Family Album eulogies


 The Blondheims

 A Family History and Personal Biography



S. Hillel Blondheim

October 2012


(Material added since last edition indicated by asterisks)








My Childhood Year in "Palestine" (1927-8)



The  Blondheim-Jaine  Family  History



The Jaine (Jam) Family



Rose Jaine Blondheim:  Mother and Teacher



My Childhood and Youth



Academic Career



Military Service, US Army, WW II



Appendicitis on the High Seas



Back Home, as Civilian in USA



Early Married Life



Aliyah, Hadassah, and Medical Career in Israel



Only in Israel!  (A Miscellany)



Mother's Latter Days



Sabbatical in NY



Founding our Synagogue: HaZvi Israel



Epidemic Among Moroccan Olim Not Typhoid but Malaria!



My Marriage to Eva



The Here and Now



Our Expanding Blondheim Family



Grandson, Dagan Mosheh Wertman, Hy"d



Finis Coronat Opus – "The Ending Crowns the Work" (Life Work): Yakir Yerushalayim, May 20, 2012!




Articles of Jewish Interest



     This family history and personal biography is being written at the persistent insistence of younger family members curious about our past.         I started it when I was 85, and am now 94 years old (born 1918). I doubt if I'll ever get to complete it. Because as I continue happily into old age, more events I think worth telling about tend to cumulate, including details of my expanding family. I also keep recalling more that I had forgotten and that was left out. But it is taking me longer and longer to do the writing, and I therefore have less and less time (read "life") left to do it in.

I keep showing recent samples of my work, as it ever so slowly progresses, to the more critical of my offspring. When they stop assuring me that they still find it of real interest and pleasant to read, I will have finished, no matter what may not as yet have been included.

 This account has recently been translated into Hebrew for the future benefit of my sabra (Israel-born) descendents, including rapidly increasing numbers of great-grandchildren, KY.  The oldest of these are twins,  now well into reading (Hebrew).       




"Oh Palestine, My Palestine!"*

"Let's see how quickly you can get into bed!" said my Mother as she rushed about, hurrying to leave to chair her Hadassah Chapter meeting. I finally managed to get out a long-delayed, and justified, if exaggerated, complaint: "But I never get to see you anymore!"  This came when her long summer vacation had ended and the school year and her teaching had begun again. And of course her Hadassah Chapter had also resumed its seasonal activities,

When I had expressed my childish discontent, Mother got the message loud and clear! As an elementary school teacher and informal family and social educator she had been giving too much of her best time to her students and her community, and had been neglecting her own child!   

The result was her far-reaching decision to take a year's leave of absence (1927-1928) in Palestine, away from family and friends. It was largely to be able to devote ample time to 9-year-old me.  And thus a crucial, year-long turning-point developed in my life.  It also determined that I would eventually live in Israel, spending most of my life as an adult here.

  "Palestine" was then what the current Israel was officially called by the League of Nations and by its British rulers, on whom the League had bestowed the Palestinian Mandate.' The Jewish inhabitants called themselves Palestinians but the Arabs insisted on remaining "Arabs." The Arabs have now completely reversed themselves, calling themselves Palestinians, while the Jews have proudly become Israelis (shades of the ancient "Israelites!). The British introduced coinage which included the name of the country in three languages: "Palestine" in English letters, "Falastin" in Arabic script, and then came "Palestina" in Hebrew letters and the Hebrew letters "aleph-yod" in parentheses for "Eretz Yisrael," (Land of  Israel),

            I know that using "Palestine" instead of Israel sounds terrible in modern Jewish ears, but that's what we all called it back then.


XVth Zionist Congress, 1927

We first toured Europe, spending a week attending the 15th Zionist Congress in Basel, to which Mother was a Hadassah delegate. It was not one of the more memorable Congresses. But for me it was a very exciting experience, even if I understood very little of the proceedings. They were mostly in "Kongress Deutsch," a mixture of German and Yiddish. The sessions were full of thunderous orations, violent attacks and furious denunciations!

These were given by many future "street people"--people who would eventually be commemorated by having their names given to streets (and settlements) in developing Israel. Despite my tender years, I fully remember  hearing  and  even  meeting  many  of  them,  including: Chaim Weizmann, Menachem Ussishkin, Nahum Sokolow, Henrietta Szold, Rabbi Meir Berlin (later Bar-Ilan), Rabbi Wolf Gold, and Louis Lipsky,  among others.

 At our Congress, Rabbi Wolf Gold, head of the US Mizrachi party, ran into Berel Locker, a radical leftist leader, in the local kosher restaurant. When Rabbi Gold asked him what he was doing in a kosher restaurant, Locker defended himself by saying that he was "only eating eggs," (what Jews who keep kosher usually eat when without kosher facilities).

 We attended the meeting commemorating Herzl and his First Zionist Congress. It was held in the old municipal Casino Hall in which the first Congress had been held. It left me with a very vivid impression. The current Congress was also being held in Basel, in its new civic center, much larger, but much less impressive.


Touring Egypt    

We then shipped across the Mediterranean to Egypt with other Congress delegates and returning Jewish "Palestinians." We spent a week or two touring and saw much of Cairo: the Mussky Bazaar, Khan Khalil, Palace of Mohammed Ali and famous mosques.

           Mother was a very efficient and energetic tourist. She bought a Baedeker guide to Egypt, Palestine and Syria (dated 1898, which we have to this day). It has a striking, double-page illustration of Jerusalem, showing the city as it was then, with almost no buildings as yet outside its ancient walls.


We got to the old synagogue in the Cairo suburb of Fostat. There we saw the overhead opening into the attic which still contained the greater part of the famous Cairo Genizah (repository for discarded Hebrew documents and old books). Some were very ancient, and to this day  contents of that genizah are still the basis for much on-going research

The Sphinx had not yet been completely excavated, as its forelegs were still (or again?) covered by desert sand. We also climbed, with difficulty, a bit of the way up the near-by Great Pyramid of Cheops, one of the three pyramids in Ghizeh, not far from downtown Cairo. We also toured as far south as Aswan.


Outside shul after Friday night services, as obvious strangers we were approached by the hospitable Enrico Nahum. He asked if we had satisfactory arrangements for Shabbat (the Sabbath). So we passed up the local restaurant for lovely Shabbat meals with the Nahum family. On entering their home I was bentshed (ritual blessing) by the old grandfather. We enjoyed the Sephardi Shabbat z'mirot (table songs); and we started a lifelong family friendship. This was especially close between Mother and Fortuna, Enrico's sister, both quite mature but unmarried.


"Onward On to Palestine…" [*]

The train crossed the Suez Canal on a ferry, and the Sinai desert over night to Jerusalem. Sitting with us was the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Rishon LeZion, Rabbi Meier BenZion Uziel, and entourage. We all slept sitting up on the wooden, second class benches. (First class was only for the very rich and third class only for the very poor.)

           In the early morning we were greeted by the gorgeous smell of orange blossoms as we passed the orchards of Rehovot. We ended up in the Turkish-built Jerusalem station and from there we took a gharry (horse carriage) to our "pension" (boarding house).  It was run by a Mrs. Friedman in an Arab mansion in Musrara, then a relatively high class neighborhood, but now a slowly recovering slum. Other residents included Bertha Levine and family, and Anna Rothenburg and her daughter, friends of Mother. Gad Frumkin, the only Jew on the Palestine Mandate's Supreme Court, also ate there with us.

Schooling in Jerusalem

I attended school in Jerusalem to make up for some of the schooling I was missing at home. Since my Talmud Torah Hebrew was so sparse, we had been advised that I be sent to a private school. So I attended Deborah Kaplan's school for about seven months.

Students were carefully chosen and classes were small. Ms Kallen had ensured that we would have a Yemenite boy, and a girl from the "ultra" Orthodox community of Meah Shearim in our class (on scholarships}, so that her students would have contact with those local population groups. The haredi (ultra-orthodox) sector was then apparently slightly more liberal. Today, no family living in ultra-orthodox Meah Shearim would dare the wrath of their community by sending a child to a school where boys and girls were not completely separated, even before adolescence.


Another class-mate was Yigal Sukenik, the son of the already famous Prof. Eliezer Sukenik, the archeologist who later acquired the first of the Dead Sea scrolls for Israel. Yigal Sukenik was to become Yigal Yadin, an archeologist even more famous than his father. He became Chief of Staff of Israel's Defense Forces, and later a Member of Israel's Knesset (parliament) and then Israel's Minister of Defense. 


What I enjoyed most about that school was the training I got in carpentry! I built a book case which we brought back to the US. It held a full load of heavy books for us at least 35 years. It was then bequeathed to one of the Koenigsbergs (see below) and continued in use for additional years. Its longevity was due to my having chosen a tedious and difficult method of construction. I laboriously chiseled deep slots in the uprights, into which I then screwed each of the shelves. This was instead of only screwing the shelves into place between the uprights, without the supporting slots.


The facility I acquired with tools lasted me until well into old age. When Syril and I married, I made a table for our first kitchen (in the US, before aliyah). I used the wood of a discarded goods crate I found in the basement of my father-in-law's army/navy and sporting goods store in downtown Manhattan. There he also had in the basement his own little bet medrash in which he would pray minchah and study Talmud daily with his own personal melamed (teacher).

Later that kitchen table made aliyah with us and we prepared and ate our weekday meals on it, as it moved with us in our successive apartments in Jerusalem. It was only recently replaced (2007) when our Balfour St. apartment had long since become much too big for the old  couple we had become, and was finally rented out. It was leased for a while by the Israel Defense Forces for the use of its soldiers who guarded the nearby home of Israel's Prime Minister.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Among other school activities we also did gardening, put on a play and worked in the kitchen preparing our daily lunch. From then until today, I can't stand eggplant; it tasted so horrible the way we used to prepare it: fried, slithering in oil!


"Ivri  Speak Hebrew!"

The Hebrew I came with was acquired during two years in Talmud Torah (after the hookey experiment!). It was subsequently reinforced during our ten-months stay in Palestine, and much later, by two years of Israel Friedlander Classes (at night) at the Jewish Theological Seminary in NY, That was the meager basis for the third-rate Hebrew I relied on to get me through lecturing and leading ward rounds at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.  I thought I could skip taking time out to attend an ulpan (condensed Hebrew language classes), where I would have gotten a much improved grounding in spoken Hebrew. But I didn't , because without a salary we wouldn't have had enough for living expenses. How my students must have suffered as a result of that omission!

 An anecdote from those days, when Hebrew was still fighting its last battles in its very successful struggle to become Israel's national language: An alte bubbe (how awful that you don’t understand even that much Yiddish!} was talking Yiddish to her grandchild on a bus in Tel Aviv. A chalutz (pioneer worker) overhears and sternly reproves her: "Savta, tedabri Ivrit im hayeled!" (Grandma, talk Hebrew to the child!} Answers the savta, "loze dem kind wissen az er iz a Yiddishe kind!" (let the child know that he is a Jewish child!)

The story emphasizes the bitter irony of an increasing loss of Jewish values that has accompanied the complete victory of modern Zionistic Hebrew over richly Jewish Yiddish. This has been in great part, mostly the result of the very minor role accorded specifically Jewish subjects and values in the teaching of our government schools, aside from brief sessions in Bible. The current post-Zionist culture trend seems to give evidence of sadly leading to what may be, Heaven forbid, a slow but progressive erosion of even our Jewish identity, here in our Jewish state!

 An example of one of the minor problems I had, adjusting to living in Palestine: Out in the fields, barely past midwinter, classmates pointed out to me proudly: "tireh et herakefet!" ["see the rakefet!' (anemone, a brilliant red, very early bloomer)]. In my ignorance I heard it as "rakevet" (train). So I kept looking in vain, for a train somewhere on the horizon.  


 Visiting Americans Visiting in Palestine

            We visited with Henrietta Szold whom Mother knew well from our Baltimore days and from the founding of Hadassah in NY. We also visited Jessie Sampter, the American Zionist poetess in her home in Rehovot, and also with the Lewin-Epsteins. Dr. Sam L.-E. was the first trained dentist in Palestine. His wife Madeleine was one of the first trained nurses (RN). They had come with the First Hadassah Medical Mission in 1918 and had settled.

The Ben Brodies were also Baltimoreans, who were on a two-year visit to Palestine. Their older son, Gerson and I became good friends. The Brodies were renting a newly built house in the beginnings of the new suburb of Talbiyeh, next to slightly older, but much better developed Rehavia. (Some 80 years later, we now also live in Talbiyeh!) In their garage they kept, no, not a car, but a pet donkey! Their boys used it instead of the inadequate public transportation. My friendship with Gerson continued when they also returned and moved to NY, where we both attended Townsend Harris High School. Our friendship continued long-distance until his death many years ago in Denver, Colorado.  


Ben Brodie's Hadassah  Donation for My Research

The Brodies were dedicated Zionists; Florence became a national officer of Hadassah. Just before our aliyah to Israel, years later, Ben asked what he could do for me to help me in our translocation. As a result, he made a series of contributions to Hadassah Hospital which enabled me to employ a laboratory technician. That actually was the start of my research career! Probably his donation was meant to make up for none of his own three children returning to settle in Israel, as he and Florence had hoped.          


School in Tel Aviv

When we later spent a few months in Tel Aviv, I had only a slightly better command of Hebrew. There I briefly attended the Tachkemoni School. When we were to have a test on a subject of which I had understood nothing: the Hebrew meaning of Aramaic prayers in the siddur! (prayer book). I told the teacher I wouldn't be able to take the test, as I had understood so little during the few sessions of his class I had attended. He asked me if I had learned anything at all from them. I just couldn’t tell him that I had learned nothing, since Aramaic was so much more of a problem for me than Hebrew! He told me to write during the test whatever I had learned in his class. I was terror-stricken because I really had learned absolutely nothing! But the day of the test we left Tel Aviv to return to Jerusalem. Saved by the bell!


With the onset of spring, I was awed by the breath-taking beauty of Tel Aviv's almond trees, blossoming in white or pink along the streets. Tel Aviv's trees were magnificent, especially compared with the non-blooming maples and elms of Brooklyn.

Other memories include: attending Chaim Bialik’s Oneg Shabbat (celebration of the Sabbath) of which I understood very little, and playing along Rothschild Boulevard, then lined by tiny, newly planted trees. From there, because of the many empty building sites, one could really see all the way to the sea (as in the famous saying!). 

We were taken to visit a young artist, by someone who thought the "rich" American lady, as all visiting Americans were thought to be, might buy some of his works. Prices at that time of depression in Palestine were exceedingly low, especially for art. But the extremes of the modern art of the day were completely new and strange to Mother. No sale! In front of a self-portrait of the artist and his wife, she burst out laughing, "Isn't that funny!" she exclaimed, reacting to the almost grotesque, non-representational style. The artist, whom Mother didn't realize was standing by, could not have been pleased!  I have a suspicion that he may have been Reuven Rubin (see below), then in his early experimental period. His art work would have been an absolutely fantastic financial opportunity!


 Return to Jerusalem ******Rewritten

I loved every minute of our time in Jerusalem. Alone, on foot, I explored Jerusalem intensively. At the time the neighborhoods of Rehavia and Talbiyeh were only in their early stages of development. On a Shabbat we visited the Bezalel Museum, on the other side of central Jerusalem. We were able to walk through from Musrara, in almost a straight line, via the many open lots between buildings. We were walking right through the very center of then developing Jerusalem-outside-the-walls.

On a street corner was a huge pile of stones on which two chalutzot (pioneer girls) sat, hammers in hand. They were making gravel out of the stones for the first paving of that street, Rehov Narkiss, now almost at the center of downtown  Jerusalem.

We dovined (prayed) with the precursor of the Yeshurun minyan. On the High Holydays it held services in a hall in the old Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital on Jaffa Road.  Jaffa Road itself was little more than a meagerly built-up connection between Jerusalem's Old City and the highway to Jaffa. It had yet to become the main down-town shopping center. The imposing YMCA bell tower was still under construction.

        Years later, members of the Etzel (a Jewish underground group) were confined in that prison, where some of them were later hanged, z"l. There they were regularly visited by Reb Aryeh Levine, z'tz"l, "HaTzaddik HaYerushalmi" (The Pious One of Jerusalem). He is said to have been an unknowing agent by whom explosives for two of them to commit suicide and thus escape the gallows were transferred. The prison is now a historical museum.

 My future parents-in-law, Wolf and Sarah Appleton visited Israel in 1950, shortly before Syril and I were married. My father-in-law, z"l, had dovined daily in Reb Aryeh's minyan. When we came on aliyah we dovined in his little shul on Simchat Torah (Festival of Rejoicing for Receiving the Torah) and met Reb Aryeh (of whom much more later).


 Nebi Musa Sword Dance

Once, wandering home alone, I joined a small crowd watching a wild Arab sword dance. It was Nebi Musa, the day Moslems honor the memory of Moses (their prophet as well!). As the dancing was getting even wilder, a kind soul said to me, so obviously Jewish in that mostly Arab crowd, "You'd better go home, boy, this is starting to dangerous for you." This was only months before those deadly 1929 Arab riots and massacres of Jews broke out all over Palestine.


Tisha B'Av                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

On Tisha b'Av eve I fell in with an impromptu procession led by Menachem Ussishkin with other notables in the van. I recognized him from having heard him speak at the Zionist Congress. They had started from his home, Bet Ussishkin, on what is now Ussishkin St.

