12 at 87. She is survived by her son, Barry (Naomi); and two grandsons. Malinow and Silverman

Stuart Seidner died April 12 at 57. He is survived by his wife, Roxane; son, Daniel; daughter, Erin; mother, Ruth; brother, Gary (Luciano); and sister, Sandra (Robert) Rosenstein. Mount Sinai

Esther Shapiro died April 4 at 89. She is survived by her daughter, Susan; son, Alan (Pearl); four grandchildren; and four great- grandchildren. Mount Sinai

Betty Ann Silver died April 3 at 88. She is survived by her daughter, Rosalind. Malinow and Silverman

Nancy Sollish died April 10 at 98. She is survived by her son, Melvin; daughter, Pauline; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Philip Solomon died April 3 at 88. He is survived by his wife, Claire; son, Barry (Linda); four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Mount Sinai

Leon Harold Specktor died April 5 at 83. He is survived by his daughter, Denyse; and brother, Dr. Marshall (Marlene) Spector. Malinow and Silverman

Martin Stiller died April 6 at 67. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; sons, Neil (Kimberly) and Gary (Vicki); three grandsons, David, Jonathan and Wesley; and sisters, Elaine (John) Bush, Beverly Setser and Leslie Steiner. Mount Sinai

David Tamarin died April 5 at 87. He is survived by his daughters, Adreen DuBow, Judy and Faith; three grandsons; two great-grandchildren; sister, Anna (Glen) Popperwell; and brother, Carl. Mount Sinai

Randolph David Thornton died April 6 at 50. He is survived by his wife, Kim; daughters, Sean and Michelle; mother, Elizabeth; sister, Cindy; and brother, Michael. Malinow and Silverman

Irving Willner died April 5 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; son, Paul (Lynn Clancy); daughter, Julia (Scott) Parker; granddaughter, Erin Alyssa; and sisters, Shirley (Sol) Matzkin and Phyllis (Jonas) Herskovitz. Mount Sinai

Margaret Zelson died April 7 at 83. She is survived by her daughter, Carol Miller. Malinow and Silverman