On David Broza, Pete Seeger and Other Musings

In my life I have been fortunate to have had close encounters of the musical kind with people imbued with immense musical sensibility and talent. In the early Spring of 1971, I was part of a student effort at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) to discover “future alternatives for America.” This Symposium was a direct result of the loss of a student’s life when a group of anti-war activists set off a bomb in the University’s Sterling Hall, home to the Army Math Research Center.

Each of us on the steering committee were charged with inviting speakers who could address the theme. My dear friend Shelley Falik chose to invite Pete Seeger, and to the astonishment of many of us, Pete accepted.

In order to avoid problems with his record label, Pete’s appearance was labelled “Pete Seeger Speaks” and the nothing in the description suggested that he would be giving a concert. But no one was fooled by that.

The night before the concert arrived and Pete Seeger arrived (in my fuzzy recollection by bus carrying his guitar and banjo). At some point, Shelley picked him up in his beat up jalopy and brought him to his student dive of a house where his girl friend and Symposium helper had made a pot of beans. The rest of us came with the simple offerings of students in those “counter culture” days. Pete pronounced the meal as good as any he could recall.

I don’t remember where he spent the night, but the next day at around 10am, Shelley and I were on a makeshift stage with him at the University of Wisconsin Stock Pavilion which could hold around 2,000 people. It was full. Pete Seeger “spoke” for about two hours.  It was broadcast by UW’s public radio station and I have a recording of that event but no idea whether I can legally post it or not. Perhaps some day.

All this came rushing back to mind yesterday when I had another close encounter with musical greatness. A few days ago my friend Mary Linda Schwartzbart noted in her Facebook page that David Broza’s new film would be screened at our Scruffy City Arts Festival here in Knoxville. Scruff City is a rather odd place–part bar, part performance venue. It sits on Knxoxville’s Market Square in a building dating to about 1900. These days, some enterprising and artistic minded folk have purchased it and use if for things like the Scruffy City Arts Festival.

Imagining that there would be a mob scene immediately prior to the event, Terri and I went over there the day before to buy our tickets. For those of you who do not know, David Broza is one of Israel’s most famous musical artists, a celebrity who can fill stadiums. As I bought the tickets, the manager told me that David Broza would be at the event and might perform a few songs after the movie.

As the event was getting under way, Terri headed off on a brief errand and I handed the ticket taker my stub–and I as I did so I glanced back. Standing right next me, close enough that I could have tapped him on the shoulder, was David Broza. Since I couldn’t actually think of anything to say to him, I gawked for a brief minute and then headed for a seat inside. When Terri joined me I said, I’m pretty sure David Broza is here.

The movie is called David Broza: East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem. It is a small study in the ways that music can enlighten people and contribute to peace. A wonderful surprise for the Knoxville crowd is the presence in the movie of Steve Earle. In this film he could pass for a Hassid.

David Broza at Scruffy City, Knoxville

David Broza at Scruffy City, Knoxville

For reasons I can’t imagine, no one seems to have informed the Jewish community of Knoxville that this would be happening, so the audience consisted of Mary Linda’s friends and the usual suspects who turn up for every musical event in Knoxville–which is a wonderful, motley crew. Fortunately that meant enough people to mostly fill the small auditorium, and the crowd made up for its small size in vocal enthusiasm. Knoxville’s Appalachian residents welcomed David Broza into the fold. They clearly appreciated the film, and even more the songs that Broza played at its conclusion. Those songs included two wonderful pieces from the film: Jerusalem and my personal favorite, The Lion’s Den. He also played a song inspired by the music of the Mughrab and concluded with his most famous tune called Yiyeh Tov, a Hebrew song whose title means something like “It will turn out OK.”

On the “Open Hillel” Movement

A two-year old initiative called “Open Hillel” is once again in the news. For those of you who aren’t particularly interested in Jewish politics, much less the emotional stirrings of Jewish students on college campuses, this probably feels like “much ado about not much.” But it is important to me, and I hope you’ll indulge me for a bit.

When I arrived as a young college student at the University of Wisconsin in 1969, the campus was in almost constant tumult with events related to the Vietnam War. Madison (Wisconsin), UC-Berkeley and the U of Michigan (all campuses where I had or would have strong connections) were among the most active, but the uproar was everywhere. There were even students shot and killed–which left an enduring legacy in the form of the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Four Dead in Ohio.”


Berkeley’s Hillel House as it looks today.

At Berkeley, Jewish students opposed to the war formed a collective they named “The Elders of Zion” and published a campus newspaper called “The Jewish Radical.” The newspaper and the group received support and a home in the local Hillel Foundation. At Wisconsin, Jewish students created an ambulance brigade to provide first aid to demonstrators (or anyone else) who was injured in the demonstrations. That operation, likewise, was housed in the local Hillel Foundation.

Lest you think this was all the exaggerated antics of over-enthusiastic youth, let me provide a very personal anecdote. In the late Fall semester of my second year at Wisconsin, I left a mid-term exam in Geology, got on my bicycle and started pedaling towards my next class. When I turned the corner of State and University Avenues, an unmarked police car pulled up beside me. I glanced at it just long enough to see someone pointing a grenade launcher at me. The grenade hit me in the leg and detonated a tear gas canister. I skidded to the side of the street enveloped by the gas. Suddenly a middle-aged, matronly woman bolted out of the closest building (Chadbourne Hall). She grabbed me under my arms and hauled me into the building where someone else dumped a bucket of water over me.

First aid was important in those days. And no, I had no idea what was going on (it turned out that a band of demonstrators had passed that spot a few minutes before I turned the corner), and I had absolutely nothing to do with whatever the officers were reacting to. Not that I was innocent of participation—I did attend demonstrations. Just not that day.


Neither this lovely facade nor the photo of Berkeley’s Hillel resemble the buildings of my era. As nice a statement as these facades may make, no one should be surprised that it took major fundraising to transform the old edifices.

At Madison the rabbi of the Hillel allowed the facility to be used for the makeshift first-aid center. At Berkeley, the rabbi supported the student efforts to create a journal for vigorous debate of the issues of the day—particularly the issues that stirred the minds of young, Jewish students. And similar activities were supported throughout the country wherever there were enough Jewish students who desired to use the Hillel Foundation as a home base for their discussions and activities.

A decade or so after the Vietnam War had ended, Berkeley’s students were involved in another cause. Refugees were arriving from Central America. Many campus religious organizations offered these refugees a place to stay and eat. No one at these churches was particularly concerned about the legal status of these obviously beleaguered people. Berkeley’s Hillel Foundation was not directly involved in most of this activity, but there were occasions when there was overflow (too many guests) or a church needed its full facility for an event–and on such occasions the Jewish students would take the refugees over to Hillel for that time.

This was the Hillel of my college and early professional years. Sensitive to the issues that motivated Jewish college students and willing to take small risks (there were never any serious consequences to any of these activities) to assure those students that compassion is an important component of the Jewish faith.