The procession continuously swelled in numbers as it progressed on through to the Old City to the Kotel (the Western, or "Wailing Wall" as, it was then still called by us tourists). I noticed that Ussishkin was so very serious and his expression so somber, that I told Mother about it. She attributed it to emotion because of the significance of the fast day. Perhaps he was worrying about a possible clash with Arab fanatics at the Kotel that night?


 Mother in Jerusalem

Mother took full advantage of her time in Jerusalem. She attended courses in the American School of Archeology. It was headed by, and had been founded by the famous archeologist and scholar, William Foxwell Albright, later known as the "Father of Biblical Archeology." One of her fellow students, Nelson Glueck, became an outstanding archeologist as well, and successor to Albright as director of the school. He was later rabbinical head of the American Reform movement and of their Hebrew Union College.  


 Yiddish Songs

Mother collected Yiddish songs not known in the US at the time (but only the words, as she couldn’t write music notes). A book of such songs was later published by Anna Shomer Rothenburg, who with her daughter Ruth, also stayed in Pension Friedman. Ruth was my vey first girl friend. I  dated her once, many years later. My son Menahem wrote about Anna's father, Nachum Shaikevitsch Shomer, a famous Yiddish poet, playwright, and novelist, enormously productive in New York's lower East Side.

Later, at home in NY, Mother would sing for company the songs she had learned in Palestine. My children learned them from her and went on to sing them for their own children. Even now-a-days, when we sit in our Succah (tabernacle) we always sing a song she taught us: “A Succale a kleine, fon bretelach gemeinde" (a little Succah made of boards...) We later translated it into Hebrew and English for the benefit of our friends and descendents. It was recently revived and is now often sung on TV, both in Israel and the US, come Succot.


 Trip to Damascus

We went on a month-long trip to Damascus by car. We threaded our way down along the narrow "Seven Sisters" road, winding between the hills, as we drove from Jerusalem to Motza, and on down.

              In Zichron Ya'akov we visited the historical home of the Aaronson family.  Aaron A. was a prominent agronomist who discovered the original native wheat of the region. During WW I the family spied for the British. Below, on the coast, we visited the station from which they signaled information about Turkish troops to British ships standing off shore. Rivkah  Aaronson was tortured by the Turks for information. (To keep from revealing anything about their spy ring, she went into the toilet and shot herself.)  Then on to Damascus.


Real Estate Investments in Palestine

             Our good friend, Itz Tobin, a lawyer, told us about two good American Jews who about a century ago separately bought, sight unseen, property in the Holy Land. The purchases were for the sake of the mitzvah (religious commandment for Jews to own land in God-bequeathed Israel.

One good Jew had bought a plot just outside a promising village developing "at the crossroads of the Emek." The other had bought a plot along the seashore, but far from recently established Tel Aviv or any city or even settlement. Eventually their grandchildren asked Itz to sell their respective inheritances for them.

The first plot, so many years later, turned out to be very poor agricultural land on the outskirts of still sleepy little Balfouria. Its cross roads still lead to nowhere of significance. The other good Jew's plot turned out to be within the limits of recently built Natanya, a big, still rapidly developing city along a lovely beach front; a most profitable investment!


 An Update

             My son David is as sentimental as his father. He had his father-in-law, the late Advocate Uriel Gorney, buy for him the lot featured in that story, on the outskirts of Balfouria. It is still a fine remembrance of the first appearance of American Blondheims in Israel, and not much else!

             As for the real crossroads of the Negev, that is now in Afuleh, where the main north-south and east-west highways of the Emek intersect. And that is where David's wife, Orna, heads the large Central Hospital of the Emek. She was the only woman to head a major hospital in Israel. Aside from her many other duties, she is slowly raising money for the ongoing expansion of her hospital.


And Back-dates

              That area has great biblical significance. There Barak (the first!), with the moral support of the Prophetess Deborah and relying on her tactical instructions, defeated the Syrian tyrant Sisera. And not far away, on Mount Gilboa, the army of King Saul was vanquished by the Philistines. There he and his son Jonathan were slain in battle. The site was memorialized, and the heroes of the tragedy eulogized by King David in his classical biblical lament, "The Beauty, Of Israel (HaZvi Yisrael), is destroyed on thy heights; how have the mighty fallen!"

               The name of our synagogue, HaZvi Yisrael, was taken from that eulogy. It was a poetic reference to our ancient fallen heroes, and now commemorates current heroes as well. Thus we in Israel relive so much of our glorious past, while currently living in our more than stirring present days.   


  (Reworded) Balfouria (continued)

Mother and I spent the night in Balfouria, the unsuccessful candidate for "the crossroads of the Emek." The next day we ran into a massive swarm of locusts that darkened the sky, and some of which got into our car. They were almost three inches long, and while completely harmless, they were frightening in appearance. Harmless, that is, except for the devastation they were wreaking on the growing fields of grain we were passing through.

Approaching Kvutzat Ein Harod
        Approaching Kibbutz Ein Harod, we joined exhausted chalutzim driving  home their mule-drawn wagons. They were loaded with the wheat they had managed to scythe during the long, hot day before the locusts got to it. In the evening came the almost ritual, enthusiastic horah dancing by the chalutzim, until long past my bedtime and towards approaching dawn.



Beirut and Escaping Damascus

We stopped off in Beirut, Lebanon, for sightseeing and a swim in the Mediterranean. Then on to Damascus, Syria. We saw many of the beautiful palaces and mosques that had been built while Islam was at its prime, and visited the big bazaar

 When the time came to return to Jerusalem we had a problem. One of the frequent, days-long, hostile demonstrations against French rule had led to the closing of the city to both incoming and outgoing traffic. How would we get home? Our driver was reassuring. Since almost none of the Arab officials could read, he would just flash any document he could fish out of his pockets with an official-looking stamp, in place of the specially issued exit permit. He did, it worked, and we got started without delay and returned in good time to Jerusalem.


Economic Depression in Palestine

            During our stay in Palestine (1927-8) the country was in a deep economic depression. There had been successive waves of aliyah starting at the end of the 1800's, during which not only the Jewish population increased, but the Arab population as well.  The Arabs were attracted by the significant economic boom that aliyah had brought with it. But at the end of the Third Aliyah, 1924-1928, a deep economic depression struck. For the first time since the First Aliyah (1882-1903) there was yeridah, with significantly more Jews actually leaving the country than arriving.

However, we still saw considerable evidence of continuing Zionist enthusiasm, such as the near all-night dancing in Ein Harod, and the Zionist songs we often heard in the streets. There was "Kol oyvaynu, v'kol soneynu…" ("All our enemies, and all who hate us, they all will leave. Only we and our nation, we will never leave!"). Although the enthusiasm had diminished, there was still enough in evidence to inspire young Hillel for a lifetime!

II:  "Blondheim-Jaine Family History"

Now back to the real beginning of our story






           My father had traced our family back to mid-18th Century Netherlands by means of an old family Hagadah (since disappeared) inscribed with names and dates of its successive owners.  The name, Blondheim, literally means "blond" or 'light-colored house." [I therefore adopted Levani ("Whitey") as a pen name for social articles I later wrote for the Jerusalem Post.]


My father's grandfather settled in Alexandria, Virginia, before the Civil War (1861-5). He immigrated from Alten-Busek, some 50 miles north of Frankfort, Germany, seat of the Blondheim family for generations. He had come with the big migrations that followed the 1848 revolutions that swept Europe and had brought many Europeans to the US. Many of them became prominent, such as Carl Schurz, and Jacob Riis, among others. (1848-1871).

       At first we had no indication of how my father and his family fitted into the Blondheim clan that had left Alten-Busek. A branch had migrated to the the US but then soon went on to Argentina. One family migrated to Israel directly from Germany (see Kurt Blondheim below) but soon went on to the US. They later returned to Germany but eventually settled in Switzerland and later relocated to Monaco.


 Discovering "Hartz" via Aunt Grace's Memorials

An Israeli relative, well into our family genealogy, Charlie Harvith repeatedly asked us if we hadn't had a "Hartz" Blondheim in our branch of the family, I firmly denied this, until finally a clue popped up.

My Aunt Grace, my father's sister, had visited us in Israel in her latter years.  She set up a future memorial for herself, as well as for her two late brothers and her parents, at a good Yekke institution in Jerusalem, Yeshivat Kol Torah. For her contribution, they would have Kaddish said in perpetuity (sic!) on each of their respective Yahrtzeits (anniversaries of deaths).  

They also undertook to notify me, her only living relative, when Kaddish would be said for each in the future (to prove that they hadn't or wouldn't forget?). The postal notice noted each full, Hebrew name, including of course the patronymic. I now began reading the Yahrzeit notifications more carefully.

Grace's father, my grandfather Solomon Blondheim, for whom I was named "S.H. Blondheim", was listed in the notifications as: "Shlomo ben (son of) Naftali." As is well known, first names were sometimes doubled (e.g. Dov-Ber or Menachem-Mendel).  Naftali was often doubled as Naftali-Hertz, since Naftali, Jacob's son, was compared by him to a deer in Scripture, and 'Hertz" was "deer" in Yiddish. There were two little leaps (how zoologically appropriate!) from Naftali to Hertz, and from Hertz to Hartz, were both very logical assumptions! So we now knew just where our sub-branch grew out of the family tree: where "Hartz" Blondheim did!


Hartz's son, my grandfather Solomon, was born in the US, as was my father, myself, and my son David, but none of my next three (Israel-born children). David was what was very rare in those days: a fourth generation "geborener Americaner Yid" (American-born Jew), as well as a fifth generation American citizen.


 Blondheims Found  First Shul!    Largely Rewritten

The Blondheims were active in establishing the first synagogue in Alexandria, Va.:  Beth El Hebrew Congregation (1859-1984). Its first president (1859-64) was a Henry Blondheim. (Much later I got a call from his namesake, another but much later Henry Blondheim, introducing himself!). Also much involved in that synagogue and in other of Alexandria's Jewish communal affairs, was the Bendheim family. Generations later, Charlie Bendheim, z"l, was a long-standing friend of mine in NY and later in Jerusalem.


 Thirty years ago I was looking for a scholar to translate my father's study of Rashi's medieval French glosses in his commentary on the Talmud. Rashi had originally done his writing in his Medieval French, now no longer understandable even by competent French speakers. It had been turned by my Father, after a great deal of research, into modern French. And I wanted it translated into Modern Hebrew because so very few of those who now study Talmud know French, but all of whom, of course, know Hebrew. Charlie Bendheim's wife Else, ylch"a, suggested for this her cousin, Moche Catane (Mosheh Kattan, spelled for English-speakers).  It turned out to be a most successful undertaking! (see below).


 Blondheims Move to Baltimore

The Blondheim family was originally in the retail clothing business. The economy of the South was largely destroyed by the Civil War and by post-Civil War "Reconstruction." Many southern Jews, who were largely engaged in commerce, were therefore forced to find their living elsewhere.  Some went north, where commerce and industry were not as much harmed as in the south. Others moved out to the west, which was still largely unsettled, and where commerce and industry were still in the very earliest stages of development.

The Blondheims also moved. They left Virginia, but migrated only as far north as Baltimore, in Maryland, the most southern of the Union states. As mentioned, there my father, his siblings Ike and Grace, and I. were born. (My son, David, was born in NYC, and the rest of my four children in Israel).


My Father, D.S. Blondheim

My father, David Simon Blondheim, had an outstanding, world class career as a philologist of Romance (Latin-based) languages, mainly French. He also had a first rate knowledge of Jewish studies. His greatest contribution to French Philology was his study of Rashi's medieval French glosses in the Talmud (but not those in the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses).           

The main objective of my father's classical study of the Rashi glosses had been enrichment of the knowledge of Old French and of its development into modern French. But I was concerned with making its great contribution to Talmudic study available to the generations studying the Hebrew Talmud, but who rarely know French [explained in greater detail in "Rashi of Troyes," first article in second part of this volume, below].

My father had studied the meanings of Rashi's Old French words by detailed, philological analysis. Mosheh Kattan edited and translated them into Modern Hebrew for the benefit of those studying Talmud. This indeed proved a great success and confirmed my thought that the translation had indeed been necessary.

To allow Mosheh to devote to himself to that work, he was awarded a grant by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. I had suggested that he apply for the grant, and recommended him to a director of the fund, whom I knew personally. I also personally provided, in large measure, publication expenses. Thus I had earned the right to have the book dedicated in memory of my father and his sister Grace, z"l. The dedication to them appeared only in the first edition. I did not take advantage of the suggestion that I share in the abundant subsequent royalties.

Mosheh's work, consisting largely of his edited and translated version of my father's work, had a number of his own original additions. Subsequent editions were dedicated to members of Mosheh's family, many of whom died in the Shoah, as well as to Mosheh himself, z"l. He died just after completing his editing of the second edition, but before its publication (1988).

The third edition (1988?), slightly reduced in format, included in addition Mosheh's own original work on Rashi's le'azim in the Chumash. They were published together by The Foundation for the Advancement of Torah Study, Jerusalem, with dedications to relatives of those who had aided in its publication. My Father's name is missing from the title of all editions of the book on the Talmudic glosses, which he, in large measure, wrote. Only in the forward to the book is he given any credit for his major share in the authorship of the book.

The fourth edition, a very handsome, full-size volume, has just appeared (Jan 2010).  It was brought out by Mosheh's widow, Shulamit Kattan, tichi"ye, Included are additional dedications, including one to Mosheh. Also mention in the Introduction to but only in the original dedication of the book to my father and aunt.  


 Blondheim Family Diminishes

While the Blondheim family had been rather extensive when it was arriving in the US, early thereafter my branch of the family began to dwindle. My grandfather had just three children, my uncle Ike (Isadore), my father and my aunt, Grace. Aunt Grace, with one brother Ike who died unmarried at age 40, and the other, my father, who died at 50, used to say that if she were to reach the age of 60 she would feel that she would go on living forever! Since she lived for almost another 30 years after reaching 60, she did seem well started towards that impossible goal!      

The diminution in the size of my branch of the Blondheim family stopped when after my arrival, an only child, I went on to quadruple fatherhood. My four children had an average of four children each, for a total of sixteen grandchildren. They, in turn, have provided me with twenty-one great-grandchildren, so far, with five grandchildren still unmarried. That's already a pretty good-sized set of descendents for me, the only child of a single (divorced) mother! 


Blood Thicker Than Water

When we made aliyah, my Aunt Grace told us we had relatives in Israel and would we be interested in meeting them. I confess to having reacted negatively at first. I was afraid that we "rich" American relatives might be considered "soft touchers" by newly discovered, not so rich Israeli relatives. Our finances were then in such poor shape, we couldn't even afford to subscribe to The Jerusalem Post. But blood being thicker than water, I finally did prefer to try to meet them.

There was no response to our postcard, but we made the (then) two-hour trip to Tel Aviv anyway. Their next-door neighbor finally heard and answered our repeated doorbell-ringing. She told us that their American Blondheim neighbors had left many months before for the US. With our aliyah we had reestablished the Blondheim presence in Israel!

 Later, but still during tzena (food rationing), we were very pleasantly surprised to get a very welcome, much needed, CARE package (Committee for American Remittances to Europe) of many choice Pesach foodstuffs. It was from a Kurt Blondheim in the US! The postcard I had sent (with our return address) to their last Tel Aviv address had been forwarded to them.


Cousins Kurt and Sigrid Blondheim

Some years after that we got a call from Kurt Blondheim, of Lugano, Switzerland, inviting us to have dinner with them in the then very swanky King David Hotel.  I no longer had any hesitation about meeting them! In fact I really felt quite ashamed, remembering my previous initial reluctance to meeting family members. We ultimately developed with Kurt and Sigrid a fairly close and mutually appreciative relationship which has since lasted for over a half century!


Below I note that my children were provincials. At that dinner our David demonstrated it. He picked up the waiter's tip that Kurt had left and ran after him to give him the money he had "forgotten on the table."


Kurt Blondheim was a second cousin, once or twice removed. He was born and had lived for some years in the Blondheim family home in Alten-Busek, Hesse province, Germany. (American history fans will probably remember the frequent Revolutionary War alarm, "to arms, the Hessians are coming!").

With the advent of the Nazis, parts of the Blondheim family fortunately left Germany in good time, immigrating to the US, Israel or Argentina. Kurt's family went to Israel, then to US, and then Kurt and Sigrid moved to Lugano, Switzerland, where they lived for many years. Most recently, they moved again, to Monaco. Sigrid is less happy there because the natives speak French, and not German, as they did in Lugano.


Kurt had married Sigrid, whose mother was Jewish, but whose father was not. They have no children, but Kurt has always has had strong family feelings. So when on business trips abroad he always looks up Blondheims in the local phone directory. As a result he found many widely scattered Blondheims, many in the US, and he would ask as to their Jewishness.

One such family said "No", they were Native Americans: Indians! Another family said they were blacks (now "Afro-Americans"). This would suggest that there had been a Blondheim family who might have been slave owners! (African slaves didn't have family names, so they often took on those of their owners.)


Accusation of Racism

I was once accused of being a racist because when telling this story, I said I didn't know of what to be more ashamed, that I had had a slave owner in the family, or that I possibly had black relatives.  It was thought that I was ashamed of their being black, but what I was ashamed of was that they were so obviously not Jewish!  I would certainly willingly accept into my family black Ethiopian Jews, or black converts to Judaism. I was also accused of racism when I said that I would be very unhappy, even ashamed, to have a member of my immediate family "leave the fold." That does not denote racism, but a strong Jewish, religious commitment on my part!