Today, these sorts of things seem to be a thing of the past. Hillel Foundations avoid even the slightest controversies like the plague. Hillel directors shun any sort of activities that cannot be directly connected to matters of interest to Judaism, and even in that smaller arena, the official Hillels are places where any sort of criticism of Israel cannot be countenanced.

What happened? As an historian I like to say, “Whenever anyone says it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money.”

The Hillel Foundations have an interesting history. They were not created by a religious community but rather a fraternal organization called B’nai B’rith (the Jewish version of organizations like the Shriners and Masons). B’nai B’rith was also the home of an international youth association and most-famously the Anti-Defamation League. B’nai B’rith’s status as a fraternal rather than religious organization allowed their affiliated agencies to be non-denominational: all Jewish students should feel equally at home no matter whether their background was Reform, Conservative or Orthodox, or for that matter secular. In order to foster the widest degree of participation, most Hillels tried to serve kosher food and adhere to standards of Sabbath observance that would satisfy all but the most Orthodox of students. Essentially it was a matter of serving the students who would come.

The central office for the Hillel Foundations didn’t have much time to deal with local issues and most local directors (some but not all of whom were rabbis) were given wide discretion. Most of the Foundations were given funds to cover the directors’ salaries and a bit for programming, and needed to raise the rest locally. Oddly enough, this arrangement gave the local foundations a bit of cover which freed them from too much concern about petty local politicking in much the same way that Roman Catholic congregations are sometimes shielded from local politics by the central control of the Vatican.

All this came to a rapid demise in the late ‘80s. Fraternal organizations in general, and B’nai B’rith more than most, saw huge declines in membership and fundraising. Those Hillel Foundations which had received significant funding from the national office were told to make friends locally. That meant dealing with the sources of local Jewish communal funding which generally go by names such as the “Jewish Community Federation of…” Eventually, the situation deteriorated to the point that B’nai B’rith and the Hillel Foundations found it necessary to separate into completely independent organizations. Today, B’nai B’rith has nothing to do with the hundreds of campus Jewish organizations it founded.

One of the casualties of this process was intellectual freedom within the Hillel populations. That may seem like an extreme statement, but bear with me and I think you will understand that it is no exaggeration.

Jewish Federations are not democracies. They were designed to raise the maximum amount of money possible, and to do that they learned to cater to the biggest donors. In most communities those donors are rich, politically conservative, and often vigorously pro-Israel. Of greater importance, they often feel strongly that they do not want their contributions funding any activity that might be perceived as “bad for Israel.” And as the Israeli government has become increasingly conservative in recent years, American Jewish federations have moved along that path as well.

To illustrate how this can affect the academic environment, consider the case of Daniel Boyarin. Boyarin is among the most important scholars of early Jewish religion and history. He holds the Taubman Chair of Talmudic Culture within the Near East Studies department at UC Berkeley. His scholarship is unquestionably of the highest caliber, and he has important things to say about the history and evolution of Judaism in its critical and formative period. Despite his stature in scholarship, he is persona non grata in most Hillel Foundations and Jewish communal institutions such as adult educational forums sponsored by those communal institutions. Why? Boyarin has been an outspoken personality on the progressive or if you will left-wing side of Israeli/Zionist politics, and that irks many of the big donors.

In response to these donors, Hillel has posted guidelines which at first glance might seem innocuous, but contain clauses that can be used to exclude scholars such as Boyarin as well as prominent rabbis and other Jews who are unwilling to commit to what ultimately comes to a matter of restraining free and unfettered speech. The guidelines can be found here:


Without turning this into a lengthy study of these “guidelines” let me say that I think most would agree that the single most difficult part of these guidelines is the bullet point which excludes anyone who supports: “… boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.”


This is more like the scenes that I recall…

Personally, after careful consideration, I cannot support what has become known as the “BDS” approach. But I find it completely unacceptable that Jewish students should be prevented from learning why other Jews believe this is the correct approach.

Boyarin’s academic methods and conclusions are not universally accepted in the community of Jewish scholars, but none would deny that his claims are credibly based on profound analyses of the sources available to us. To exclude a scholar such as Boyarin is to make a mockery of the idea of scholarship and to deprive Jewish students of one of the most creative minds available to them. But that is exactly what has happened in Hillel Foundations around the country. And this is directly a consequence of the conversion of institutions such as Hillel Foundations into creatures of the local Jewish communal organizations.

I have used Boyarin as one example of this issue, but he is hardly unique. As those of you who have read him might expect, Noam Chomsky, one of the world’s most renowned public intellectuals would not pass muster under these guidelines. My dear friend Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, a tireless warrior for peace and the scion of one of the most prominent rabbinic families in the world would likewise be excluded from Jewish audiences if the national Hillel organization had its way.

What is lost in this haze of politics is that students suffer (and this is true whether we are speaking of Jewish students or any other such groups) when they are denied the ability to hear the wide range of opinions that is a significant feature of higher education. Imagine denying Arab students the right to hear an Arab scholar speak about the positive relations between Arabs and Jews in the Middle Ages because some sponsoring Arab communal organization is concerned about looking too pro-Jewish.

And so we come to the “Open Hillel” movement that seems to be gaining traction at many universities these days. As the term suggests, Jewish students on several campuses have declared an interest in hearing from all sides in the fractious environment of the Middle East. They are not willing to exclude voices such as Boyarin’s. And perhaps even more serious from the perspective of the organized Jewish community, they are willing to listen to speakers and organizations which represent pro-Palestinian and even anti-Zionist schools of thought.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that if I were a college student today, I would be part of the Open Hillel movement. I strongly suspect that if things were then, when I began my career with Hillel Foundation at Berkeley, as they are now that I would not have been considered an acceptable role model and probably would not have been hired.

The irony in that is that I am neither anti-Israel nor anti-Zionist. While I do have serious reservations about the policies of the current government of Israel, I continue to believe that Israel serves an important purpose in providing refuge for Jews who become the subject of persecution. In a world in which many countries provide special status to their ancestral peoples, I do not see any reason why Israel cannot do so for Jews. But because I am unwilling to declare loyalty for the Israeli policies which I happen to oppose, I would not be considered an appropriate hire for most Jewish communal organizations including most Hillel Foundations.

All of this would be the sad ruminations of an aging curmudgeon if it weren’t for one fact I mentioned above. I believe strongly that the policies I have mentioned here are damaging the ability of Jewish communal organizations to reach college-age Jews. We should all be celebrating the “Open Hillel” movement because it, far more than the regular Hillel Foundations, has a chance of reaching that critically important population sector and perhaps retaining some of these motivated, highly educated Jews for the future of the community.

Life in These States of UTK

Lots of construction going on. What’s missing is anything resembling decent signage or consideration for pedestrians–especially disabled folks. With my bum knee, I guess I now belong to that category. But this, I understand, is pretty normal around these parts. Come to think of it, it reminds me a lot of Tel Aviv. A few years ago we rented an apartment there and discovered that they were tearing up the sidewalks having made not the slightest provision for disabled folks.

Last Wednesday I needed to journey to the ends of the earth. Well, at least the campus. A class I was taking was scheduled for a room inside and at the far end of the football stadium. Normally to get to the stadium, I would walk down a long valley that leads directly from Cumberland Ave to the stadium. And that’s what I set out to do. But halfway there I discovered that that route was blocked by construction.

The only way out of the construction (other than turning around completely and returning the way I had come) was to enter a campus building. I was confident that the building would have an exit to an alternate path to the stadium and so I entered the building. A sign was posted which read “Exit on 3rd Floor.” I was on the first floor, so I looked for a staircase.

Just a few steps along a corridor I came to an Exit sign and a stairwell. I entered the stairwell and climbed a flight of stairs, which would put me at the 2nd rather than the 3rd floor. There was no flight up from there, just a door to what I thought would be the 2nd floor of the building. I went through the door, and this is what I saw:

UTK Construction02The door closed and locked behind me. I was on a grassy hill. Below me was a ledge, about four feet higher than the corridor running along side the building. Looking up the hill I could see a fence, about 5 feet tall. I walked up the hill and down the hill. The gates at the top were padlocked, the ledge at the bottom was continuous, there were no stairs or other means of getting off the hill.

For a New York minute I contemplated calling 911 to get me outtathere. I walked up the hill to the fence and thought about climbing over it. Nah. Then I went down the hill and contemplating jumping down four feet to the concrete path below. Nah.

Finally, the solution came to me. I went back down hill and sat my behind down on the ledge, draping my legs over. About two feet to drop, but by holding both arms on the ledge I could let myself down easy and only drop the last six inches or so. Success! (You may be wondering about all this fuss, but let me say that if you have a knee without cartilage you’ll know exactly what motivated all that care.)

Of course, this now put me exactly where I was before! I still had to enter the building and find a way out further up the hill. This time, however, I took the elevator to the third floor and found the public exit. That did indeed lead to the football stadium and to my class.

On the way back, I took a few photos of the area of my confinement. I think this is the best summation of the experience:

UTK Construction01Yes, that wheelchair entrance sign is indeed located behind the fence I would have needed to climb to exit that direction.

Summer 2013 What I Did On My Vacation

The core of this vacation was a return to Marquette for enough time to appreciate why we bought a home here 7 years ago. If anything, it is better than ever.

We contemplated taking advantage of the fact that we could actually fly from Knoxville to Marquette now that K.I. Sawyer has been transformed from a military base to a commercial airport, but that would have deprived us of the chance to see friends along the way, not to mention the incomparable experience of traversing the Mackinac  Bridge.

Traverse City

On the way up we stopped in Traverse City to do some business (meeting some wonderful U-Tennessee alumni) and seeing the ancestral home of our wonderful son-in-law. Traverse City is nestled at the bottom of the Grand Traverse Bay with the million dollar views and (unfortunately) real estate prices to match. We enjoyed a fabulous breakfast with John and his partner Margo at a small coffee shop located inside a mental institution that is being converted to housing and shops.

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John Malcolm Showing Off His New Mansion

That is, of course, a somewhat bittersweet experience for me. Those of you who know my history with “Momma” know that it is a concern for me that just when we seem to be getting an idea of the proper way to care for people with profound mental disabilities, we are removing the option to allow them to live on beautiful grounds. The term “community housing” is too often a euphemism for cheap, under-supervised “board and care” homes or so-called “adult foster care” homes. Why couldn’t these lovely grounds have been turned into apartments for the people the institution was actually designed for? But don’t get me started…

In any case, the company was terrific, the food superb, and the ambiance delightful.

The Upper of the Lower

After breakfast, we resumed our road trip passing through Charlevoix and Petoskey, and on to that fantastic bridge. The waters of Lake Huron glistened blue and green on our right, Lake Michigan on our left as we crossed from the LowerP to the U.P. Almost as soon as we made the left turn to US 2, the population dropped off and we were in the entirely different environment, both geologically and geographically of YooperLand.

Muniseng and Pasties

We stopped for lunch at Muldoon’s Pasties in Muniseng, right on the shores of Lake Superior. Muldoon’s is justifiably renowned as the best place to enjoy these Cornish meat pies. We took our time savoring the food and the view and then it was on to the metropolis of the Yoop, Marquette.

Marquette Arrival

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St. Peter Cathedral, One of Marquette’s Most Beautiful Landmarks

Marquette is the biggest city in the U.P. with a population of about 21,000, but the county boasts a total closer to 70,000. Although it lost a major player when K.I. Sawyer air base closed, Marquette still benefits from hosting Northern Michigan University, the U.P.’s medical center, the governmental services for the entire U.P., a still valuable shipping center for Great Lakes traffic, and more recently, interest in reopening mineral exploitation. The last aspect has pumped some much needed cash into the economy and we were delighted to see the evidence of new prosperity everywhere in town.

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Part of the Marquette skyline

A few years ago some major publications woke up and noticed the great advantages of this community and Marquette suddenly found itself declared one of the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. We hope to spend at least part of our retirement years here.

On arrival at our hotel, we immediately rediscovered the pleasure of turning on a faucet and receiving a steady stream of cold, delicious water. No need for bottled or refrigerated water here!

For all its small size, Marquette has an amazing number of very good restaurants. Now Culvers isn’t one of these, but it is one of our U.P. traditions to eat one meal at this chain which comes out of Wisconsin and has better-than-average food for this sort of place. And, of course, some really good soft-ice-cream specialties. Diet be damned on vacation!

Third Street “Bagel”

First thing in the morning, it was our first trip back to my favorite bagel store, “Third Street Bagels.” Now, I have to sadly report that these are not really bagels. They aren’t boiled before they are baked and so, like a chain store bagel not to be mentioned here, they are more like rolls with doughnut holes than a true bagel. But no matter, I love them anyway! They are large enough to enjoy with two eggs, they are nicely flavored with the usual variety of bagel seasonings, and it’s just a great place to sit, surf the net, and enjoy great coffee and plentiful good-tasting food. The service, as everywhere in Marquette, is cheerfully provided by NMU coeds who seem to populate every eatery here even when school is not in session.

Marquette’s Version of a NY Deli

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What’s a town without bingo supplies?

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After church bingo and viewing the cathedral, a sacred tattoo is in order!

Although I probably should have skipped lunch (calorie-wise) I couldn’t resist heading to the NY Deli for a pastrami sandwich. This place was originally opened as the NY Deli and Italian Place by long-time U.P. resident Don Curto, but alas, nothing is forever and Mr. Curto decided to retire which resulted in the loss of the great location right by the Lake. One of his staff members felt that the community deserved to keep the NY Deli (there are plenty of places that serve decent Italian food throughout the UP), so he set up a replacement NY Deli a bit further down the main drag, but alas, further from the Lake.

They still fly the pastrami in from Brooklyn, and despite that, the sandwiches are all reasonably priced. The soups (including a decent chicken soup with matzoh ball) are all home made from scratch, and it remains a delightful and unexpected way to enjoy lunch in Marquette.