In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, many European Jews converted to Christianity. There are a number of non-Jewish Blondheim families who apparently had converted. So it is possible that the Blondheim slave owner was not Jewish! And there is a record of an adjutant named Blondheim in Canada who fought in the War of 1812 against the Americans.  

A David Blondheim, Jr, recently called up another David Blondheim, my son, whose name he had found on the Internet. He was checking to see if there was a family relationship. His particular family had immigrated from the Saarland, in Germany, only about 50 miles from Alten Busek, near Frankfort-am-Main, where our Blondheims came from. Thus it is most likely that we are indeed related, despite their not being Jewish.    


 Blondheim "Yekkes"

Our Blondheims were “Yekke’s,” my father especially. Actually it was only much later that the term Yekke was introduced. That was because Yekkes, Jewish immigrants from Germany, wore what they called their "yackets"! They would never be seen outside their homes in their short sleeves; some would not even be caught that way even inside their homes! Originally it was a derogatory term for all German-Jewish immigrants to Israel, but with continued use over the years it lost all of its derogatory implications, leaving only the sociological basis.

Yekkes were originally characterized by pedantic conservatism and inflexibility, sometimes verging on the irrational (like wearing jackets despite the hottest weather, when no others did).  My father asked me, as I was reaching college age, to which one I planned to go. I answered “maybe Columbia," (in NY City, where I lived). He replied, “Harvard is the only place for a gentleman!” So much for rigid thinking.

But my son Menahem eventually fulfilled his grandfather's implied wish, taking both his Master's and PhD degrees at Harvard, after getting his BA from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As for myself, finances dictated New York's tuition-free City College, sometimes referred to (in the past) as "New York's Harvard"





 The Jam family came from Mayden, a little town in Galitzia, Austro-Poland. It was so small it needed for locating it the specification "next to Jikov, near Kolbosow, between Krakow and Lemberg." [Mayden was mentioned by Agnon in one of his novels; Alan Dershowitz notes in his biography that his grandmother came from Jikov.]

My grandparents were part of the great wave of East European Jews and others as well that immigrated to the US at the turn of the 20th Century. The men of my family were mostly peasants who worked the fields of the "poritz," the local grandee, who usually owned most of the town as well.


Grandmother Beilah-Ruche Jam

My maternal grandmother was Beile-Ruche Jam (Yam, Alweiss). Many years later a related Alweiss, was also a professor at the Hadassah Medical School. My grandmother was of limited ability (and intelligence?), had no education, and never learned any significant amount of English. She firmly believed in shaydim (evil spirits)!

Her first husband died soon after their marriage. Their son, ‘Chaskel’ (Yechezkel) Feldman, immigrated to US after WW I, much later than the rest of the family. She then married a man much younger than herself, Shloymeh-Zalman Jam, who was also a peasant with no education, Jewish or otherwise. While still in Austria, they had a daughter, Pyeh (Pauline), then another, Raizel (Rose), who was to become my Mother. She was two years old when she and the family immigrated to the US. The third sister, Mildred (Mollie, Malka) was born in the US.

            Unlike Gramma, Grampa did acquire a minimum of functional English, (Gramma's English extended only as far as a frightened "gerrady-you" ("get out of here, you") if a dog got too close. However I was grateful because it forced me to learn very elementary Yiddish to be able to talk with her. This served me well when many of my patients were new immigrants from Europe, first in the US and then later Israel. Those who had arrived in the US knew no English, and those arriving in Israel, no Hebrew, so I had to make do with the halting, basic Yiddish I was forced to learn.


Grandfather Shloymeh-Zalman Jam  

            My Jam grandfather, Shloymeh-Zalman, was the only one I knew, as my Blondheim grandfather died just before I was born. His name has been carried on through a number of generations of our family, including me (see tale below).

  Even before my Mother was born, my grandfather had joined the mass migration of Eastern European Jewry to "der goldeneh medina," the "golden country" of America. He immigrated alone, as so often was necessary, to pave the way and earn immigration expenses for the rest of the family.

 Shloymeh-Zalman Jam, was a loving parent and grandparent, and a kind, sweet, person. In the new country he became an “operator,” who operated a sewing machine. He carried it on his back between the many little clothing shops in the "lower East Side" of Manhattan, wherever his work was needed. New York's "cloak and suit” industry was then being founded, largely by Jewish immigrants more enterprising than my grandfather. He never earned an adequate wage. For a greater than barely subsistence income the family had to wait many years until daughters Rose, and then Mildred, began to earn salaries as elementary school teachers.


Slum Dwellers

The Yam (Jam) Family lived in abject poverty in New York’s lower East Side Jewish ghetto. My Mother’s very first memory was of my grandmother responding to a knock on the door at night with a “Sh!” She was afraid it might be the "len’lor" coming to collect the rent, on one of the many occasions when they just didn't have the money for it.

She always felt especially grateful to her mother, who much later, often had to go out early in the morning, to borrow car fare from neighbors. This was for her daughter's trolley fare to far uptown Hunter College, a tuition-free, municipal college and teachers' training seminary for girls. The dire alternative would have been for her to become a factory worker, as her elder sister Pauline had. Most of the little clothing factories were then "sweat shops," with horrible working conditions and very inadequate wages.


Origin of Family Name “Jaine”

 The family name Jam, Hebrew for 'ocean,' was written as such, but pronounced "Yam." When European ghetto Jews were forced to                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     take on family names, they had gotten that name because the family was "as large as the ocean." The first child to attend school in the US had learned to write while still in Poland. She wrote the family name with the curves of the "m" pointed, in the European manner, But the first curve of the "m" was so sharply pointed that the teacher read it as an “i” with the dot missing. So she told the child that she hadn't dotted the "i" in "Jain," and immediately corrected the “error." The next teacher said that “Jain” was not the right way to spell “Jaine,” to which the family name was finally changed.

Another branch of the family changed the 'Jam' to 'James.' Maxwell James became a leading patent attorney. Another family member became the famous jazz trumpeter and band leader, Harry James. Still another took the name (Henry) Trout (possibly suggested by watery "Yam?"). He became an outstanding, pioneering, radio newscaster during WW I and thereafter. He originated the expression "fireside chat" for President Roosevelt's periodic radio talks to the nation.


Jaine Family Finances

Mother, early on, had near-socialist financial ideals. She put her full salary as an elementary school teacher into a "common fund." It was at the disposal of any family member who needed money. As Mother married very late, she continued contributing to the fund and largely supported the family for many years. 

Sister Mildred also contributed at Mother's urging, when she too became a teacher. Oldest sister Pauline had married very young, and had worked for only a short time in a factory before she married. She was already involved in full time home-making when my Mother was developing her radical financial ideas and practices so she hadn't contributed to the "common fund."

The splitting of the "common fund" later became a source of dispute that spoiled relations between the two younger sisters for many years. But on and off, any two sisters were recurrently "on the outs" with the third, for all sorts of minor reasons. They would often stop talking to each other during such a periodic broy'gez (angry squabble). But it would involve only two sisters at any given time, so that one or the other could still talk to the third!




 My Mother had been a beautiful, brainy girl, with good basic secular and Jewish educations for those times.  She taught Hebrew school as well as elementary school and was apparently too well endowed intellectually for most of the local marriage market. Therefore she went farther afield and associated with young people attending or teaching in the newly established Jewish Theological Seminary and its associated schools.

That was the flagship of the newly established Conservative branch of American Judaism. It was much less distanced from Orthodoxy than the much older American Reform Judaism, which had been started in Germany. But for those young men she was probably too piously Orthodox in her practice of Judaism, and in general, too challenging because of her very spiritual ethos.

Over many years she had only three, more than casual associations with eligible bachelors. One was a candidate for the rabbinate of Sephardi (Spanish) origin, Raphael Melamed, to whom she became engaged. For some reason she suspected that he might be in poor health and was worried that this might possibly have a negative effect on his ability to father children (!). She used this probably unfounded suspicion as a reason (or excuse?) for breaking her engagement to him.


There followed a more appealing candidate, but he had great trouble "popping the question." This was indeed a chronic and serious problem for Max D, Klein. He went on to an outstanding rabbinic career in Philadelphia, but remained a life-long bachelor. My Mother and he later had a renewed, brief romantic encounter, at least on her part. That was many years later when both were delegates to the 15th Zionist Congress in Basel (1927) (see below), where I complicated the picture. Nothing came of the encounter except floods of tears on her part, which I unhappily had to witness.


 Marriage at Last! 

The third and final suitor, who was to become my father, finally entered the scene: David Simon Blondheim. He had been born and educated in Baltimore, Maryland, where he graduated from Johns Hopkins University, summa cum laude. There he also took his PhD. Almost all of his career in the philology of Romance languages was spent in research and teaching at his alma mater. Summers he spent digging around in the great libraries of Europe for his research material. Very early in his career he had taught briefly at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

He was loosely associated with the recently founded Jewish Theological Seminary in NY. This was because of its rich Jewish library, and the contacts with its outstanding faculty members, both very important for his developing academic career. There he established close, life-long friendships with its renowned librarian, Alexander Marx, and with the Talmudist Louis Ginzberg, among others. That was the geographical background for the romance that led to his marriage with my Mother.


Dwindling Blondheim Family

The "ocean-wide" Jam family, while no longer so numerous in the "new" country, has had a goodly number of descendents. My Mother had two sisters, each of whom had four children (compared to her own only child!). The once large Blondheim family had been dwindling in size after the first generation born in the US. Thus, my father had only two siblings, neither of whom ever married. Younger brother Ike, who died aged 40, would probably have lived much longer had he been born just a few years later! By that time liver extract, the cure for pernicious anemia of which he died, would have been discovered. It would have prevented his untimely death.


 The Newlyweds

The D.S. Blondheims, married in June 1917, set up married life in Baltimore, Md. There David had been sharing an apartment with his unmarried sister Grace. My New Yorker Mother had to organize and run a household in unfamiliar Baltimore. For this she was to a large extent lacking in background, training, and even ability.

As was often the case in traditional families in those days, my father seems not to have had adequate information on managing intimate details of married life. For my Mother, dissatisfaction with the preliminaries merged into an early and very difficult pregnancy.

Her difficult pregnancy ended in a very difficult labor. That was common for an "elderly primipara," (a woman such as she, past the age of thirty in her first pregnancy). Another complication was a very poor milk supply, so that I was always hungry and therefore always crying.

For all involved her pregnancy was a very prolonged and most uncomfortable and unhappy experience. For my father, a young scholar, striving to comply with the academic law of "publish or perish," it was as frustrating as it was physically difficult for my Mother.

An illustrative anecdote: Aunt Lollie (from my father’s side, of course!) came to visit, stuck her finger into a flower pot and said: “Why Rose, you haven’t watered your plants today!” To which my Mother replied, “Aunt Lollie, I haven’t even been able to water my baby yet!”


 Marital Difficulties          

Though superficially my parents might have seemed well matched, there were important differences in their backgrounds. A big problem was the cultural gap between her Jam family, recent immigrants from a primitive little Galician town in Austro-Poland. The Blondheim family came from cultured Germany,  were long-settled and well integrated into the US, There was also the non-symmetry of my Mother’s brief training as an elementary school teacher compared with my father's PhD and years of research and teaching at the university level.

These factors, among many others, led to the failure of their marriage. It ended in a Reno, Nevada divorce for incompatibility after two or three years of a very unsatisfactory marriage. Divorce itself was an exceedingly rare and shocking event in the religiously observant Jewish community of those days.


 My Naming, A Critical Problem          

An example of the incompatibility between my parents came less than a year after they were married. They couldn’t decide amicably on what to name me. By unusual coincidence, both my grandfathers had the same first name, Shlomo, Solomon (as also did both my grandmothers: Beileh [Bella]! The widely observed custom has been for a child to be named after a relative. The universal Ashkenazi (central and East European) custom, but not Sephardi, was that it only be named for a deceased relative.

 When my Mother's pregnancy was well along, my father’s father died, making my naming a dreadful problem. My father insisted that I be named after his father, who had died so recently. It didn't matter to him that this was not in accord with my Mother's having a living father with the same name.

  My Mother had only a forlorn hope that her father might be liberal with regard to what was really only a custom. So she courageously asked her father, Shlomo (Solomon) Jam, if he would really object to his grandchild being named Shlomo, after her husband's late father (Solomon Blondheim). His answer was, "Can't you wait till I die?"               

She then repeated her first suggestion, that Hillel was such a beautiful name, one that had always appealed to her. My father countered, probably not seriously, with the far-out suggestion that I be called “Halle,” his mother’s maiden name! Possibly the alliterative association of Hillel/Halle had been suggestive. When he returned to his insistence on Shlomo/Solomon, my Mother proposed a compromise: “At least let the child live and be well, let’s call him Chaim (life)."                        

My father prevailed and appears to have named me Shlomo at my circumcision. My birth certificate, issued when the argument was still far from being resolved, specified only: "male, white,                  Blondheim." I remember Mother telling me, that when asked my name even after the divorce, my answer was the mouthful: “Shlomo Chaim Hillel Blondheim!” Someone who asked me my name was repeatedly unable to understand the very unusual, compound answer. Impatiently, I brusquely answered finally:  “Johnny!”  There was even a brief period when Mother called me "Shlo," short for Shlomo.


 My Father's Intransigence                    

Looking back from the perspective of almost a century (!), I think there may have been some slight justification for my father's intransigence in my naming. With one dead sibling and the other a rapidly aging, unattractive woman already unlikely ever to marry, he was the only one of their family who could possibly name a child after the recently deceased.

This line of blocks needs to be deleted from pages they appear


The chances of his ever having another son (after my robust other grandfather would eventually have departed this world) to name after his father must have seemed to him as approaching zero. And he probably knew full well that not using the name of a living relative was only a custom, without basis in Jewish law. Thus his stand, while not justified, is understandable.    

            A recent ruling by Rabbi Norman Lam, then President of Yeshivah University, NY, in this regard states: "it would appear that there is no reason to refrain from permitting a custom [naming after a living relative] in time of need," and I certainly needed a name!



            The name Hillel was very rare in those days. It was borne by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, the author Hillel Kovar, and no one else widely known in those days. During many years I never even heard it when people were called up by Hebrew name to the Torah reading.

            But when I was given that name its popularity began to increase. Rabbi Gamoran's wife Mamie, a friend of my Mother, wrote a well known children’s book: “Hillel’s Happy Holidays,” titled after her son, whom she had named Hillel, inspired by my name. And just this last week there was a lecture here in Jerusalem by a visiting rabbi, Dr. Hillel Gamoran. It must have been his late grandfather who had had such "Happy Holidays," and was the Hillel for whom he had been named!

             Later, my multiple names contracted down to just Hillel. However, when I entered high school, with due regard for family history, I began to sign myself officially: "S. H. Blondheim.” (I felt that "S. Hillel Blondheim" was ``````````````````````````artificial.) When I entered medical school, the annual catalogue carried my name in full, "Solomon Hillel Blondheim." As a result, classmates would sometimes call after me, "Hey, Sol!" They couldn't understand why I didn't turn around in response to my name (but one that was actually unfamiliar to me!)


 Trip to Reno

            For the trip to Reno to get her divorce, my Mother needed the help of her mother in taking care of me, aged about two. The train journey was long and tiring. When we got to Ogden, Utah, there was a stop during which passengers could get off and stretch their legs. After the train started again, it was discovered that my grandmother had been left behind. So a telegram was sent for her to be put aboard the next train, a freighter, while we got off and waited for her at the next station.

The trainman had done his best at hospitality for Gramma in his "caboose" (short car at end of freight train for use of staff). When we were all reunited, my Mother asked the trainman how he and my grandmother had gotten along, since she couldn't talk English, nor he Yiddish. Both claimed that they had had an engaging conversation. But they had been talking about completely different subjects, and of course, in different languages!


Rose Blondheim’s Later Boyfriends

            Later, Mother again had a few encounters with candidates for marriage that I knew about. One was far too frum (religiously observant) even for her, a rabbi with a long beard, but a stylish kapoteh (cloak). Another was to become a confirmed bachelor, Rabbi Max D. Klein (see above, under XVth Zionist Congress). So she resigned herself, aged forty, to remaining a single divorcée, deriving most of her emotional needs from me, her only child.

            That might well have become a problem for me in my adolescent years. Fortunately, it was delayed until I had reached adulthood, when I could better cope with it. That was when I was again living at home, age 30, having lived away from home during a year of internship, almost three years of army service abroad, and three years of hospital residencies. But during the years until I left home for the first time, we had had a close, harmonious, in fact idyllic Mother-son relationship.





 "His …Cousins (and His Uncles) and His Aunts!" *

I was a member of the smallest family unit possible, only two persons: a divorced mother and her only child (when divorce was still rare among Jewish families). So Mother wisely decided to expose me as much as possible to normal families with functioning fathers and multiple siblings. The natural choices were the families of her two sisters.

(For this reason we moved to within half a block of her sister Pauline's home.) There we would have our Shabbat and festival meals with the Pauline and Sam Frankels, along with their four children and my grandparents who lived with them. Auntie Pauline would also give me lunch when I returned from school. They lived in an old-fashioned, stand-alone, three-story wooden house in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY. The long summer vacations were often spent with sister Mildred and Eugene Kohn's family, who didn't live in NY.