I’m not sure why (given the natural beauty readily available here) but we usually like to catch up on whatever is playing in the movies, so we spent a pleasant but mindless couple of hours at the multiplex seeing a buddy-cop movie with the twist that the “buddies” were the female pair of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (“The Heat”).

The Keeweenaw and Houghton

We declared Tuesday “Houghton Day” and so it was off to our old Keeweenaw Peninsula haunts. The reason we originally “found” the UP was that Michigan Tech University runs a terrific summer program and we eventually sent both our kids to those programs. Shoshana took photography and long-distance bicycling, Ephy, as I recall, took anything that allowed him to blow stuff up.

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The snow gets THIS high!


When we first started these vacations, we usually stayed in Houghton, but we quickly discovered that as beautiful as Houghton is, there’s a lot more to do in Marquette. Nevertheless, we allocate a day to Houghton whenever we can. And it is still as beautiful as ever!

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Part of Hancock’s Finlandia University


We  spent some time strolling around Houghton’s sister city, Hancock, which meant crossing the still-functioning drawbridge across the gorgeous canal. We dined at our old favorite, The Library, which features huge picture windows overlooking the canal. With the sun lowering, it was time for the 90 minute trip back to Marquette.

Marquette Walking Tours and South Beach

Wednesday featured a total of ten miles of walking around Marquette, mostly along the lake shore. We eventually got to “South Beach” (its real name!) which will give Miami visitors quite a chuckle. Unfortunately, the weather has been unusually cold for a Marquette summer, so the number of beach-goers was pretty minimal. Believe it or not, despite the chilly waters of the Lake, this is usually a popular–and crowded spot. Not this year.

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Yes, it’s really called “South Beach”

The Lake Superior Community Theater

Marquette has enjoyed a great community theater (cleverly named the Lake Superior Theater) and we attend whatever happens to be playing when we are here. This time it was a revue format of past productions. I was amazed at the vocal quality of the performers and the acting was just fine. The theater is celebrating 15 years and I’m glad they are still making a go of it. They deserve a lot better attendance (Marquette, are you listening?).Marquette -265

Lagniappe: A Taste of the Gulf on the Shores of Lake Superior

Wednesday’s dinner was at Marquette’s very own New Orleans restaurant called Lagniappe. Now before you sneer at the notion, I have eaten at some fine places in New Orleans, and while I wouldn’t say Lagniappe is at the top end of scale, it is quite respectable. Terri is a connoisseur of hush puppies, and she insists that there are no finer anywhere. The chef trained at some of the best New Orleans establishments and visits there regularly to pick up supplies and keep up with the trends. Although excluded for reasons of Jewish sensitivity, I can’t say much about the preparation of alligator, not to mention the various oyster and crawfish offerings, I can tell you that the place has great food, great service, and last night even very good live Cajun-style music.

Cruising Marquette Bay

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The Isle Royale III has been demoted to bay cruises, but we still remember traveling on her to Isle Royale!

Thursday, we tried a new (to us) breakfast place–Donckers. Excellent food, enormous portions. The restaurant is the 2nd floor of the local candy shop. The area where we sat had large windows that provided a crystal clear view of the Lake. Soon we’ll be walking again, and at 5:30pm, for our last evening in Marquette this trip we’ll take a bit of a cruise around the Lake shore. The ship seems to be the same one we took a few years ago to Isle Royale, and we’re told there will be snacks and music provided as well.

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The scene at Donckers. Really good food, excellent service!

All Good Things…

Tomorrow, alas, we’ll have to bid farewell to this gem of the north. Last stop before Knoxville will be Lansing where we will overnight with old friends. I’m feeling guilty because we have so many friends in Lansing that we could and should be visiting, but we simply have to get back to Knoxville, so perhaps another year.

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Me, as captured by Terri.


Adventure to Booneville (1974)

The recent passing of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (September 3, 2012) put me into reminiscence mode–returning me to the Fall of 1974 when I was a new graduate student at UC-Berkeley. The details are (after some 38 years) a bit fuzzy, but I’m sure I remember the essence of the events pretty well.

A young Jewish man–a grad student at UC–came to the Hillel Foundation building with an alarming tale. He himself was Australian, and he had earlier gone to San Francisco Airport to pick up three friends of his who were Jewish students at an Australian university who were coming to visit. When he arrived, he was astonished to find that the plane had arrived early and the students were nowhere to be found.

He was approached by a person who was looking for people willing to join a new commune dedicated to the Reverend Moon in Booneville, California. This person happily told him that his three friends had arrived, had been offered the opportunity to journey to Booneville, and had accepted.

The young man returned to Berkeley and came to the only place he thought he could find some help, namely the Hillel Foundation.

The Foundation was, at that time, led by a charismatic young rabbi named Steve. Unfortunately, at that moment, Steve was sick as a dog with a horrible case of the flu. The young man explained his predicament to student who happened to be a grad student with lots of connections in the (academic) community, so eventually a “posse” was formed to rescue the “kidnapped” students.

One of us called Steve to explain that we were heading for Booneville, and he begged us to come to his house first so that he could plan the mission with some “adult supervision.” Steve was (and correctly so) deeply concerned that one or more of us would do something foolish and perhaps ourselves fall into something on the wrong side of the law.

We met at Steve’s house and Steve pleaded with us not to do anything foolish or violent. Knock on the door, ask to speak to the students from Australia, and see whether they were indeed in any danger. If so, call the cops.

And so, off into the night we drove in some old jalopy one of the posse happened to own. Booneville is not all that close to Berkeley (about 120 miles) so it took us three hours to get there and it was deep night when we arrived. We decamped down the road from the compound and then trudged up the road to the gate. A couple of the posse were in deep conversation about scaling a fence to “invade” the property.

A young woman came to the gate and said that the new Australian visitors were indeed there and had just finished their dinner. Eventually, she brought one of them out to the gate. The student was excited to see his friend from Berkeley and made an effort to convince him to stay with them–that is, with the Moonies there in Booneville. Our guy told his friend that he didn’t understand the nature of the compound, that he was in grave danger of being “brainwashed” and they really needed to come back with us to Berkeley. The student went back to talk to his colleagues. After considerable time and discussion, they all came down the path, left the compound without any obstruction from the residents, and off we headed back to Berkeley.

They were in a second car driven by the Australian expedition instigator so I didn’t personally hear the conversation among the Australians. But I later learned that they were furious at being deprived of a fun time, good food, and perhaps above all, attractive young ladies who were in abundance in Booneville.

We returned to Berkeley without incident. We were all satisfied that we had saved three Jewish souls from the clutches of the Moonies, whether they wanted to be saved or not.

Mary Love, RIP

I lost someone today I never wanted to say goodbye to. My father married Mary about 14 years before he married my mother Stella, and they had one child together, my sister Barbara. The marriage ended badly, but I have no doubt the fault was entirely my father’s. If Jews believed in sainthood, any woman who married my father would have been automatically qualified.

I loved my mother as much as any child could, but truth be known, she wasn’t much in the maternal department. People often observed that I more raised her than she me. That left a hole in my life which I needed to fill. Fortunately Mary was more than up to the job.