 After her divorce and the winding up of her Baltimore life, Mother (and I about six) moved to Bensonhurst to live near the Frankels. Mother resumed teaching. I was Gremma's favorite among her five local grandchildren, probably because I was the youngest, and cutest. She used to slip me secretly, and only to me, cake and candy on the side.

 Unlike Grampa, who had acquired a functional minimum of English, Gremma, as noted, never learned any English at all, for which I was grateful. It forced me to learn very elementary Yiddish to get along with her. This served me well later on, when I became a physician and moved to Israel, and many of my patients were now Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Europe. When I was in the US, they hadn't learned English yet. Then later, after we had made aliyah (to Israel), they were refugees from the Holocaust who hadn't leaned Hebrew yet. So in both countries, to communicate with my patients, I often had to make use of the halting, basic Yiddish, I had to learn from her, thanks to Gremma!

 Bensonhurst, was a neighborhood that was still early in its development. About one third of its population were Catholic immigrants from Sicily; one third Jews whose senior family members had immigrated from Poland or Russia; and the rest were "Americans" of various ethnicities and religions. But in our neighborhood all elements lived together without the slightest friction or antipathy that I could detect. Only in America!


The Samuel Frankels

My Uncle Sam was a lovely person, well-liked by everyone, who had little Jewish or other education. His immediate family's religious practices were just a bit less exacting than ours. They would put lights on and off on Yom Tov (religious festivals), when we didn't but not on Shabbat. And on Shabbat my Frankel cousins, young adults, would get to shul either very late or not at all, while I always got to my shul by myself, on time.

The Frankels had a gadget (they had invented?) that I never saw elsewhere. To turn on the radio on Shabbat evening after supper they had rigged up a special alarm clock mechanism. When the alarm began ringing, the alarm winding lever would unwind. While unwinding it would roll up and pull down a cord attached to the chain that turned on the socket to which the radio was connected!

This "Rube Goldberg" invention was so they could listen to "Amos 'n' Andy" and to "The Goldbergs," their favorite radio programs on Shabbat (Friday nights). I didn't listen to either. This was probably because I was discouraged by my difficulty in understanding the accents, broad Yiddish and thick, black-American (Afro-American today). Both the radio and most room lights were turned off later by a Shabbat goy.


 The Rabbi Eugene Kohns

Rabbi Eugene Kohn ("Uncle 'Gene), was an American-born "Yekke." He was very reserved, but a loving father and uncle. He was a very quiet, passive intellectual and a deep thinker. He was a disappointment to successive Conservative congregations who all preferred having an outgoing, sociable rabbi with a pastoral approach. Since he was so far from that, his contract was frequently not renewed.

As a result, his family had to move from city to city, as he moved from pulpit to pulpit. I remember our staying with them and his having been Rabbi in Perth Amboy, N.J.; Youngstown, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisc.; and Bayonne, N.J. Towards the end of his career he was associated with Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan in NY, when Kaplan was developing his Reconstructionist stream of Judaism, and writing  his massive "Judaism as a Civilization." Uncle 'Gene was founding editor of "The Reconstructionist," their monthly, for which he wrote many thoughtful editorials. He also wrote his own book on "Reconstructionist Judaism" (more on Reconstructionist Judaism in the chapter below, "The Jewish Center.").

Appropriately, both my uncles had four children each, of both genders, and close in age. Uncle Sam's children ranged from above my age and up, and Uncle 'Gene's from about my age and down. Thus I had fairly close contact with two good father-images in my uncles and with eight substitute siblings, most close to my age, in my cousins. Both families were happy and well integrated. In addition, I had a pair of well-functioning grandparents whom I saw frequently.


My Only-Child Childhood

My childhood was characterized by my being alone at home most of the time when not in school. This was because Mother had so many social and cultural activities, and I had no siblings and relatively few friends. I didn't usually keep up with my few friends when we moved,

Mother started sending me to the Etz Chaim, (yeshivah k'tanah, parochial school) in Borough Park, Brooklyn. But after a few weeks I got sick. She assumed that the trip there and back (not really very far) by elevated train (extension of subway into the far reaches of NY) was too much for me. So then I walked in the fresh air to our neighborhood public school, which I attended for the first three years of elementary school. During the last of those years I also attended Talmud Torah in the afternoons.


'School Days, School Days!"

I don’t remember having gone to kindergarten, if I did, but I do remember being sent to start first grade, despite my protest: "But I don't know any geography!" I walked to and from school, past square blocks of as yet undeveloped swamp land on which bulrushes grew, useful only for s’chach (roofing for the Succah booth). I remember how proud I felt walking along the streets carrying my books, a full-fledged schoolboy!

 School was only moderately interesting. But after-school Talmud Torah was boring, deadly boring! Early on I tried to avoid attending by hiding out a few blocks away from home, “playing hooky.” But after a week or so of my absence, the school called the Frankels (we didn't have a phone yet in those days). The call was taken by an older cousin, Irving, who told me about it, but not my Mother. Thus I was spared finding out how badly she might have reacted.

So I continued Talmud Torah and acquired a smattering of Hebrew. With that minimal Hebrew I later got along with my schoolmates in "Palestine" with only moderate difficulty. But with actual school work there, I had much more of a problem. Still, they said I knew more Hebrew than any of the few American children who had visited Palestine up till then.


 Hadassah Fund Raiser

 I was assigned by Mother the not particularly enjoyable task of going from door-to-door collecting contributions for Hadassah. I was given a little, white bag that closed with a drawstring. Apparently the cloth bag was not only cheaper than a tin box, but was purposely much different from the ubiquitous blue box of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet). The bag was labeled "Hadassah Milk Bottle." Money raised was for Hadassah's pioneering free milk supply for infants in Palestine.

 I must be one of the first, possibly even the earliest of Hadassah's surviving fund raisers! This befits the son of a founding member of Hadassah!


 Play Time

            During early childhood I had considerable leisure time to play on our neighborhood streets. I enjoyed a series of games which rotated though the seasons: Potsie was like hop-scotch, hopping on a chalked pattern in the middle of the street (in our usually traffic-free, residential neighborhood, before the advent of the family car); immies, a game of marbles played along the street curb; spinning  tops, which I never really learned to do; stick-ball, a modified street baseball played with a rubber ball hit with a broom stick; hi'ne-go-seek (hide-and…); tag-you’re-it; trading baseball cards; etc. I wasn't good at, or even interested in any real sports, like soft-ball baseball (basketball was not popular yet). I got my fun playing those street games.

  Comment: it came as a surprise to me that my children, and later my grandchildren, had very little spare time in which to help me with odd jobs when I requested. Unlike during my childhood, they were always very busy with homework and after school extra-curricular activities (of which I had almost none, except for two years of attending boring Hebrew school!).


“NY, NY, It’s a Wonderful Town!”

We returned from Palestine to a NY neighborhood which my Mother had chosen, almost sight-unseen. It was the "uptown," to which the Jaine family members had moved after their long "green-horn" years in poverty-stricken lower East Side, Manhattan. They were only able to move out when finances had finally improved. That "uptown" was lower Harlem (!), which was then a fine lower middle class neighborhood with an increasing Jewish population.

Unfortunately it had changed greatly in the intervening years. West 110th St. between 5th and 8th Avenues, to which we moved, was still a lovely street (along Central Park North), and had retained its Jewish inhabitants. The imposing building of the Young Men’s and Women’s Hebrew Association (YM/YWHA) was almost next door to our apartment house, and Rabbi Herbert Goldstein’s Institutional Synagogue was only a few blocks away.

But from West 111th St. and north, "black" Harlem had been developing (no derogatory implications intended!). All the synagogue buildings of once Jewish Harlem were becoming churches. So did the last-to-move Institutional Synagogue a little later, when it too moved to the Upper West Side.

 I never got to join any Zionist or general Jewish youth group because there still weren't any established as yet in my day. It was a few years later that the HaShomer Hadati youth organization was founded in the US. It was suggested to me later that I become a madrich (youth leader), but it didn't appeal to me then. I did do something similar when I became president of my high school Jewish club, the "Hatikvah Society." I ran all its programs, including inviting speakers, who were often moderately distinguished adult Zionist leaders, to address us. I remember the interest and surprise aroused by my demonstrating to my fellow students the laying of tefillin of which they had never seen before. 


Teacher's Son

            There, on the lower edge of Harlem, there was no suitable neighborhood school for me. So Mother took me with her daily by elevated train to the lower East Side school, her old neighborhood, in which she was again teaching. It was a most miserable experience for me!

Schoolmates picked fights because I was new, and worse, a teacher’s son. I didn't know how to defend myself, so the expected, dreaded results followed. I would get beaten up, though relatively mildly. In Palestine schoolmates had also picked fights with me, the "foreigner." But when I "put up my dukes" they backed off. “No box!” they would protest in alarm. For them, fighting was wrestling, not punching. There my fake, implied threat had protected me. But I had no defenses to use back home in the US.


Double Pneumonia

I finally escaped that school "the easy way," by coming down with double-pneumonia, complicated by pleurisy-with-effusion (fluid accumulating in chest). I was taken by ambulance to Beth Israel Hospital. In those pre-antibiotic days even pneumonia involving only one lung lobe, had a significant mortality. I remember suffering multiple chest taps with trocars (very thick needles) to withdraw fluid so I could breathe adequately. I teetered on the edge until I finally passed the "crisis." Pneumonia then had a fifty percent mortality.   


 Meetings With my Father

With the possibility of his never seeing his child again, Mother notified my father and he came from Baltimore to visit me in the hospital. [I later worked in Beth Israel Hospital as a summer intern, while still a medical student, and much enjoyed the luxury of kosher food!] I was about twelve when I was hospitalized, but I was much too sick to remember my father's visit. From my parent's divorce when I was about two, until that hospital visit, I don’t think my father ever saw me.

After his hospital visit and my convalescence, my father began to take advantage of his visitation rights. Mother always tried hard not to influence me against him in any way. But I knew she was troubled by his visits, however infrequent. She often seemed to have unusual difficulty arranging the details of the visits. When he came, she never received him in our apartment; or even met him. I would meet him by myself in a public place, a restaurant or hotel lobby, near our home.

Once, when I suddenly became sick and couldn't turn up at the appointed meeting place, he came to our apartment. My Mother explained the situation to him through the apartment door, which she didn't open. He had to return to Baltimore, a three-hour train ride away, without seeing me, which he must have resented deeply. He was not invited to my Bar Mitzvah in far off Bensonhurst, But with no local hotels, his coming would have been very difficult for all concerned. He continued to see me at long intervals until a few years before his death.


My Childhood and My Father

[reworded]  Oddly enough, although I was a bright child, I don't ever recall wondering about my not having a father around the house like my cousins or friends. I so completely accepted the explanation Mother gave me for our abnormal situation that I had no further thoughts about it. Nor do I remember ever discussing it with her. That was probably the ultimate evidence of my Mother's extraordinary ability as a single parent. She was able to compensate so completely for my being brought up without the other half of the usual parenting team, that I just didn't feel the lack of a father in my life!


Moved to Upper West Side of NYC

[Most of following has been lightly reworded until "Koenigsberg Family"]

            We had lived in Harlem for about two years until after my convalescence from pneumonia, when we moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. That neighborhood was increasingly attracting a middle and upper class Jewish population and has remained a good Jewish neighborhood for now well over 80 years. Unfortunately, it has recently been Jewish singles who are moving into the area, not Jewish couples or families.

            In our new neighborhood we lived for years in a series of apartment-hotels. We always had a bedroom, a living room (with sleeping couch for me), a miniscule kitchenette and a toilet-bathroom. Having maid-service supplied was a great convenience for my working Mother.

We prepared most of our meals, working together as efficiently as possible in tight quarters. Our home menu was rather limited in variety, but we often ate in the local restaurant, especially on Shabbat. Also, we were frequently invited for Shabbat meals by friends of Mother, by fellow congregants (not very often), and rather often by Rabbi and Mrs. Leo Jung.


"The Jewish Center"

The main attraction of that neighborhood for my Mother was its pioneering, first Jewish center. Founded in 1917, it was officially "The Jewish Center." Later, with the proliferation of Jewish centers in many other sections of NY, and elsewhere, it was usually referred to unofficially as the "West Side" Jewish Center.    

            "The Jewish Center" was the expression of a new American concept, pioneered by its first rabbi, Mordecai Kaplan. He thought that there should be more than just a synagogue at the heart of a Jewish community. Social, cultural and recreational needs were to be supplied by the Jewish community as well as just religious needs. This broad concept was both epitomized and minimized by the expression "shul with a pool."

 When the views of Rabbi Kaplan began to shift increasingly away from his previous near-Orthodoxy, he left The Jewish Center. He actually moved all of two blocks eastward, still on W. 86th St.  There he established his Society for the Advancement of Judaism (the SAJ). He went on to develop his concept of Reconstructionist Judaism, embodied in his monumental book, "Judaism as a Civilization."  

It was said that Orthodox Jews pray to the "Riboyn'eh Shel Oylam," Conservatives to "Avinu Shebashamayim," the Reform to "Our Heavenly Father," and Reconstructionists "To Whom it May Concern." Essentially, Reconstructionists were more traditional in their practices, but more radical in their theology than Reform Jews.

It was in the pool, of the shul, of that first Jewish center that I almost learned to swim; in whose gymnasium I developed adolescent musculature; in whose shul I dovined (prayed); and from whose day-school I graduated.


Rabbi Leo Jung

Rabbi Leo Jung followed Rabbi Kaplan at the head of The Jewish Center. He had graduated from the Hildesheimer Seminary in Berlin and later studied in London and Oxford. He had lived long enough in England to acquire, or to confirm a previously acquired, distinctive, life-long English accent. He became one of the most prominent of the early, modern Orthodox rabbis in the US and eventually became known as the "Grandfather of Modern American Orthodoxy,"  

 Rabbi Jung was one of the first of the new breed of modern Orthodox rabbis, who followd the establishment of Yeshiva College (later Yeshiva University). After its founding in association with Yitzhak Elchanan Rabbical Seminary, it produced a steady stream of rabbis, both Orthodox and modern in outlook. They had been filling the increasing number of Orthodox pulpits in the US. Together with its graduate schools, and later a boy's high school and then a girl's high school, they constituted Yeshiva College and then Yeshiva University. It went on to become the premier Orthodox institution of the US. (We now live, corner Yitzchak Elchanan Street in Israel).


 The Jewish Center School

For his Jewish Center School, a day school, Rabbi Jung chose Christian teachers for secular subjects (one of whom happened to be a Christian Arab, who taught arts and crafts), but that was way back then! He considered them more pious and sincere in their religious beliefs and practices than the Jewish teachers of secular subjects then available. Aside from their excellence as teachers, I was impressed by their loyalty to their obligations. Those pious Christian ladies would always remember to remind us to bentsch (say the "Grace after meals") whenever we forgot!  

 At that time it was the in-thing to teach using specific "projects," at least in "progressive" schools such as ours. Thus one year was largely devoted to the subject of the New England whaling industry. It included how whales were hunted, and how their blubber was removed and "tried" to extract its oil. We made model harpoons and lances and learned to sing sea-chanteys. We wrote and produced a play about whaling and we learned the history and geography of New England, where the whaling industry developed. Our assigned reading included a suitably abridged version of the long-winded, 750-page novel by Herman Melville, "Moby Dick, Or the White Whale."   

 Of the religious education I got there, Rabbi Jung's lessons in the meaning of Hebrew prayers were memorable. I fondly recall his teaching us to appreciate the beauty of poetic prayers such as Lecha Dodi, along with their literal  meanings..


 My Schoolmates

I started in the Jewish Center School, post-pneumonia, half way into the sixth grade. The grandparents of almost all the pupils had been poor immigrants from Eastern Europe. But they had indeed prospered in the goldeneh medina.

Most of the parents of my schoolmates, their children, were minimally, or at most only moderately observant. They sent their children to a Jewish school because they may have understood the danger of their losing their Jewishness completely in the US of the time. But some may only have wanted their children to have the benefit of a good private-progressive-secular education. The only such Jewish school available was that of The Jewish Center, which happened to be orthodox. (The alternative was the nonJewish Ethical Culture School.)

Those were among the reasons why the teaching of religious subjects was not at higher levels, such as would be required for Yeshivah-bound pupils.  The minimal orthodoxy of most family backgrounds, was matched by the not very strict orthodox practices in the school itself. For instance, we wore kippot only when studying Hebrew and religious subjects and eating lunch.


 Odd Man Out

In that school I was again a "foreigner," and not from a well-off home like my classmates. As such I was not socially accepted. My only school friend was also a new pupil. Like me he was not accepted by the other pupils, but only during his first year there. He was also the only classmate who had ever invited me to his home.

But I was not at all put out by social non-acceptance. For years, and for a variety of reasons, I had been "odd man out" in four different schools, so I had learned to accept that situation. I was quite self-sufficient and was not at all unhappy. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the school, aside from my classmates!

But I did have a secret "crush" on one of the girls in my class. Jeanne Bayer was a grand-daughter of William Fishman, founding president of The Jewish Center. Very much later, on a trip to Israel, she looked me up at Hadassah Hospital. Her granddaughter (or grandniece?) is now First Vice President of The Jewish Center.

When the school held a model seder (ceremonial Passover feast), I was appointed to lead it. This was because of my much better command of Hebrew, and my greater familiarity with the traditional seder service. My stellar solo performance leading that all-school function probably gained for me a bit of grudging respect and an increase in status among my snobbish class-mates.