During my childhood years, Mary lived at 539 W. 112th Street in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of the upper west side of Manhattan. Her apartment building was next to the Goddard Space Center. The immense Cathedral of Saint John, perennially under construction, loomed at the end of the street.

This was quite aways away from my home in the Bronx. My cousin Marty lived across the hall from me. One day when I was about 8 years old, my folks were in the midst of an argument. I went across the hall and asked Marty to tell me how to get to Mary’s house. I had visited with Mary enough to know that I would be happier moving in with her and I was bound and determined to try. Marty gave me directions–I can still remember him telling me how to use the shuttle which would get me from the East side of Manhattan to the West.

In those days the measure of whether you could travel for free on New York City mass transit was less your official age than your height. For once, my short stature came in handy. Since I could walk under the subway turnstile, I was free. I walked to the subway station, took the East side IRT to Grand Central. Took the shuttle to Times Square. Took the Broadway local to 110th Street. Walked up Broadway to 112th Street, turned the corner and entered Mary’s building. There was an old elevator I loved there–I took that to the 2nd floor and headed for 2G.

When I rang the doorbell, Mary peered through the peephole, but I was too short for her to see. After some talking across the door she finally realized it was really me.

I wasn’t able to stay very long that first visit. Mary called my father. I don’t recall if they got me a cab or he came to get me, but sooner than I would have liked I was back home. But my friendship with Mary began for real with that visit. Soon enough I was going to visit her just about every weekend. We went to every museum we could think of. Mary loved taking me to bookstores where I took up my life-long addiction to the printed page. Mary took me to films and plays, on Broadway and off. When the World’s Fair opened in 1964, Mary trooped there with me a half dozen times. We went to New York City landmarks, patrolled the parks–especially Central Park and Riverside Park, a stone’s throw from her home.

Mary worked for two physicians with offices on Park Ave. They didn’t know quite to make of me but I suppose I became something of a mascot to them. I can’t forget the time Dr. Hoffman insisted I needed a gamma globulin shot. I saw stars!

Mary loved taking me to restaurants. She wasn’t wild about it, but she knew I loved Tom’s, the classic “Greek Diner” on the corner of 112th and Broadway. Most of you will have seen the facade of Tom’s because it was featured frequently on the Seinfeld TV show. Just the exterior–the inside of Tom’s didn’t look like the set on Seinfeld. Anyway, we did eat there quite often. Mary had names for all the local businesses–“the dirty store” comes to mind.

One useful purpose I served in the early days was someone to accompany Mary to the graves of her parents. She hated going alone, so I made sure I was available whenever it was the time of year for Mary to head over there.

These visits had to end as everything does. I went off to college in 1969. I chose the University of Wisconsin because that’s where my sister was living with her husband and brand-new child–my nephew and Mary’s grandchild. But I don’t think I went back to New York a single time without scheduling a visit with Mary. We corresponded, spoke on the phone, and continued our friendship until age took her memory.

Mary Love passed away today at 2pm at the age of 97. I will miss her every day. But she will always be in my heart.

A Poignant Comment Representing A State of Mind

Stephen Greenblatt wrote a wonderful article about the Roman philosopher Lucretius in The New Yorker, issue of August 8, 2011, titled “The Answer Man: An ancient poem was rediscovered, and the world swerved.” A few days after the passing of Stella Love, I read (p. 33):

My mother has been gone for more than a decade, cruelly weaned of her fear of death by the slow asphyxiation of congestive heart failure. My father, blessed with a quicker parting, is long dead as well, along with the whole crowded generation of aunts and uncles who seemed at one point to be arrayed as a formidable bulwark against my own extinction. Of necessity, I have taken in the significance of one of the celebrated aphorisms of Lucretius’ master Epicurus: “Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death we human beings all live in an unwalled city.”

This so closely represented my situation and feelings this week that reading it sent shivers down my spine. I guess Stephen and I are lantzmen in this eerie territory.

The Life and Times of Stella Love

Stella was born on July 6, 1930. She was the last of five daughters born to Sara Brody, nee Cohen and Cuski (Joseph) Brody. All of these children were born in a Brooklyn (New York) tenement there being no money for hospitals. Stella was given the Hebrew name Esther.


Stella’s four sisters were Rose, Molly, Ethel and Frances.

Cuski worked for the New York City Sanitation Department as a garbage collector. He performed this job until the back problems endemic to his profession put an end to his career. Disability didn’t really exist in those days so when he left the department Yushke eked out a living as a fortune teller.

Stella’s mother died at an early age leaving Yushke with the need to find support for his five girls. Stella was the youngest and he placed her in foster care. Rae and Harry Glickens took her in and Stella soon became a beloved member of their family. Years later, Stella would often bring me to the Brooklyn home of Rae and Harry and I have many happy memories of the warmth of that house for both my mother and me.

Stella grew up speaking Yiddish at home. Her neighborhood was a mix of primarily Jewish and Italian immigrants. The Italian grocer knew enough Yiddish to service his Jewish customers, but not everyone in the store was sufficiently multi-lingual. Stella remembered heading home in tears one day because the grocery clerk informed her that he had no idea what she meant by knubble. Sarah patiently explained that she needed to learn the English word “garlic.”

Molly and Rose disappeared from the scene early in Stella’s life. The family said they went to live in an asylum, but I don’t think anyone really knew what became of them.

Ethel worked in Barton’s Chocolate factory. Some sort of disability ended her career as well. When I met her as a young child she was living in a welfare hotel on Coney Island. That was somewhat fortunate–it meant that Stella could combine a trip to visit her sister with a day at the amusement park for me. I used to love to take the special train needed to cross to the island.

Frances married but was afflicted with some sort of deep depression. I believe she may have had children which means I may have nephews or nieces on that side of my family somewhere, but I’ve never had any contact. Shortly before I was born, Frances died. She would have been in her twenties. This was a devastating, traumatic loss to Stella as she was the sister closest to her in age and the person she remembered as her guide through early life. When I was born after Frances’ passing my mother gave me the middle name Francis as one way to keep her sister close to her mind and heart.


In 1950 Stella met and fell in love with Samuel Paul Love and they married on July 1, 1951. Ethel helped with finding a hall (the New York term at the time for a room that could be used as a wedding chapel). My father needed to pay for everything–even Yushke’s suit. My father’s family was not happy with the match, but they they were generally unhappy so no great surprise there.

Cuski survived the wedding by just a few months. Yet another trauma in Stella’s young life.

The earliest years of Stella’s marriage were mostly joyous. Paul’s business prospered and he outfitted a townhouse in Woodside (part of Queens) with fine furniture and appliances. Paul and Stella summered in Catskills resorts. They stayed at the Fountainbleu in Miami Beach. And they danced! We had a partially glassed cabinet filled with trophies from dance contests all over the resorts.