The Koenigsberg Family

Not having many friends as a child left me with plenty of time for reading, which I did omnivorously. Mother was then supplementing her income by house-to-house selling of a children's encyclopedia, the massive 20-volume "Book of Knowledge." In Mother's sample set, I first enjoyed the many pictures. When I could read better I went through the picture captions. Finally I went on to read those parts of the text that interested me.

 One summer, Mother was on selling rounds in Long Branch, a NJ-coast summer resort, with me, of necessity, in tow. (I also demonstrated  to potential customers how much a child could learn from those books!) We met a wonderful woman, Pearl Koenigsberg. Pearl offered to have me stay with her family while Mother was selling. (At that time they had eight, of a final total of ten children,)  With that family, over the years, I was exposed to the rich, Orthodox Jewish religious culture, of which I had been missing so much.  

 A Shabbat with the Koenigsbergs was indeed a great Jewish experience. Esoteric as well as more well-known and established rituals and rarely sung z'mirot (religious table songs) that I learned from them, I taught my children, who in turn, have taught them to theirs. And Ben Koenigsberg, z’l, was a father-image from whom I learned not only much basic Yiddishkeit as such, but how to do things as esoteric as making tzitziot (ritual fringes), a complex process of winding and knotting strings in just a certain way, most of which I carried on. I also observed his being a stern, demanding, even domineering pater familias, which I didn't plan on becoming. The family friendship has been carried on, so far, through four generations of our families and the gradual migration of most of the two families to Israel!


My Bar Mitzvah

My Bar Mitzvah was not a very impressive rite of passage, neither for me nor the family. Mother answered an ad for a prospective Bar Mitzvah teacher in her weekly (Phila,) Jewish Exponent. (Which won a prize just recently for Jewish periodicals!). The teacher turned out to be Ben Koenisberg’s oldest son, Sam.

With great difficulty I learned to chant my Haftorah, but was not up to learning to read the Torah portion. My not having a voice didn't help. But I didn’t even do the “today I am a man” shtick. Perhaps most of the problem was slowness of full convalescence from pneumonia. More of the problem was probably due to my possible dyslexia (see below).

The bar mitzvah itself took place in the Bensonhurst Young Israel, which was then holding services in a rented hall. (That was one of the very first of the fast-spreading Young Israel congregations in America).



In retrospect, I have begun to think that much of the problem I had preparing for Bar Mitzvah was that in addition to a poor ear for music, I had some sort of dyslexia. I had learned to read Hebrew with difficulty. To this day I still read Hebrew with its vowel punctuation and trop (symbols for chanting), very slowly and with real difficulty.

I don't remember having had any difficulty with the very gradual, slow process of learning to read English as taught in public elementary school. But even with English, I recall my Mother being upset at my inability to learn to spell properly. It took years, and I was well along in college, before I fully mastered the spelling of ordinary English! I was a voracious reader early on, and that, plus native intelligence must have helped me to overcome my deficiencies when it came to the usual slow process of learning to read English and being taught in (public) elementary school. But I had real difficulty in learning to read Hebrew.

Surprisingly, my sabra granddaughter Tamah now tells me a similar story. She got 100% in her oral English bagrut (matriculation exam). But they had to make very special, semi-official allowances for her written English, not penalizing her for numerous mistakes in spelling (and in her native Hebrew as well, much as I used to have in English). She too was a voracious reader (of her native Hebrew),

 Further to reveal my deficiencies, I never succeeded in learning arithmetic beyond the five (multiplication) table! And equally incomprehensible, even now, I still count on my fingers to do arithmetic. Imagine, someone doing integral calculus counting on his fingers, as I did then! No wonder the only subject I ever got a C in was an intensive course in calculus!

Had our natural intelligence, the slow pace at which reading is taught in public schools, and our extensive early reading helped us overcome some type of mild to moderate, undiagnosed dyslexia?



It was not often that I or my few friends had birthday parties. But among my own children, and their children, almost every childhood birthday had its party. The only recognition of my birthdays usually consisted of just congratulations, and a present from my Mother.

My father’s only gift to me, ever, was on my Bar Mitzvah, when he gave me his Remington portable typewriter. (Mother had suggested that I ask for a typewriter, were he to ask what I wanted for my Bar Mitzvah, which he did, and I did.) It was in excellent condition and stood me in good stead for many years from my last year of elementary school, and during my academic, and most of my long professional career. But as a result of teaching myself to use that machine, I never learned touch-typing and still use the "hunt and peck" method in my frequent extensive writing!

I now am comfortable using a computer for word processing and information retrieval. But that began so much later, that before buying it I had to consider whether advancing old age might make learning to use it too difficult!


My Mother, My Teacher

During all my years of elementary and high school, I had a first class teacher at home. I sometimes questioned the extensive aid Mother would give me with my homework and especially with writing "themes" and compositions.  I was afraid it gave me an unfair advantage over my fellow students (such a tender conscience!). But she insisted that I was only benefiting from what she did for all her pupils, and why should I be deprived of her teaching just because she was my Mother?

Most important, and of considerable lasting benefit, was her teaching me to write clear, strong prose. She also persisted in correcting my deficiencies in spelling, punctuation and grammar over many long years. Much later, due to her continuous training (plus the benefit of two years of high school Latin) that I really learned English (!), and that qualified me as an editor. I was able to supplement my income in Israel by a long, auxiliary career of editing medical manuscripts of colleagues, and later, editing medical journals as well.


 Mother, a Founding Member of Hadassah

Mother had met Henrietta Szold when they were both lived in Baltimore. Later Mother had belonged to the "Women's Zionist Study Circle" which met in the basement of New York's Temple Emanuel. Miss Szold later used that group as the basis for forming the first chapter of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. It took that name because its first meeting was on Purim, and Hadassah was another name of Queen Esther. Thus Mother was a founding member of Hadassah, and I, one of the first "Hadassah orphans." She went on to found at least two other chapters herself, the Bensonhurst Chapter and later the Borough Park Business and Professional Chapter.


 Father, an Early Zionist

            My father also had very good Zionist credentials. He was the first Secretary of the newly organized Intercollegiate Zionist Federation. He also translated into English Leo Pinsker's book, the classic Zionist statement, "Auto-Emancipation." (We now live corner Pinsker St.) He also published at least one article about the founding of the Hebrew University. Early on he was officially associated with Hebrew University, long before teaching was organized.  During WWI he worked for the Jewish Welfare Board in Paris. At the Versailles Peace Treaty negotiations (end of WW I), he was the official translator for the Jewish delegation (for French, German, Hebrew, and Yiddish.


 Mother, Intellectual "Manquée"

            Rose Jaine had been a Yiddish-speaking ghetto-child who heard no English at home during her early years. When she graduated from Hunter College she won the first prize for Latin and the first prize for French as well! This would seem to foretell a bright academic future. But there was no one to appreciate her intellectual ability, nor were there finances for further study, had it been suggested.

            She was an unusually successful elementary school teacher, much appreciated and loved by her students. She would write and direct plays for her pupils to perform at all-school assemblies. Some of her grandchildren and even a great-grandchild or two seem to have inherited her talent for showmanship. Even in her latter years she displayed this talent, telling stories and singing for our family and for her Savtah Club (see below, Chapter XIII, Mother's Aliyah)..

             Although Mother had no more than minimal secondary education, she was nevertheless almost an intellectual (“manquée”). There was a period when in addition to her organizational and educational activities with her Hadassah chapters, she gave lectures on Jewish topics to various local groups. Subjects included Chassidism, Life and Teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, Zionism, "Palestine," etc. But she had no one to guide or encourage her to continue in that direction.

Mother took night courses, heard a great variety of lectures, attended the theatre and opera, and less often, concerts and recitals. She didn’t have too much of a problem getting "baby sitters" when I was a bit older, since early on she began taking me along with her.                     

The concerts and especially the operas I found boring, but the plays were great! I still have vivid memories of Green Pastures, Tobacco Road, RUR ("Russem's Universal Robots," which introduced the word "robot" into common usage), and of Paul Robeson singing "Ole Man River" on-stage in Showboat. Lectures I usually enjoyed too, such as Lee Simonson of the Theater Guild on stage setting. But of course the lectures didn't make nearly as much of an impression as did the plays.

            Later on she went on touring trips of the US and Europe when almost no one in her social group did. Tourism had not yet been born! And Mother took me along on her trips to Yellow Stone, the Far West, and at least two trips to Europe.

All of this intellectual initiative on her part took place although her community was almost completely devoid of such activity. All this by a ghetto child!


From Olden Days to Modern Times

            I have lived through a most interesting period of world history, of Jewish history and of developing social and cultural life, American and Jewish. Before reaching adulthood I saw our old "ice-box" replaced by the refrigerator; our coal-and-wood-burning cooking stove by the gas range; coal-fueled home heating by the oil-burner (coal used to be delivered by letting it pour through a spout on the delivery truck onto a noisy metal slide which carried it though a cellar window directly into the coal bin in the furnace room); mom-and-pop grocery stores by supermarket precursors; horse-drawn delivery wagons by motor trucks; the hand-wound phonograph by 45 and 33 rpm record players; wire and then tape recorders/players by hi-fi sets; movies by "talkies;" and black-and-white by Technicolor movie film. Now make way for 3-D, on the verge!

I also witnessed the introduction of the home telephone and home radio. TV came to our home very late (but when it did it completely replaced the radio for me). When the family auto appeared, the Frankels acquired a "Moon" sedan, a "make" that soon disappeared. It was followed by a Willys-Knight which also did! That was all very long before the Japanese appeared on the auto scene!  

 I was already reading newspapers when international arms reduction treaties were being negotiated, American membership in the League of Nations was being bitterly debated; the US Navy "dirigible balloon" ZR3 crashed; "Lucky Lindy" Lindberg landed in Le Bourget in the Spirit of St. Louis; Jack Dempsey was defeated by Gene Tunney on points; and the 1929 Wall Street market crashed. I was awakened one morning by sudden, multiple, engine noise. Through my window I saw the ever-so-low, swastika'ed labeled Hindenburg glide over us on its way to its final, fiery crash landing at the Lakehurst, N.J. air-field.

 So much for the past through which I have lived. As for the future before us, we have been waiting interminably for effective solutions to increasingly saturated urban and interurban transport systems. Will they be replaced by newer, more efficient systems of usage applied to innovative versions of cars and busses, or by completely new technology?

And of course, we have been waiting overlong for ecologically sound and efficient, alternative sources of energy to help solve our ecologically dismal, global transportation problems.


The Great Depression

In my very progressive Jewish Center (elementary) School, each of us pupils was "given" $1,000 to "invest" in the stock market (in Sept. 1929!). We were to consult those we considered knowledgeable for "tips" on stocks in which to invest  We were taught a most memorable lesson when just a month later we children were all "wiped out" by the 1929 crash, as well as so many of our parents were "for real!"

Our little family of two was very fortunate during the interminably long Great Depression that followed. School teachers had always been very poorly paid. But Mother had tenure with the NYC Board of Education and elementary schools couldn't close down, so there was never any danger of her losing her job, as was happening to so many others. Since her poverty stricken childhood, Mother had been very frugal, so the Depression made little difference to our standard of living, as it did so painfully to most of my schoolmates.

   The boy who sat in front of me in school wore very ragged, old clothes, and the pockets of his jacket hung open. It must have come from an old clothes store. I couldn’t resist slipping a quarter (of a dollar) into his gaping, jacket pocket. That was enough to buy a good lunch in those days when supper was “all you can eat for 60 cents” (as Childs' restaurants then advertised). I didn't do it again as I was afraid he might suspect me.


 The Oncoming Catastrophe

We were indeed aware of what was happening to the Jews of Europe. Jewish news got to us through agencies like the Jewish Telegraphic Association, and excerpts from the European Jewish and Yiddish press. There were even early-arriving European "refugees" living amongst us.

I remember well my personal reaction on being confronted with a concentration camp tattoo on the arm of a young refugee. Illogically, it was one of deep, personal shame. Shame that I was escaping what was happening to Jews in Europe by the luck of having grandparents who had immigrated to the US. It was unreasonable that I was not also being persecuted, a Jew just like all the miserable millions of European Jews.

On the other hand, as deeply as we felt the tragedies of our brothers, we knew little, as yet, of our own potential political power. We were still barely past the days of the signs "No Dogs or Jews" below those of "Rooms to Rent". Or "No Jews Need Apply" in help wanted ads. We had almost no idea of the power of mass demonstration as a political force. Our greatest leader then, Rabbi Stephen Wise, barely made a few personal approaches to President Roosevelt on behalf of European Jewry, ineffective as they were.    


 Choosing College and Profession

Choosing a college to apply to was no problem. I had decided on City College (CCNY) because it ranked very high academically, was tuition free, and I could live at home while attending. Also, graduates of Townsend Harris High were accepted at CCNY without having to take the trouble of passing the entrance exams. As to choice of profession, I expected to arrive at that decision during my college years.




  Gaudeamus igitur!  *

In elementary school I was "skipped" (advanced) half of the fourth year just before we left for Palestine. This was the first of a not inconsiderable series of scholastic achievements. I was almost always among the top achievers, but never at the very top.

I was one of the two boys of my Jewish Center School class chosen to take the city-wide exams for admission to Townsend Harris High School. That was the prestigious, three-year (instead of four) preparatory high school for City College; we both passed.

 I was elected to Arista, the inter-high school honor society (not in the first selection but in the second and last round, a year later).

 I won a NY State Regents Exam Scholarship to college ($50 for each of 4 years of college attendance, today equivalent to a total of more than $30,000!). But that was only because I lived in Manhattan. In New York's four other, more populous boroughs, higher grades than mine were needed. (Regents exams are the equivalent of Israel's high school bagrut.)

 In college I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the inter-collegiate honor society, to which my father had been elected in his day and my late wife Syril in hers, But again, I made it only on the second call. I graduated City College cum laude, with honors, but neither summa nor magna cum laude.

 In medical school I was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the inter-medical school honor society (but again, only in the second round). Thus I had consistently missed first round selections to four scholastic merit groups in high school, college and medical school. But all those delays were very good for limiting pride, or excessive self-esteem!

 * Medieval student drinking song: Gaudeamus igitur iuvenes dum sumus (Let's be happy while we are still young!)

I opted to take the more rigorous exams of the US National Board of Medical Examiners. Passing a State Board licensing exam entitled you to practice only in that state; passing the National Boards entitled you to practice throughout the US. I placed on the Honor Roll of the National Board exams for my year; and in Pharmacology my 94 was the highest in the country. There, that was an exception, my one and only absolute top rank distinction!


 Record of Regents Exams

A spin-off of my winning a New York Regents Exam Scholarship was that the marks of scholarship winners were printed in the New York Times. When I applied for US citizenship for the three of my children born in Israel, I needed evidence of my having lived in the US before my Army service abroad. My son Menahem, found the New York Times record of my Regents (Scholarship) grades so many years later in the US Library of Congress. That was the only proof I had available of my ever having been a resident of the US in my youth.

 My choice of City College was made long before politically correct, anti-elitist politicians insisted that the high admission standards of NY's City College be lowered. The result was a tremendous fall in City College's very high academic status. The academic ability of the students it was then being forced to accept was minimal. But lately, since renewal of more exacting admission requirements, City College has regained most of the academic prestige it had lost.

 Since I had decided that my future lay among the sciences, I enrolled in the Bachelor of Science program (BSc). When later I had to choose a subject to major in, I felt mildly inclined to, rather than definitely preferred, Biology.

 I did well in college. However, when given the choice, for some reason I elected to take the more advanced of two integral calculus courses (one of the two being compulsory for the BSc degree). That turned out to be a disaster! I had to struggle most painfully to cope with the material, instead of sailing through smoothly as I usually did (I was the only one in that class who was not a math major). I ended up with my only C grade, but had agonized in fear that I might actually get a D!


Choosing Medicine

When I was choosing a career, Mother arranged for me to consult with a relative, a prominent neurologist accomplished in clinical research. Dr. Nathan Savitsky strongly urged that I go in for medicine, as, beside other advantages, it offered such an unusually wide range of possibilities for specialization. The range was from clinical practice to research, and specialties from very hands-on-surgery to no-hands psychiatry.

 I had no urge to specialize in any particular science, but I finally did decide on medicine. However, I took so long to make my decision that I almost missed the deadlines for applying to medical school!

 At that time there was an unofficial, but very effective numerus clausus, which severely limited the number of Jews accepted by most US medical schools. New York's City College was well known for its overwhelming majority of Jewish students. So I had two strikes against me. I was Jewish, and had studied in a college known for its unusually great preponderance of smart, but relatively uncultured Jews.

They were mostly sons of European immigrants, as I was on my Mother's side. But to my advantage was that my father was a US-born university professor, very rare status for American Jews at that time. Also, my record only approached, but fell short of brilliance, so I wasn't too smart a Jew (reputedly a reason for bias against admitting Jews!).


 Cornell Medical School, NYC

I had applied to all the four medical schools in NY City, and was accepted at the same time by both Cornell and NYU Med. Since Cornell had the higher standing (and tuition was even slightly lower!), I withdrew my application from NYU. I also withdrew my applications from both Columbia and Flower-Fifth Avenue Hospital Medical Schools before I heard from them.