Childbirth and First Signs of Illness

I was born in the Spring of 1952. Before I reached 2 years of age, the first episode of Stella’s brain disorder resulted in brief several hospitalizations at Bellevue hospital in Manhattan. This episode was apparently triggered by a sexual assault by a staff member at one of the Catskills resorts. I don’t know about the police investigation, but a civil lawsuit was eventually settled for a small but not insignificant sum a decade later.

As we now know, brain disorders probably arise from complex causes, but a traumatic episode can be a trigger for a severe episode of the ailment. Neither of Stella’s parents and to the best of our knowledge, none of her grandparents, suffered from mental illness. Yet all five of the sisters seem to have developed symptoms of these disorders.

Stella was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizo-effective disorder. She reported hallucinations and voices. Psycho effective medications were just beginning to make an appearance in those days, so Stella was treated with Librium and Milltowns and other drugs whose names I’ve forgotten.

Onward to the Bronx

Because Stella’s frequent bouts of illness made it difficult for her to care for me, Paul moved us to the Bronx where he had family. Our first home there was just a couple of blocks from Yankee Stadium. When an apartment became available on the same floor and just opposite where his mother, my grandmother, lived, Paul moved us there.

Mental Hospitals, Foster Homes and Boarding Schools

When I was 5 years old, Stella had a severe episode and Paul committed her to the Rockland State hospital for about a year. I was placed with a variety of relatives and foster parents, but finally Paul decided (on the recommendation of one of his customers) to send me to a boarding school not far from Rockland State. That allowed him to visit Stella and me on his occasional journeys north of the New York City border.

While at Rockland, Stella received the mental health care standard for it’s day. In other words, her recovery (if it can be called that) was just a matter of waiting for the symptoms to subside. As near as I can tell from the situations of others, the cure was miraculously coincident with the end of funding.


After a year, Stella and I both returned home. Stella took whatever medications were prescribed, and she self medicated with copious amounts of nicotine from cigarettes. She took a variety of jobs to supplement the family income. I remember her working as a sales clerk at Alexander’s department store. My personal favorite among her jobs was a lengthy stint at a magazine subscription agency. This allowed me to subscribe to many wonderful magazines at deep discount.

Stella eventually found a better job at a midtown company that provided business services to corporations. She was well-liked there and they even offered her a promotion to supervisor, but she turned it down.

The Bronx neighborhood we lived in suffered greatly in the mid-1960s. Buildings burned down and nothing replaced them. The Jews moved out en masse to the suburbs leaving behind the few who, like us, couldn’t afford to move. Paul’s own medical problems had forced him to shut down his business so we lived on a combination of his disability insurance and my mother’s meager earnings. In 1965, shortly after my bar-mitzvah, we moved from the central Bronx to the east Bronx and the relative safety of a public housing project called the James Monroe houses.

Single Mom

Paul was an ardent Zionist. In 1967 the 6 Day War inspired him to try for a new life in Israel. Neither Stella nor I were part of his plans, but there was little acrimony. Paul wanted to try a new life, and neither my mother nor I cared that much. I accompanied him to see him off on a cruise ship. He had a ball and wound up renting an apartment in Tel Aviv. The next time I remember seeing him is when he returned briefly to seek a Jewish religious divorce from Stella.

Stella and I remained in the housing project. She went to work every day and made sure I had a clean bed to sleep in and something resembling food on the table. I attended the Bronx High School of Science and dreamed of my own escape. By some miracle Stella’s symptoms remained at bay for the three years of high school and beyond. Others might suggest that my father’s absence contributed to her relatively good mental health during this period.

Her Child Fledges

In 1969 I fledged and entered the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. I did return to Stella’s apartment for the summer of 1970 because I could go back to my old job, but as the saying goes, you can’t go back there any more. I had learned enough of life outside the projects that that would be my last extended stay with Stella. We chatted by phone often.

Stella’s Magical Week in Madison

During my junior year, Stella decided to visit me in Madison. While nothing about this would surprise most people, those who knew Stella in the last twenty years of her life would probably be startled at the notion that she would be able to make the requisite plans. She scheduled a vacation with her employer, made plane reservations, got to the airport and stepped off the plane in Madison. I helped by making the room reservation for her.

She had a magical week in Madison. I guided her around daily to see the sights, eat some wonderful meals, meet my roommates and friends, and attend a few events. There was some sort of theater of the outside featuring characters who popped out of the buildings and entertained people around campus. All of this delighted Stella. And then it was time for her return home, which she navigated without problem.

To see how this week remained in Stella’s consciousness, please see the poem at the end of this article.

Stella Lives Independently

A year later I decided to spend my first year of grad school in Israel. That meant I would be even further away from Stella. Younger readers of this article might not comprehend that there was a time without email and texting, and even the phone was too costly to contemplate for students and people with limited incomes.

What we did have was aerogrammes. An aerogramme is a single sheet of very flimsy paper which is designed to fold into the shape of an envelope. The postage for first class (air) delivery to and from Israel was very inexpensive. Stella and I corresponded every day of my journey. Her letters were little diaries of life in the Bronx and New York, with details and gossip related to the people she worked with and lived among. They were simple but literate.

I returned to the States in the Fall of 1974. After a brief stop-over to visit with Stella, I headed for Berkeley, California. Stella and I returned to telephone conversations rather than letters. In 1979 I was living in Berkeley and had embarked on a career as a Jewish educator when I became aware, rather suddenly, of a turn for the worse in Stella’s condition.

Disability and California Here She Comes

I hastily arranged a flight back to New York, and what I found shocked me. Stella had lost her job and had done nothing to shore up her life. A few years before she had left the housing project for a private rental in the northeast Bronx. Had she been in the project, her apartment would have been safe. But she could easily be evicted from her private rental.

It was obvious to me that Stella was in no condition to return to work, so I set about helping her with applying for disability. I am indebted to a dear friend of my family–Martin Gringer–who represented Stella pro bono and assisted her in overcoming an initial denial of disability benefits.

So we must ask now, just what was Stella’s illness that had now progressed to the point that she would never work again? I mentioned schizophrenia and schizo-effective disorder earlier. But by 1979, psychiatric diagnosis had improved and it was clear that whatever was afflicting Stella, it was neither of those conditions.

The best candidate then (and remained the case thereafter) was then termed “manic depression” and is now styled “bipolar disorder.” Stella’s various extreme symptoms (delusions of grandeur, shrill and unexplained laughter, etc) were the product of the manic phase left untreated for an extended period of time. Stella also occasionally suffered the lows of the disorder, but she definitely trended towards the manic side of things.

After I got her financial situation settled, as an only child with no intention of returning to her home, I had to face the responsibility of moving Stella closer to me. I found her an apartment in Berkeley, California just off Telegraph Avenue.

Stella Earns Fame in Berkeley

Since I was early in my career and working long hours, there wasn’t much I could do to introduce Stella to the town, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Stella found her way from her apartment to the UC Berkeley campus and became one of the cast of Berkeley characters that so enliven the streets there. She was especially fond of Sproul Plaza on the weekends when the drummers came out and blasted their music for hours. Stella could be seen swaying to the music, pocketbook (as New Yorkers usually call their purses) hung on one arm. Many was the time someone entered the Hillel Foundation, where I worked, and said, I think I saw your mother dancing on the plaza yesterday!

Stella also loved Larry Blake’s restaurant. The lower floor of the restaurant was often filled with live music. Stella would buy a coke and dance there for hours as well.

Berkeley was a heaven on earth for Stella among other reasons because it is a place that is so welcoming to people who might not fit in other places. But all good things do come to an end. After a few years of this relative bliss, Stella suffered another severe bout of mania. The staff at Larry Blake’s reluctantly asked her not to return. She inadvertently set her stove afire and wound up in the hospital with smoke inhalation. From there, I arranged for her to enter a psychiatric in-patient facility which the California systems call an “L Ward.” The “L” stands for “locked.”

It was at this facility that I found my first brochure advertising the existence of an organization of family members devoted to the treatment and care for persons afflicted with mental illness, the organization now known as NAMI.

Stella’s Independence Ends-Board and Care

The staff at the L ward advised us that Stella’s physical and mental disability had progressed to the point that living independently was no longer advisable. She entered the first of several “Board and Care” facilities.

In those days, our family greatly looked forward to the weekend when we would drive to whatever home Stella lived in and take her out to a restaurant. She always enjoyed her food and the company. And I began to feel the pangs of guilt that would plague me for the rest of Stella’s life that I couldn’t take better care of her myself.

Moving Momma to Michigan

In 1988 my wonderful spouse found a job that would necessitate a move from California to Michigan. Soon after our arrival, I spent a rather wacky few months arranging for Stella to follow us. As it turned out, California was delighted to provide her with a one-way air ticket to Michigan, but Michigan was not so eager to accept her. Back in 1990 I wrote a three article  sequence called “Moving Momma To Michigan” which I hope to reprise here in my blog some day soon.

Community Mental Health eventually relented and agreed to find a place in their residential system for her. The first place was a very poor home in Milan–it broke my heart to leave Stella there. This place was primarily oriented at older women with severe developmental disabilities. Stella had frequent bouts of mania, but she was intelligent and articulate and she deeply resented being stuck in a place with no one to talk to. It was also a rural location, so she couldn’t walk anywhere.

Fortunately her stay in Milan was brief. CMH soon found more appropriate places for her in Ypsilanti. These were also homes that were clearly part of the the lower class strata of our community, but at least the people there could communicate and Stella could go places where she could get some enjoyment out of life. Our weekly visits continued as her granddaughter grew and a new grandson came along. Stella often joined us at home for our Sabbath dinners.

The Ypsilanti Apartment Program

A ray of cruel hope shined on Stella and us a few years into Stella’s Michigan sojourn. It was the era when states were once again looking to save money by shutting down mental hospitals. The staff of the Ypsilanti State Hospital knew that they were facing a dim future and began casting around for ways to argue that they had valuable programs. They created a new program by renting a set of apartments in a residential complex in Ypsilanti township. One of the apartments was designated a social hall, one was for the administrators. A psychiatric nurse was housed there 24 hours a day.

Residents were encouraged (and taught) to clean their own apartments and cook for themselves. They were taken shopping. If they were young and capable enough, they were taken to work. If not, they were taken to a variety of community activities. Stella did so well in this program that she was nominated and taken to a convention in St. Louis where people involved in programs like this could talk about them. She loved that trip!

Part of the reason for the success was that Stella was put on lithium at this point. Lithium can do wonders for people with severe bipolar disorder, and Stella experienced a return to cognitive levels she had not seen since the days when she was successfully employed. Unfortunately, lithium is a difficult drug to manage and after many months of these wonderful results, Stella’s blood work indicated that she would have to return to the other sorts of medication she had long been taking.

All good things must come to an end. The state did indeed shut down Ypsilanti State Hospital. State authorities claimed that there was no reason why the new, experimental housing program couldn’t continue. This is how governmental units lie. The program needed a certain number of participants to be financially viable. Ypsilanti Mental Hospital was a regional facility drawing patients from several counties. Therefore, the residents of Stella’s program also came from a number of counties. Once the hospital was closed, funding for each patient reverted to the counties which were the official residences of the patient.

The program was located in Washtenaw County. Stella was regarded as a Washtenaw resident, so she could receive support from Washtenaw Community Health. Other residents needed to receive support from their home counties. Once Washtenaw Community Mental Health (WCMH) took over the program, Stella was reevaluated and determined to be suitable for continuation. Most of the other residents were also deemed suitable. WCMH informed home counties such as Oakland and Wayne that they were welcome to allow their residents to continue, but the funding which flowed from the state to those counties would have to be re-assigned to Washtenaw.

A funny thing happened when those CMH agencies were faced with the program bills–they suddenly determined that they had local services that were just as good, so all those folks could come “home.” Of course it was nonsense, they just wouldn’t part with the funds.This had the expected devastating effect on the program. Soon enough, about two thirds of the residents were transferred elsewhere.

Washtenaw CMH could have made up for these losses by moving others from various local programs into the Apartment Program, but the Apartment program was costly (because it actually provided significant services), so WCMH was also reluctant to add cost to their system.

With the population reduced by half or more, the first thing we noticed was that the 24 nurse was replaced with an 8 hour a day nurse’s assistant. Every other aspect of the staffing was taken down a notch from what it had been. Stella continued to be very happy in her apartment, but the writing was on the wall.

Saxon House Years

Less than a year after WCMH took over the program, they terminated it. The silver lining for us was that Stella was able to move to a home that was staffed by a competent agency (Synod Services) and this home was located just a few miles down the road from us. For the next several years it was very easy to pick Stella up and bring her to our home or out to eat.

About 2002 or so Stella began to experience vertigo. She took a tumble off our stairs and I began to fear that she might fracture a hip. That resulted in our spending most of our time visiting her in Saxon House rather than taking her to our home. As the vertigo worsened, she began using a walker and her speech seemed to become more slurred.

EV Jello

In early 2005, Stella took a bad fall and landed in the hospital. Saxon House staff urged us to consider a nursing home because Stella’s motor difficulties were beyond their capacity. When I told Stella she would have to move to a nursing home, she was distraught. “I don’t want to die,” she said. We all assured her that she wasn’t about to die, but it is true that many people once admitted to the nursing home do not leave through the same door they entered.

I was given three nursing homes to check out one of which was Evangelical Home of Saline. Initially I couldn’t see a little old Jewish lady from New York moving to a place called Evangelical Home. But some of our family advisers told us that we’d be very lucky if we could get her in, and so I went to look at the place.

Evangelical Home is not the hotel-quality place that some of private nursing facilities try to be. But I was impressed at the level of activity and the obviously caring staff. So I made the college try and fortunately a place opened up for her just as she was discharged from the University of Michigan Hospital. When I told Stella that she was moving to a place called Evangelical Home, she said “I’m going to the EV Jello home.” And that’s what our family called it ever since.

Stella did eventually pass at Evangelical Home, but not for another six and a half years. During that time she had as full a life as we and the staff could manage. She was taken to a variety of activities–initially including trips outside the home. She enjoyed the music–no matter how debilitated she became, she never stopped moving her legs in time to music, either real or playing in her head.