 I joked that I was accepted by Cornell only for them to prove that it wasn’t true that they didn’t accept Jews from City College! Only four of the 64 students in my class at Cornell were Jewish (6%, 1938). There was one other graduate of City College, but he was also the son of a professor (at CCNY) and non-Jewish as well.

Recently I found the following statistics on the Internet. "Cornell Medical School was admitting Jews to a total of 40% of the class in 1918-22. By 1940-42 it had fallen to 3.5%. But by the 1950's the numerus clausus was being abandoned in American higher education, the last in the year 1948."

  Many years later, a very successful Jewish Wall Street financier, Sanford Weil, made a multi-million dollar donation to Cornell Medical School (worth well into the billions today!) It then changed its name to Weil-Cornell Medical School. I presume it was also why it became so much more accepting of Jewish students thereafter.

I remember my shock when visiting during our Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion, to see in the lobby of our medical school a couple of white-coated students wearing kippot (skullcaps, which I myself did not wear in those days). I don't think anyone wearing a kippa would have passed the interview for admission to any US med school in my time.


 Medical School Days

            I thoroughly enjoyed the intensive studies during the four years of medical school. After my having being accepted at Cornell, we moved from the West Side of Manhattan to the East Side and we now lived in a standard three-room apartment. The move was so that I could walk to med school to attend lectures on Shabbat (although I didn't take notes). When I could get to shul, it was either to one very close by, (where the elders spoke Hungarian, not Yiddish!), or to Rabbi Lookstein's shul, much farther off.

 I had learned at college that when I put in many hours studying, I would do well. But if I eased up ever so little in my studies, my marks would fall precipitously. So in med school I would hit my books and lecture notes almost every night until 10 PM, when I just couldn't stay awake any longer! I needed nine hours of sleep almost every night. (Now, in old age, I get along comfortably with barely five hours).

Seating in class was alphabetical, so Margaret Austin, Hillel Blondheim and Charles Breedis would end up seated together at lectures and in laboratory groups, year after year. We were a very compatible little group.


Latter Day Marriage Proposal!

When Margaret and I met again at our 50th Reunion, we both were 74, and both of us had recently lost our mates. After the usual round of greetings and updating, on impulse she said: "Hilly, let's get married!" My response was, "Were that an offer of just a night or two together, the expected response would have been, 'my place or yours?' But since marriage is involved, the response would have to be 'my religion or yours?'" She being a confirmed atheist, and I a practicing Jew, we left it at that.

A few years later she visited us in Israel and with a number of other guests had Sabbath eve dinner with Eva and me. After all our Sabbath se'udah-related rites, rituals and ceremonies, including the singing of many zemirot and bentching (grace) had ended, she said: "Hilly, I'm glad you married Eva and not me!" 



In deciding to which hospitals to apply to for internship, I was influenced by the son of a friend of Mother's. He strongly urged me to apply to Lenox Hill Hospital, at which he was an attending physician. I applied there and was accepted.

Lenox Hill Hospital was above average in clinical status, but below that of very superior hospitals such as Mt. Sinai (NY); it was also quite close to my home. But its atmosphere was so very goyish! (non-Jewish). There I heard, and even enjoyed, many Christmas carols (HaShem yerachem!), from childhood on most of which were very lovely and which I hadn't heard before on the radio.


Internship had been reduced by the war from the usual two years to only one (1942-3). We were therefore rotated through the various medical specialties at high speed, spending only two or three weeks in only one or two of the minor ones.

Even general surgery was so limited in duration and scope that I never got to lift a scalpel, except as an assistant who passed it on to the operating surgeon (see Chapter VII: Appendicitis on the High Seas). The "surgeon" was usually a resident who had just finished his own internship. He needed every opportunity to practice his future specialty during his war-time limited surgical residency.

So many years have since passed, that I can now reveal an unpleasant early experience in the operating room. It was a very hot day before air conditioning was introduced. I was scrubbed-in as an assistant, standing in at an abdominal operation. I had to be grabbed by one of the other assistants as I was falling to the floor, having fainted dead-away!


My First Medical Research

While I was rotating through the obstetrical service there were unusually few births. So I filled in much of my increased spare time reading obstetrical journals. I found there was a problem in the satisfactory recording of tracings of the weak, electrical waves produced by the fetal heart beat.

 There were a number of reports of efforts to develop an ECG apparatus sufficiently sensitive to record a satisfactory fetal cardiogram. But I was sure that there already was such a sufficiently sensitive apparatus already at hand! The standard EEG (electroencephalograph) had been designed to record brain waves. which were of electrical amplitudes very much weaker than those of heart waves.

 I therefore wheeled pregnant women, who were lying around the obstetrical ward for various reasons, into the EEG lab. (I did the wheeling myself because of the wartime lack of orderlies.) Thinking, "outside the box," all I had to do was to apply the leads of the EEG to the mother's abdomen, instead of to her head. Voila! There, in all the recordings were additional small, but very clear fetal heart waves among the much larger maternal ones.

So this simple method, breech presentations (rear end up) and multiple pregnancies (twins, etc.) could easily be determined. In a breech the fetal ECG would be upside down (as was the fetus, and in twins, two sets of fetal ECGs would be seen. Thus both mother and fetus would be spared the potential dangers of X-rays, especially these of the much larger voltages that had to be used in those days.

 On my return after three years of army service, I found that there had not been a single article published on fetal electrocardiography since the few I had read back then. So I ran a few more subjects, wrote up the series, and sent the paper to one of the best cardiology journals of the day, the American Heart Journal.

They accepted my article for publication, and included apparently sincere thanks from the editor for sending them my article. The war had indeed been severely limiting the volume submission of original research for publication. That was indeed a promising omen for the start of my career as a clinical scientist!


 Lactose Intolerance

            Eating at that non-kosher hospital was a problem during my internship and again during my post-army residency there. To keep up my caloric intake, I would start breakfast by lining up four glasses of milk on my tray! After my internship I spent most of the next three years in army service overseas. During those years the only milk available was in the form of evaporated milk (for coffee).

When I returned to Lenox Hill Hospital after the war, I found I could again barely tolerate more than a few swallows of milk without an abdominal rebellion. So I began very slowly to increase my intake until once again I was able to tolerate a milk intake sufficient for my special, increased needs!

 Then came aliyah to Israel and tzena (food rationing), read: no milk for adults. A few years later, food restrictions having been relaxed, I enjoyed a small bag of milk (cartons came later) during a rest-stop. (Jerusalem to Tel Aviv then took almost two hours, now only about 45 min., absent traffic jams). Once more there were almost immediate abdominal protests! But again, after slowly increasing my milk intake, I was once more able to tolerate milk in my usual large quantities.

So I had twice gone through the cycle of losing the ability to metabolize lactose (milk sugar) through disuse, and regaining it by slowly increasing my milk intake. That would have made a good publication, had I had other cases besides myself!





World War II

I was born just before the end of World War I and I participated actively in World War II. During my second year in medical school the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I joined the US Army program that assigned medical students to a deferred category. We were allowed to finish the regular four year, medical school program. But we were only allowed to complete a single year of internship (shortened from the usual two or more years). Then we were to be called to active duty as First Lieutenants in the U.S. Army Medical Corps (or its equivalent in other branches of the military service). That was just one cut above the lowest possible officer's rank (2nd Lt.)


 Initiation into U. S. Army

My induction into the armed forces was very informal, almost a do-it-yourself, solo performance. In a downtown department store I bought a dress uniform. I then took a regular commercial bus line to Fort Devens, Mass. where I was to report for active duty. This was specified in the official orders sent by regular mail to my home address (not even by registered mail!).

  On arrival there I wandered around, orders in hand, until I finally made the proper contact. I was then registered, assigned a bed in the BOQ (Bachelor Officers' Quarters), and put on the payroll. After being measured and assigned field uniforms, I was "In the army now, and not behind the plow!" (as they sang in WW I).


 Fort Devens, Massachusetts

Lovell General Hospital was the station hospital of Fort Devens, Mass. Its medical pool briefly trained medical officers. It then assigned them to serve in army units, near and far, as needed. The head of the Lovell Hospital medical service was Col. Julian Jacobs, a grizzled old WW I veteran.

 We did a fair amount of "hup, tup, thrup, fo'!" (close-order drill), parading, gas-mask drill and physical training. For some reason I hadn't been sent initially to Camp Carlisle, the school for newly inducted medical officers. There I would have been extensively taught about army routine and military medicine.

I realized what I had missed when an MP (military police) sergeant stopped me one hot, summer day in town. He was embarrassed, and most apologetic, because he, an enlisted man, had to tell me, an officer, to button up my open jacket! That was how I learned, to my embarrassment as well, that army regulations require uniforms to be kept fully buttoned at all times!

 We had a ward of Italian prisoners-of-war, captured during our invasions of Sicily and Italy. When asked about his condition, one prisoner said that when originally hospitalized it was for papatachi (sand-fly) fever. I was the only one on ward rounds who had ever heard of the disease, and not only that, but knew a bit about it. “How did you know all that?” asked Col. Jacobs. The answer was that I had had papatachi fever myself, as a child in Palestine!


 Camp McCain, Mississippi.

After a few pleasant months in Fort Devens, including dating girls in nearby Worcester, I was ordered to report to Station Hospital, Camp McCain, Grenada, Mississippi. I found another medical officer who was also ordered there and who had a car. I traveled with him, kept him awake as needed while he was driving, and shared expenses.

In that Station Hospital I was put in charge of the psychiatric ward. I suffered greatly because of my unreasonable distaste for that branch of medicine. I was barely distracted by the interesting, if unpleasant, sociology of the local scene at the time. I was witnessing real apartheid: southern, racial segregation! Would anyone, in his wildest imagination, would have thought that in less than one lifetime US would have a colored president?  

A few hours north was Memphis, Tennessee, where there was a large Jewish community. The dateless girls and their families were most welcoming of Jewish service boys, even if so many of us spoke with "foreign" (northern) accents.


 Tropical Medicine Course

I got some relief from my personal emotional trauma of being a pseudo-psychiatrist when I was sent for a one-month course in tropical medicine to Walter Reed Hospital, Wash., DC. The positive side was that it was really a first rate course, with lectures by the nation's leading researchers. Less pleasant was the prospect of probably being sent to practice what we were taught, appropriately, in the Asian Theater of Operations.

But my fears notwithstanding, a few months later I was being prepared to be sent overseas to the ETO (European Theater of Operations). I had a choice assignment to a numbered general hospital (the 62nd G.H.) Such numbered general hospitals were fixed installations overseas, to which were evacuated the severely wounded and seriously ill in rear echelon, non-combat zones.


Enjoyable Amy Service!

I confess with embarrassment to having had not only a most interesting, but even enjoyable period of service in the army! Only when serving in combat zones, was I actually under enemy fire, and that I found more exciting than fearsome. (Of course we had all crawled under "live" fire (sic?) in training exercises.)  

 Getting way ahead of my story: During my first night upfront after later assignment to an infantry division, I was surrounded by frequent earth-shaking explosions. I kept my cool, and continued all night treating and dressing the wounds of the casualties as they arrived.

But in the morning I found out more about those explosions that I was so proud were not affecting me or my work. They were from our own artillery, and we were encamped right along-side such a unit! I learned that both outgoing and incoming "mail," (shells and more modern tactical missiles alike), make the same amount of noise when fired as when landing and exploding. I had not really been in any danger at all!


"Over There! Over There!" *        

After a few months of training and preparation, our newly formed hospital unit sailed across the submarine-infested Atlantic, uneventfully T.G. We were in the old, formerly luxurious, Cunard liner Mauritania, now a tightly-packed troop ship.

Sitting on a top birth, I laid tefillin (prayer phylacteries) My other seven cabin-mates must have wondered why I was tying myself up. But they asked no questions and I volunteered no answers.

 I became friendly with a Protestant chaplain during the passage who soon felt the need to help me see the light, "the true path." I am always impressed with how the more a Jew or Christian knows about his own faith, the less he can understand how a Christian or Jew can possibly believe in the other faith, which is so obviously unbelievable!


 European Vacation

We landed at Gourock, the port of Glasgow, Scotland. From there we were sent for temporary billeting to Rhyl, a little town on the northern coast of Wales. We had almost nothing to do, as we were not yet functioning as a hospital. So I bought me a bicycle and often went cycling through the lovely spring countryside, sight-seeing.

Rhyl is situated near Colwyn Bay. Because of the ethnicity of so many of their peace-time summer vacationers, the local wags called those locales "IsRhyl" and "Cohen Bay!"


62nd General Hospital, in England

Our vacation ended a few weeks later when we were transferred to our definitive location, near Cheltenham (southern England). The town is still known for its race track, nonfunctional in war time. There we began our hospital work in the barracks of a temporary hospital installation, which had just been vacated for us by a British Army unit.

 I was put in charge of a medical ward. Although unrelated to my special training in tropical medicine, but coincidentally, it soon filled up with soldiers with relapsing malaria! Their initial infections had been acquired in our invasions of Sicily and southern Italy.

One of the worst aspects of the malarial attack is the initial, severe, shaking chill that persists for up to an hour or so. It was usually more unpleasant and difficult to endure than the fever itself that followed. That was partly because we had effective palliatives for fever. Of course, for malaria itself we had curative drugs, but they took a while to work and were usually started only after the first of a series of diagnostic chills had occurred. I was therefore concerned with what could be done to ease the rigors of those chills.


My Innovation: Morphine for Malarial Chills

During my abbreviated internship I had successfully treated a case of subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE). At that time, before the advent of antibiotics, it was a fatal heart infection. I thought it might be possible to combat the infection with induced therapeutic fever.

 Not so long before, in 1927, a Nobel Prize had been awarded for the successful treatment of syphilitic paresis with induced malarial fever. Therapeutic fever, later used for other infectious diseases as well, was then being induced by non-living, typhoid vaccine, instead of by living, malarial parasites.

 To alleviate the chills associated with the onset of the induced fever, intravenous (IV) morphine was used. I had therefore used it to control the chills in my patient with SBE whom I was treating on an experimental basis. It had worked so well that I decided to try it for the severe chills of natural, mosquito-transmitted malaria in my patients.

 I used the same dose of morphine for the malarial chills of my patients as was used for the chills produced by typhoid vaccine. It worked wonderfully well. The chills often stopped, as in the medical cliché, "before the needle was out of the vein." I hadn't gotten permission to use IV morphine in my experimental treatment of malarial chills. So I didn’t dare to publish, even after the war, my series of 21 patients whose malarial chills were aborted, stopped cold (sic!), by morphine.

 For the same reason I could not publish my cure [first ever?] of then fatal SBE by IV typhoid vaccine fever, which was my original idea. But by the end of the war penicillin was introduced which effectively cured SBE. My original cure of a previously incurable disease was now outdated, so I didn't consider it worth publishing.

Years later the patient I cured, looked me up. It was to thank me for having saved his life (which I had!), not to sue me for using an experimental treatment which I hadn't fully explained to him nor gotten his permission to use on him. (But that clinical experiment was performed before the Helsinki Convention was adopted, so actually I wasn't as great a medical criminal as I had thought!)


 ECG Unit

I was also put in charge of our Electrocardiographic Unit, which consisted of a single, little, portable ECG machine and just me! I was struck by the frequency of abnormally slow pulses among our first patients, as recorded in their cardiograms. I finally figured out the reason- the English electrical current!

The speed of the ECG apparatus was calibrated by adjusting it to the frequency of alternation of the AC electrical household current. In the US the AC frequency is 60 cycles per second, but in the UK it is only 50! A clever technician compensated by technical means for the slower UK electrical frequency. I was then able to speed up my machine and its recordings and thus "cure" our "epidemic" of bradycardia (slow heart beat)!


"Chaplain" Blondheim

In the absence of a Jewish chaplain, I organized and led Kabalat Shabbat (Friday evening) services for our Jewish staff members. I was the only one, voice or no voice, able to do it in our unit.

All chaplains were issued a scarf for ritual purposes. Christian chaplains got a black one, on the corners of which red crosses were embroidered. This was the 'stole' they wore while officiating. Jewish chaplains got a talit (prayer shawl) of exactly the same material, size, and cut. But it was white and on each corner was embroidered a blue magen Daveed (Shield of David),

But there was another and more significant difference between the ritual shawls Jewish chaplains got and the others. In each of the four corners was a hole for stringing tzitziot (ritual fringes). As the unofficial substitute for a Jewish chaplain I was given such a chaplain's talit.

I don't remember where I got the sixteen woolen strings that were needed. But I do remember that I threaded them through the holes provided, and wound and knotted them in exactly the prescribed complicated way. I remembered the details of that procedure from having been taught it, way back, by Ben Koenigsberg in my early youth. How proud I was of myself! I wonder how many not-so-kosher talitot without tziziot, were being used by not-so-observant (both meanings!) Jewish chaplains in the US Army! 

 I always had the thorough-going cooperation of the Protestant chaplain assigned to cover for our lack of a Jewish chaplain. He was most helpful, and even preached scrupulously nonsectarian sermons for us. Conversely, in the absence of a Christian chaplain, Jewish chaplains occasionally had to administer last rites for dying Christian soldiers!

One of our chaplain's sermons was devoted to a listing of the contents of the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle. They included the fragments of the first tablets of the Ten Commandments, broken in anger by Moses. I am ashamed that I don't remember the reason the Chaplain gave for the importance of those broken tablets. I suspect it was probably the one that I later heard had been given by Rashi.


New Broom Sweeps

Soon after our transfer overseas, the colonel in command of our hospital unit was removed for one or more deficiencies. His replacement gave a memorable first address to our medical and nursing staff.

He denounced our married medical officers who were finding solace for enforced singleness by openly consorting with nurses, in consistent, fixed couples. They had included the original commanding officer of our hospital unit and his army girl friend (possibly a reason he was later removed from our unit).

Our new commander also made up for his predecessor’s neglect in not promoting officers who had been long enough in-grade in their original units before being assigned to our newly formed unit.


 Betty Hillman, RN

I became friendly with one of our nurses, Betty Hillman, a pious Catholic. I couldn't understand why she only dated Jewish or married officers (but did not "go steady"). We continued our friendship after we were discharged from the Army. I then found out why she had been avoiding entangling alliances: she was committed to becoming a nun, and did!

We corresponded throughout the years. Eventually Mother Elizabeth, (formerly Sister Elizabeth, and before that, Lieutenant Hillman) came to visit us in my daughter Debbie's home in her settlement here in Israel (Michmas). I was very disappointed and unhappy with how such a once sprightly, sparkling personality had been overshadowed by one or a combination of: depression, premature aging, or a lifetime in "holy orders."


 Channel Crossing

When the Germans launched their "buzz bombs" (V-1 and then V-2), they regularly overflew our hospital. They were on their way to bomb urban populations farther north. Soon after came D-Day, when our invasion of "Fortress Europa" started.

After a few days of suspenseful waiting in a Channel-side camp, we were loaded onto a troop-ship. On D+5 (5 days after long awaited D-Day) we crossed the now quiet Channel. We pitched our two-man pup-tents among the hedgerows of Normandie and enjoyed weeks of lovely vacationing. We had to wait until our troops finally were able to fight their way out of our Normandie beachhead and capture the road to Paris.

 In the field next to my tent I found beautifully detailed aeronautical maps of northern France and Belgium, dumped (in error?) by our overflying air corps. I scavenged a few as souvenirs (of which more below).


 "Lafayette, We Are Here!" (WWII army slogan)

            On our way to Paris the cheers of the newly liberated French population were most heartening. But we felt guilty receiving plaudits which had been earned by our combat troops. In bitter battles they had finally broken out of the Normandie pocket and then fought through masses of German troops until they had cleared the road to Paris.

Now we were driving through cheering crowds of French civilians. Flowers were thrown our way, cognac and calvados (the local hard apple cider) were liberally dispensed, and kisses from the ma’m'selles were abundantly bestowed. Our convoy worked its way carefully through the applauding crowds. 

          We drove into rejoicing Paris and right through it to our new hospital in the lovely suburb of Eaubonne, on the far side of Paris. Our hospital building, which was quite new, had been used by the German Kriegsmarin and had been evacuated by them only a day or so before. Here our work was very intense, treating our wounded and severely ill soldiers.

 Since arriving in France I was relearning my college French. Asking our way through Paris to Eaubonne as leader of my little hospital group, I was often told to drive "tout droit." I assumed that since "tout" meant all, and "droit" meant right, that "tout droit" meant something like "hard right." What I didn't know was that "tout droit" was the idiom for 'straight ahead!' Turning right "as directed," I finally realized we were taking a long time getting nowhere in particular and in fact were driving in circles!


Four months later: The Menorah Journal, vol. XXXII, No. 2 (Autumn 1944), pp. 216-220.


L E T T E R S   F R O M   A B R O A D



NEW YEAR IN France, 5705


Somewhere in France

October 1, 1944


This is an account of how the Jewish members of an American Army unit in France witnessed the age-old miracle of Jewish survival, and how it affected them.

  There had once been a thriving Jewish community in this beautiful little town. It had slowly dwindled, and then died suddenly, just one year ago. There remained a synagogue, half hidden among the trees, beautiful in its simplicity, showing no trace of five years of sorrow and desolation, and no scars of the battle that had raged but recently. Scrolls of the Law, prayer books, chairs and furnishing, all were there, undisturbed--but no congregation.

Yet we did find the rabbi. A little old man, gaunt and haggard, he had returned less than two weeks before, after more than a year of anxious hiding in Paris. Oui, his synagogue would be open for the High Holy Days. But there would be no congregation. Just his family and two--no, three other families he knew to have returned--would be there.

 But we knew that some synagogues in Paris would be open. The circular from the Army Chaplain's Headquarters had listed them. We had two alternatives. The first was to spend the Yom Tov in still off-limits Paris, to see that grand and once-more-gay city for the first time, to meet the comparatively large remnant of the Parisian Jewish community, and to join with them in their services at the great Rothschild Synagogue. The other alternative was to come to a deserted shul, in this little town, to replace a missing congregation.         

At our weekly Friday evening Shabbat services the question was put to a vote. And to a man the GI's voted for -- not  for glittering Paris, still off-limits to US military personnel on leave, but for the deserted shul and the old rabbi and the two or maybe three families. They passed up "gay Paree" for the sacred duty and privilege of replacing a Jewish congregation which German brutality had destroyed.

 Forty of us piled into trucks for the trip to Paris. Some of us dressed up in honor of the Holy Day by adding a necktie to the required field uniform. We rumbled along the highways and soon found ourselves in a region where the American uniform was still a rare sight. A waving, smiling population lined the roads. We reaped the laurels earned by our combat forces who had fought their way through two or three weeks previously.

 We swung around the corner and up the street of the synagogue. And suddenly we saw the miracle. There was a congregation! Tensely it had been waiting for us in front of the synagogue. And now at the sight of us it burst into a shout of greeting. Cheers, applause, and tears, joyous tears, welcomed us. We jumped down from the trucks to grasp the outstretched hands of our new found brothers. "Shalom aleichem…"

 Where had they all come from so suddenly? How had they weathered the interminable storm? Most of them had been in hiding in the mazes of Paris. Some had dared to remain in town, living so quietly that even the owners of the houses did not know they were there, cramped four or five to a single tiny room. And here was a man who had just arrived that morning, after escaping from a concentration camp in Luxembourg. In the confusion of moving the slaves into the interior in the face of the American advance, he had made good his escape. And here was a family of modern Maranos who had never registered as Jews but had lived as gentiles until now.

 Due to that complete breakdown of communication that our bombers had so successfully effected, no one knew of the return of friends or relatives until they met each other gathering at the synagogue to celebrate this ever so happy New Year.

 The synagogue was dark, and tense with emotion. The flickering candles in the menorah at the reading desk and a few others gave off the only light. Behind them, the rear of the synagogue was buried in blackness. As the rabbi, in his white talit and robe began the Kol Nidray service, the excitement hushed. Those in front crowded close around the bimah to catch the dim candle light in their open prayer books. Olive drab woolens and GI helmet crowded close together with somber civilian ersatz and beret. High and clear rose the familiar three-fold chant of the most awe-inspiring Kol Nidray of our lives.

The congregation was thinking back one year, to the last service that had been held in that synagogue. Yom Kippur, 5704. Thirty-five men had gathered there for the Atonement services. Although the Gestapo had been hunting for the rabbi, he had insisted on leaving his hiding place in Paris to return and minister to his tiny congregation. His family had pleaded with him not to endanger his life. Their advice was sound.

With leveled submachine guns the Germans burst into the synagogue and ordered the talis-clad worshippers to put up their hands. For forty minutes they kept the fasting congregation standing with hands up, as they checked identification and registration papers. Then they marched them off to the police station for further questioning. Ten were loaded into a waiting van and deported immediately to Germany, or perhaps Poland-- no one knows were, no one ever heard of them again. But the rabbi, for whom they had been searching so long, unknowingly they allowed to slip from their grasp.

 Now Yom Kippur, 5705. The last notes of Kol Nidray fade away into the darkness, and the rabbi turns to address the congregation.         

Suddenly the whole synagogue bursts into a bright blaze of light! An involuntary and joyous gasp of relief escapes from the congregation. This is the first time in two months that there has been any electric light in this town, and the first time the synagogue lights have been lit in over a year.

Gone is the spirit of Yom Kippur, of penitence and atonement and affliction of the flesh. It's Hanukah, the festival of lights, of victory over those who banned our worship. It's Passover, the festival of liberty, of freedom from slavery and forced labor. In anticipation it's Purim, the great Purim soon to come, God-willing, when we will celebrate the destruction of the tyrant who sought to destroy us all and came so perilously close to succeeding.

 The rabbi greets us in slow and distinct Yiddish, that former Jewish lingua franca. He wished as a "boruch haba." They had been waiting for us as for the Messiah. Millions of Jews had been killed, ultimate destruction was not far off; and now we were come at last, barely in time. "May you be blessed, and may your great land America be blessed, and your great and good leader Roosevelt. May you all be privileged to return soon in peace to your families and homes." "Amen! cried the congregation.

The references to those who had fallen in the great slaughter, and to those who were still suffering under the Nazi yoke, stirred bitter, quiet tears. Would the American advance be swift enough to save friends and loved ones still alive, perhaps, in that great lebensraum of death? Even a GI here and there wiped furtively at his nose.

 After the service we chat with our French co-religionists. Our French hasn’t had time to develop much beyond the oui-non stage with accompanying gestures. Our Yiddish is strictly second-generation American, very scant and halting. And their English is confined to a few garbled phrases of salutation and welcome. But everyone seems to understand each other none-the-less. The boys and girls are flirting in a very universal language. Here is a GI talking fluent Hungarian with a "landsman." Here is another talking pure Hebrew with a Sepharadi Jew from Turkey.

 Look a little closer at these people. See how collars hang loosely about emaciated necks. That girl over there, shyly holding hands with the sergeant, was found lying in the street a few months ago. I didn’t need a very astute clinician at the hospital to make the diagnosis of starvation. And how many do you see between the ages of eighteen and fifty? A wide swath has been mown down the middle of the congregation by the black scythe, forged in Potsdam and sharpened in Munich.

 We are invited to various homes to break our fast. Some are royally feasted in the few homes where the host has outsmarted the official and unofficial Nazi looters. I am invited to the home of the rabbi. The entrée of canned gefulte fish, the gift of a soldier, is followed by vegetable soup. Then comes the piece de resistance, fried potatoes. There is dark bread on the table and salt. The meal is ended with peaches from a local orchard and tea that has been saved for five years for just this sort of occasion.   

 The next Friday night we talk over our experiences after Shabbat services. We are very ignorant Jewishly. Our Protestant chaplain, filling in for a non-available Jewish chaplain, gives us a weekly sermonette. He tells us Bible stories that are shamefully unfamiliar to most of us.

 We try to sum up our reactions to the great and moving experience we have just passed through. We vaguely sense that now, perhaps, we have increased understanding of the problems of our people. It has made us better Jews and Americans, or better Zionists, or better world citizens, or something kinda like that. It's tough figuring this out. Anticlimactically we settle it all by deciding to give the foodstuffs in our next package from home to our new friends.   

 But what of the miracle that has transpired before our eyes, the saving of the she'arit, the eternal remnant of our people?                                   

"On the ball, soldier, let's go!" it's too late to try to figure out tonight. 



                               S. Hillel Blondheim                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                               1st Lt. Med. Corps                                                   

                               U. S. Army


 Hospital Work Again

Among our first patients were German POWs (prisoners of war). Of course I was very correct in my behavior towards them. However, while setting up an infusion of (yellow) blood plasma for one of them in our triage room, I couldn't help telling him that he was getting "Judische blut," Jewish blood (because yellow was the color assigned by the Nazis to Jews).

My propagandistic slant was all wrong. Like any confirmed Nazi, he must have been quite content to be getting an advantage from Jews. Unlike our bigoted, Southern, white supremacists then who refused to receive blood of blacks, he didn't react to "Jewish blood" as they had to the blood of blacks, by rejecting it. I didn't realize he might have been pleased to be benefitting from us by getting our very "heart's  blood!" 


 Battle of the Bulge

             The invasion of France had been on June 6th.  After almost three months of being held up by the difficulty of breaking through the ancient hedge-rows (the "bocage") of Normandie, came our breakthrough. Now the Allied armies were heading deep into Europe. But just before Christmas came a massive German counter-attack, resulting in the “Battle of the Bulge.” They had driven our lines back so fast that the newspapers fell far behind in their reporting. But I took advantage of a convenient source of fresh and accurate information.

In Paris we were getting wounded direct from the front, often the same day they were wounded. I therefore would ask arriving casualties where they had been when they were hit. These locations I marked on a wonderful map of the battle ground (northern Belgium) that I had pinned on a wall. It was one of the maps I had picked up outside my pup-tent back in Normandie!

I now had a relatively up-to-date picture of our rapidly retreating front line and of the developing bulge. But when our line was being driven back even faster, and despairing of any accuracy, I simply drew a thick arrow indicating roughly the location and depth of the German breakthrough.

 The increasing casualty rate of the developing Battle of the Bulge was severely depleting our front line forces. To cope with vacancies in medical staff, our rear echelon units were being stripped of younger medical officers. They were being sent, including me, to fill those vacancies. So 24 hours after I drew that break-through arrow on my map, I found myself in a field on the outskirts of a village (named 'My'). I was  exactly at the very point of that arrow!  I have saved that map as my most poignant military souvenir.


 Assigned to Infantry

I had been reassigned to the 375th Collecting Company of the 75th Infantry Division, which had just recently arrived on the battle front.

The medical service of an infantry division included “medics” (trained first-aid men) stationed among the front line troops; then medical officers (MD's) in battalion aid stations a little farther back, and then, at increasing distances further back, collecting companies, field hospitals and then numbered general hospitals in non-combat zones (such as my 62nd General Hospital in Paris). Finally, if casualties were still not rehabilitated by suitable treatment in a general hospital, they were evacuated to State-side ("named") general hospitals, such as my Lovell General Hospital at Fort Devens, Veteran's Hospitals, or special army facilities like Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC.


 Just Behind "the Line"

Working in the field in collecting station, under very stressful physical and psychological conditions, I began to have nausea and lack of appetite. I was very upset and even ashamed at the thought that I might be getting "psychosomatic symptoms." But after a fortnight, I fully recovered. In retrospect, I might have been suffering from a mild attack of infectious hepatitis, then common in our troops (I hadn't checked the color of my eye-whites for jaundice!).

I was very much relieved that I wasn’t over-reacting to the stress of bloody battle conditions, and that I wasn't "disgracing" myself by becoming a psychiatric casualty. That thought is quite out of keeping with modern thinking, However, it is almost in-line with Gen. "Blood and Guts" Paton's slapping one of our psychiatric casualty in a field hospital. He was actually equating "combat-stress reaction syndrome" with cowardice. (That four-word diagnosis is the current equivalent of what was called "combat fatigue" during WW II and what was called "shell shock" in first WW.)

I was assigned to a station just behind the front when the Ardennes break-through had almost reached its deepest penetration into our lines. Our retreat along the front soon began to reverse its direction as the weather improved. Our air corps was now able to resume intensive bombing and strafing and our infantry again began to advance. My collecting station too now began to move forward again too. I had never had to retreat because when I had gotten to the front, the German advance was about to be blocked and pushed back.


Back to Paris for "I and E" Course

When we were battled our way through Germany to reach the Rhine, I got orders to report back to Paris, That was for training in running open-ended courses in "I and E" (Information and Education) in our units, for which I had volunteered.

The night before I was to leave I rolled up my bedding roll with all my equipment in it and left it on my cot. It was just beneath a Rhine-side window in our requisitioned quarters. Then I laid me down on a stretcher in the "treatment room," waiting for the casualties of our Rhine crossing. As soon as my stretcher was needed as a treatment table, I got up and began treating casualties until morning.

After the night’s work and when about to leave for Paris, I went to pick up my bedding-roll. I found it littered with chunks of broken window glass, blown in by an exploding shell that had landed nearby during the night. That was the closest I ever got to physical harm during my wartime service, bH. I could have been sleeping in my bedding roll and been showered with broken glass, or the exploding shell itself might have landed a few feet closer!

The trip by jeep back to Paris was rather trying. Much of it was at night, driving under full black-out conditions along narrow roads. They were now rapidly being covered with snow. The driver was leaning out on his side, and I on mine. We were trying to gauge how close we were to slipping down off one or the other of the snow-covered road shoulders on either side of us.      


"I and E" Course (Information and Education)

The week-long I and E course taught the background, causes and objectives of the war, how to present and explain them to our soldiers, how to manage group discussions, etc. We were then sent back to our units to “inform and educate” them and to present current aspects of the war. I threw myself into the work with enthusiasm. A lot of my efforts went into making posters of the progress of the war in our own local sector, featuring maps, photographs and sketches.


History Repeats Itself

When the fighting had passed beyond us and we were billeted in large towns, I would arrange meetings with the local populace. In my recently renovated college French, I "I-and-E"ed them as well, doing as a volunteer what we later would call "public relations."

I recalled the much appreciated role France had played way back then in helping the Thirteen Colonies achieve their independence. That was when La Fayette and his troops were in the British American Colonies fight for what was to become the future USA. They helped it through its military birth pangs of its Revolutionary War. Over a century-and-a half later, in our WW I, the slogan of US troops coming to the aid of France in turn, was "La Fayette: We Are Here!" And in the current WW II allowed our troops again to declare "La Fayette: We Are Here, Again!"

 I stressed our common cause with France in all three of our wars-in-common. I also fielded questions, such as how American life differed from their local French life, etc. I was asked once how we spent our Sunday days off. After I had finished answering, came the next question set me back on my heels: "but don't you Americans go to church on Sunday?!!"