Whoever among her family was in town participated in a weekly visit and I did my best to go more often than that. The visits didn’t last long, but we tried to make sure she frequently saw our faces and knew that we were there and we loved her.

Stella loved McDonald’s chicken sandwiches and we made sure she had one every week. When she started having trouble chewing and swallowing, we switched to nuggets. It was very sad when her condition deteriorated yet again and she could accept a diet limited to ground food.

All Good Things Do Come to an End

A few weeks ago, there could be no doubt that Stella was losing the long battle. She stopped eating and dropped from her normally zaftig (pleasingly plump) size to skin and bones. She began sleeping through long stretches of every day. We celebrated the few occasions when we were sure she had recognized one of us.

I wasn’t at all jealous at the fact that her face lit up when one of her caretakers came in. After all, they were now the important people in her life. She always muttered “Jacob, Jacob” when she recognized me and smiled and that was good enough for me.

On August 1, she said very little, but I noted that she kept her feet moving in time to whatever music was playing in her head.

On August 2 I patted her hand and she grasped it, holding it tight for over half an hour. She said nothing during that time, but I felt the pressure of that grip and was grateful for it.

I went to see her on August 3 at about 11:25am. I stroked her arm, but she was not responding. I said a few things about the love of our family for her and heard from her nurse about the measures they had taken to ensure that she suffered no pain–this was sine qua non of our family instructions to the home. I left Stella at 12:02pm.

At about 2pm I took a long walk to settle my emotions. While on the walk, Evangelical Home called to tell me that Stella had moved on to her next destination at about 1:20pm.

The experts tell me that I will eventually recover from this loss. Stella was my constant companion for my life of 59 years. I had primary responsibility for her care for the last 34 years. Now, two weeks later, I miss her terribly every day. I don’t know where she is now, but I hope she has found a place to dance.

A poem written by Stella, date uncertain:

To America the land I love
Blessed by God above
To New York, the state of my birth
Its the best on the earth
The city, the lights and clubs
The fur coats and gloves
The drugs, whiskey and sex
Tests your nerves and reflex
California is not bad
But it is sad
Wisconsin is a delight
Beautiful and bright
The lakes and the forest
It is hard to depart it.

Stella Brody Love Z”L


Stella Brody Love, mother of Jacob, mother-in-law of Theresa, grandmother of Shoshana and Ephraim peacefully passed away at 1:20pm Wednesday, August 3. Stella passed her 81st birthday on July 6.

No one who met her failed to see the beauty of her character.

In the next few days I will try to gather a few memories together to celebrate her life.

— Jack

Not with a bang…

… but a whimper”, with apologies to T.S. Eliot. We staggered home Friday the 15th of January after an unbelievable month of learning, doing, living, family and fellowship. But Terri and I also contracted a cold during the final stretch which is the “whimper” part of things. The return flights couldn’t have been better. Our taxi arrived on time at our Tel Aviv apartment to whisk us away to Ben Gurion Airport where we arrived about 2:30am for our 5:30am flight. Israeli security was efficient. I was one of the randomly selected folks for inspection of checked baggage. The checker pulled out a bag which contained some items I had purchased and chuckled when I identified the items as “kippot” (skull caps). There was obviously a much heavier item in the bag which turned out to be the paper weight that Shoshana had purchased for me at the Dead Sea gift shop. I had some difficulty explaining “paper weight” but after a chuckle we were on our way.

I’ve never done the “duty free” thing, so I wandered into the extraordinary duty free shop at Ben Gurion and selected a bottle of Lagavulin at a lovely price. Fortunately I checked with one of the sales folk strolling the area who let me know that I would probably not be able to get the bottle through the Frankfurt airport as liquids are generally confiscated there. So I saved the money and bid a sad farewell to the shop.

Shoshana and Karl’s flight was scheduled for an hour after ours, so we were able to spend our last few minutes in Israel together. Then it was off to our plane. We had a timely arrival in Frankfurt with a 4 hour layover. We spent most of that time in the gate for our next flight because Frankfort has security at every gate, meaning that if we left the area we’d have to check ourselves in for security all over again. The coffee and sandwiches were pricey but good.

The flight from Frankfort to Detroit was long and uneventful. When we landed in Detroit there was (as we later discovered) a high level alert which slowed our trip through Customs/Passport Control. There were 4 lines and you had to choose one, so of course Terri and I chose what would turn out to be the slowest. There was an older man with his wife dressed in coonskin caps who (for some reason) were investigated for about 20 minutes while everyone in our line fumed. When they were released, a number of others ahead of us were deemed worthy of long checks, fingerprint scans, etc. Several were led off to interview rooms. I had no idea what to expect when they finally motioned to Terri and me and come up, but nothing happened. They looked at our passports, asked us why we had gone to Israel and sent us on after 45 seconds. I had listed some clothing and gifts as the things we had purchased and the Customs agent asked me what the clothing items were. He accepted my answer without asking to look into our luggage at all, so the whole Passport/Customs process for us lasted about 2 minutes.

As we expected, our dog Nina danced a jig and bordered on a stroke for a few minutes when we arrived home. Its been two days back now and I’m just beginning to feel like I’m ready to rejoin This American Life.

Before I sign off on this wonderful and long vacation, I should mention that we chose to spend our last day in Tel Aviv at a place very suitable for our family’s inclintations–the Safari Zoo in Ramat Gan, a lovely suburb of Tel Aviv. The Safari (as its name suggests) is something of an attempt to mimic the success of the San Diego Wild Animal Park. When you arrive at the location, if you have your own vehicle you can make your way through an area where the animals are free to roam. If you do not have a vehicle, then you can hop into a van operated by the Zoo and get at least some of the feel for that part of the park. Unfortunately, the van (at least the one we were on) was shabby and of greater importance, the windows were dirty which limited our ability to enjoy the views of the animals as we passed. Our driver spoke no English, so the commentary he provided was entirely in heavily Russian-accented Hebrew. Fortunately, Karl had a copy of the Zoo map/catalog in English and was happy to keep us fully informed, so it would have been great except for the obscured windows. Terri pronounced her disappointment in the quality of the exhibits we passed. She’s had extensive tours of the San Diego facility and if Ramat Gan wants to compete, they have a fair ways to go.

But all that disappointment gradually transitioned to delight as we reached the zoo itself, a large facility located in the center of the park. Never had any of us seen so many animals so active in a zoo. There were animals courting, procreating (yes), feeding and even engaged in a little fighting. Everywhere we went the animals were doing things rather than just lying around which is what we are accustomed to at most zoos. We enjoyed a snack near the penguinarium where we saw the zookeepers feed the adults and then lead the younger birds off to a private area where they could make sure they received enough food. Each exhibit was reasonably spacious for the species contained and the staff are clearly attuned to the needs of the animals who are obviously well-cared-for.

It was a lovely way to end our stay in Israel and I think we are all looking forward to a return trip!