Ending Of the European War

            After my 75th Infantry Division had fought successfully in the Battle of the Bulge, we joined in eliminating the "Colmar Pocket." (in Alsace, south-eastern France). We were then transferred to fight in the Netherlands, then back to Belgium again, and finally into the German Ruhr. During its battles my division had liberated a concentration camp for slave-laborers from Eastern Europe, but there were no Jews in it.

            We sat waiting, while in mid-Germany, for expected orders to fight our way to the Elbe River, cross it, and meet the advancing Russians. However, while the Russians fought their way to the Elbe, crossed it, and then fought on until they captured Berlin. We soon learned what a tremendous mistake that was!


 Promotion and Bronze Star Medal

I was promoted to Captain and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, The medal was for "meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy," not for bravery in combat or other actual martial activity. The medal citation gave a very positive evaluation of my medical work treating casualties and also lauded my voluntary activities in I and E. Apparently I had done quite well, all-around.  My service in combat zones entitled me to wear at least three service medals or their ribbons, with four battle stars: a groyseh gedillah (how great!).


 Victory in Europe and the "Repl Depl"

After combat in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) had ended and the Armistice was signed, our unit was assigned to a huge "Repl Depl" (Redeployment Depot) outside of Marseilles. There we awaited either return to the US and discharge from the Army, or reassignment to the Asian Theatre of Operations where the fighting was at its worst!

Those who had served in the Army the longest, who were married, and especially those with children, were at the head of the queue to be returned home and mustered out of service. The younger, the unmarried, and those with shorter periods of service (into all of which categories I fell!) were to be reassigned to the Asian Theater of Operations. There they were to join the bitter ongoing combat in the islands of the Pacific and then to participate in the expected invasion of Japan itself.


VE-Day (Victory in Europe)

After active combat in Europe had been ended and the Armistice was signed, there was a problem keeping our unoccupied combat troops "out of trouble." So groups of soldiers would be sent on "R & R" (rest and recreation) tours to the many tourist spots in the now quiet ETO (European Theater of Operations).

 One such trip as an individual took me back to Maastricht, in the Netherlands, where everyone was celebrating official VE-Day (Victory in Europe). I searched for and found a little shul (used by the Germans until very recently for furniture storage).  All around there was great good cheer as throngs were rejoicing! I too was thankful for the magnificent military victory of the Allied armies. But I just stood there by myself, all alone in that little shul and found myself actually sobbing. I was unable to keep from crying, crying over the slaughter of our European brothers in their millions. It was no victory for us, not for Jews. For us it had been but a long, huge, tragic, defeat!


A-Bombs over Japan

A few months later, on another R and R tour, I was in Lichtenstein climbing a hill to view up close an imposing medieval castle. I happened to overhear an army broadcast that "a bomb with the force of two thousand tons of TNT has been dropped on a Japanese city, Hiroshima." The atom bomb! I guessed and was elated: WW II was now really drawing rapidly to a close and would soon be over! After the second A-bomb I felt almost certain that there was no longer any danger of my being reassigned to the Asian Theater of Operations.  

 I was right about the war, but wrong about reassignment. The war in Asia was indeed ending. But many soldiers were still being reassigned, despite active service in Europe, to serve in the potential army of occupation (as was my future brother-in-law, Hy Appleton). 


Zionist Activities; Awaiting Discharge

While awaiting discharge, and between R and R trips, I went on little trips of my own into near-by Marseilles. The Jewish chaplain of our Repl Depl had put me in touch with a local Hachsharah Yamit unit of young DPs (displaced persons). They were being trained to work in ‘illegal’ maritime immigration to Israel by members of the Haganah. I helped them as a physician and diagnosed pneumonia in one of those potential olim (immigrants to Israel). I treated her with the new drug penicillin, which I "acquired" from our army supplies.

In doing so I ran the danger of being suspected of stealing the penicillin for sale on the richly rewarding, black market. It would be used illegally to cure civilians, including the many with venereal disease.  I never took advantage of my rights to buy tobacco and liquor very cheaply in our army Post Exchange: I was neither going to enjoy them myself, nor black-market them for profit. All I had ever bought in the PE was candy, and that rarely.


 War 'Souvenirs' For the Haganah                                          

The most popular war ‘souvenirs’ acquired by our returning service men were German army pistols. After an order was issued that one could take home only one souvenir pistol, I was able to buy a number very cheaply from returning soldiers. These I would transfer to Chaplain Hazelkorn, after bringing them to Shabbat services and slipping them from my tallit bag into his. 

 I saw a well-filled "slik" of weapons and ammunition hidden inside a double-wall at the local hachsharah. They were to be sent across the length and breadth of the Mediterranean to the about-to-be declared State of Israel (what a relief no longer to spell that 'Palestine!'). The unborn State of Israel had already begun preparing itself for the upcoming fight for its life. This was expected to follow soon on the end of the war, which it did.


 VJ-Day (Victory over Japan)

A few weeks later I was on another R and R tour, this time to Glasgow, where I had first landed on war-torn European shores. It was close to Rosh HaShanah and I recalled the last four rivers I had gone to for Tashlich (to discard sins!): the Hudson (in NY, where I had started from); the Mississippi (in Memphis, Tenn., near Camp McCain); the Seine (in Paris, near the 62nd General Hospital); and now the Clyde (or a tributary) near Glasgow, where I was on leave.            

In a little Glasgow shul I heard a most memorable sermon on Erev Rosh HaShanah.  It was by a Rabbi Simmons and made a deep impression on me. I remember well its title, hard to forget: “Tekiyah over Tokyo!”

He reminded the congregation that the leaders of all the allied nations, high national officials, ambassadors, commanding generals and admirals, were all assembled, waiting in Tokyo harbor. They were to be 'piped aboard' the battleship USS Missouri for the signing of the Treaty of Surrender with the representatives of Japan. The piping would be by the traditional boatswains' whistles. “But we Jews,” he said, “We will be gathered in our synagogues on Rosh HaShanah, to pipe 'Our Admiral' aboard, with the sounds of our shofar!”




 Home the Conquering Hero Comes!

            There was a good reason why I was not re-assigned to the US Army of Occupation in Japan. Lots of MDs were now needed to staff a huge armada of little Victory Ships, being quickly converted from cargo carriers to troop transports. They were to carry home from Europe hundreds of thousands of no longer needed GI's ("government-issued" service-men). I was one of a pair of MDs whose "passports" home were assignments as medical officers to one of those ships (one-way!).


Nautical Medical Practice

I was in a potential panic over the possibility of having to cope with a situation requiring me to exercise non-existent, surgical operating skills. And so was my colleague, another hurriedly, wartime-trained MD, but with even less and hastier training than mine. The full medical/surgical responsibility for the thousands of soldiers aboard our transport fell on us. But since my colleague's training was even less satisfactory than mine, he had to buck all the difficult decisions to me.  

  We discussed what we should do if our worst fear, that of facing a case requiring major surgery ("chas vechalilah!" I murmured to myself) came true during the two-week voyage. But we had no trouble in deciding what we would do if we actually did face such a case, most likely of acute appendicitis.

Of course appendicitis required operation, surgical removal. But by surgeons who had never, ever, opened an abdomen before? We would have to find the appendix (what if it were hiding behind the cecum?); remove it cleanly (what if it had already ruptured, and spilling fecal material, contaminating the abdomen?); close the abdomen (without leaving any bleeding from slipped ligatures) securely (so the wound would neither leak, nor break open and the guts spill out!), etc., etc., etc.  We were smart enough to know so many possible complications, but also smart enough to know we weren't smart enough to prevent or to cope with any of them properly.   

             For days we had little to do on board. The only case of significant disease was that of a soldier with a urological problem. I told him that I thought he had contracted (sexually transmitted) gonorrhea. He said that that was impossible and was sure that the results of the (bacteriological) smear would be negative. He was so convinced of the fidelity of his one and only temporary sexual partner!  When told the smear was indeed positive, he actually went into shock: he turned pale, his forehead broke out in a sweat, and he fell back into a chair. He was cured by one of the newer antibiotics.


"Row, Row, Row"ing our Boat

            When only three days from NY, the axe fell! We received a radio message from a European-bound cargo ship, one of whose sailors was ill with abdominal pain: "Is there a ship with a doctor aboard in the vicinity?" Unfortunately, that meant us, since there was no other ship nearby. So we rendez-vous-ed with that ship on the open seas. My colleague and I were rowed in a lifeboat across the increasingly rough ocean to the other ship. We examined said sailor and were forced to make the diagnosis we had been dreading so greatly: acute appendicitis!  

            We took him in a stretcher back to our ship where we had a fully equipped operating room at our disposal. There we also had two fully qualified physicians, ourselves. But both were fully unqualified as surgeons!

 As the patient lay in his stretcher, the lifeboat was now pitching and rolling wildly on the waves. It was obvious our crew were almost as poorly qualified as sailors as we were as surgeons. They rowed miserably! On reaching our ship again, a sailor stood up, but lost his balance and fell heavily onto our patient's belly. Had he fallen in the opposite direction we would have had to fish him out of the drink! Finally, our struggling seamen managed to get the stretcher hoisted aboard our ship without losing the patient. We struggled up a dangling rope ladder. Now, how to go about things?


Non-Surgical Treatment of Appendicitis

            Our painful but considered decision had been taken at the start of our voyage: A patient would have a better chance of surviving even a perforated appendix, than operation by inexperienced "surgeons" such as we. To make matters worse, it was clear that our patient's appendix had already perforated. Right after the sailor had fallen on his belly, his pain had subsided. That cessation of pain confirmed the diagnosis of perforation. Bowel contents were now probably spilling freely through the perforation into the abdominal cavity!

As I had decided beforehand, we set his bowel at rest by stopping all food and water by mouth. Instead, he got all the fluids, and most of the calories he needed, by vein. To make sure his bowel was fully at rest, I ordered large doses of atropine to inhibit spasm. And most important of all were large doses of newly discovered penicillin to counter infection.

His fever slowly subsided; pain did not return. The "walling off" of an appendiceal abscess might be beginning. At any rate, he would certainly need further treatment by better surgeons than we. When we landed in NY he was in fairly good condition; an ambulance took him immediately to hospital. We hoped he would continue on to full recovery, with or without an operation by a real surgeon.

I never told this story before. I was always afraid some surgeon would blast my restraint as surgical cowardice, or worse, mismanagement. But recently I finally consulted an experienced surgeon, my wife Eva's son-in-law, Dr. Geoffrey Caine. He reassured me that our caution had indeed been the better part of valor, making good medical sense.

In addition, he told me that the US Navy now confirms our reticent approach to appendicitis at sea. Nuclear submarines remain underwater for months at a time. At first they used to have a surgeon aboard for just such an emergency as we had faced. But for many years now, such emergencies are being treated under the sea, just as I had treated ours on the sea: not by surgery! The only difference from what I did then, and what is done today, half a century later, is that atropine is not considered necessary, and better antibiotics are now available.


Mustering-out of Army

 Had I remained in the Army for another month or two I think I might have been eligible for a promotion, from captain to major. I would then have served sufficient “time-in-grade” for an almost automatic promotion. That would have entitled me to significantly greater mustering-out pay. But I felt fully compensated for my army service by being discharged sound in body and mind, bH.  

By far most of my service had been overseas and mostly in combat zones, both of which entitled one to greater pay. Since there was nothing I needed to buy, or that was even available to buy (even the army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, was free!) my expenses had been virtually nil. Thus I ended up with savings of some $5,000 from my army pay ($60,000 today!) after my almost three years in service.

 I also had had so many interesting, even enjoyable experiences. Shame on me for having ever enjoyed anything of that horrendous war!





Israel-oriented Adulthood

When I left Palestine at the tender age of ten, I had decided that as an adult I would return because living there was so much more interesting and stimulating than life in quiet, boring Brooklyn. Later, as an adult, I wanted to return to live in Israel in order to actively participate in the re-founding and building of our new Jewish state.

 A decade after I left Palestine, there had been a pre-WW II aliyah of German Jews escaping the Nazis. They were, alas, the all-too-few, foresighted ones able to find a destination that accepted fleeing refugees. But since they included an unusually large proportion of physicians, they made for a great excess of physicians in the small Jewish population of the time.

This excess of physicians gave rise to the story of the woman who fainted on an Egged bus. Two or three physicians among the passengers stood up, ready to treat her. Said the driver decisively, "Sit down, all of you! I'm the driver and I’m in charge here.  I'm also a physician, so I'll take care of her!"

 Having become a physician, and having a practical outlook, I therefore put thoughts of my own aliyah on hold. But right after the war ended and thereafter, there was a very large increase in Israel’s Jewish population consisting of DP's and other holocaust survivors.

I was misinformed by the Israeli representatives (shlichim) in Marseilles that a shortage of physicians was developing in Israel. That it didn't was because the big, post-war aliyah of refugees brought few practicing physicians with it. Now, 60 years later, the long-feared crisis has really arrived, and a shortage of physicians in Israel has finally developed. The excess physicians who arrived before the war have been, and are rapidly retiring. All four medical schools in Israel aren't producing nearly enough physicians together to replace them. A fifth medical school in Israel will be opening next year!


 Hordes of Discharged MDs

In 1946, the returning masses of mustered-out American ex-servicemen included large numbers of physicians. Most, like me, were seeking medical positions at various levels. For months I had been investigating residency positions, including even hospitals of lesser professional standing. Being unemployed for even a few months I found horribly depressing. Indeed, I was really beginning to get clinically depressed!  

Finally I applied to Lenox Hill Hospital in which I had interned. I don't know why I hadn't applied there sooner. I was very pleasantly surprised to be received with a very hearty welcome! They were indeed ready, even felt it their duty, to accept their newly demobilized, former interns and residents. I started there on a stop-gap, informal, 6-month "residency" in clinical chemistry that was set up especially for me! It gave me the temporary employment and the security I needed to plan ahead and make suitable arrangements for my future.


Residency at Montefiore Hospital

"Montefiore Home for the Chronically Ill" in the Bronx had now become the aspiring Montefiore Hospital, a full-fledged general hospital with an active training program. It had acquired a number of bright lights on its staff, including Hyman Zimmerman in Pathology and Louis Leiter in Internal Medicine. That suited me fine, especially since I felt grounding in Pathology was important for understanding the basic processes involved in Internal Medicine.   

I therefore began a six-month residency in Pathology there, to be followed by a two-year residency in Medicine. When I finished I was pleased with the training and experience I had acquired.  What next?

I decided that clinical research, for which I had long had a bent, would complement well a career in Internal Medicine. I applied for the very best training possible! I was delighted to be accepted right off for a research position at the world-famous Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, in NY, the pioneer in clinical research in the US! I was to be assigned to the department for research in liver diseases, headed by Dr. Henry Kunkel.


 Training at Rockefeller Institute

I did rather well at the Rockefeller. Dr. Kunkel was surprised when after only half a year I was ready to publish a paper on my own original research. At the end of the year my position at the Rockefeller, and the fellowship of the NIH (National Institutes of Health, Wash., DC) which funded it, were both renewed for another two years

During my second year Dr. Kunkel went on leave to work with Prof. Tiselius in Sweden on the promising new technique of electrophoresis. It involved separating chemical substances based on their differing mobilities in an electrical field. There was now no one to guide my individual research efforts, so I didn't do as well as I might have. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal working in the joint research projects of the department.

After much clinical research, we introduced the low sodium diet in the treatment of water retention, a serious complication of heart and kidney failure. It became and remains the accepted diet for both conditions, for now well over half a century. I also worked on our basic description of the clinical and laboratory aspects of biliary cirrhosis. It was published, and later re-published in Medical Classics!

After almost three great years at the Rockefeller, I resigned to go on aliyah. I had arranged with Dr. Man, the new Director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem to head its newly established Clinical Research Laboratory.


Dating and Aliyah

To go back a little: when I returned home after the war, because of misinformation I had been fed, thoughts of aliyah again came to the fore. I was then aged 28, and thinking seriously about getting married. I therefore adopted a policy of not dating more than occasionally any girl not receptive to the idea of aliyah. (I had long had a policy of dating only Jewish girls, to make the possibility of falling into a mixed-marriage, chas v'chalilah, as impossible as possible!)



            I got my marriage license and my driving license the same day!  And my bride and my driving teacher were both Syril!  I had started to learn to drive a number of times, but would give up because I couldn't seem to learn how to let the clutch in slowly enough and continuously. I always let it in too fast towards the end, and the motor would buck and stall. Finally Syril managed to get me over that hump. 

            We bought a Chevy. It was black because I thought it would not show dust so readily, but was I ever wrong! The Chevy part was OK. But not very long later, when were to go on alyah we decided to leave the car behind until we found out if we could afford to run a car in Israel. Of course we couldn't! We couldn't even subscribe to the daily newspaper at first! My brother-in-law Dave Sklar bought it from us as his second car!


 Israel's War of Independence

            When Israel's War of Independence broke out, I felt most uncomfortable. I was in the midst of a series of residencies (described above). Here I was in the midst of preparing for my professional future. I was unhappy that by volunteering for the new war I would lose out on my training. But I couldn't desert Israel in its time of need. I therefore rather reluctantly arranged to see Dr. Heller, head of Kupat Cholim (Clalit), Israel's major health fund, then visiting in US.

He told me (to my relief!) that it would be preferable from Israel's standpoint for me to come after I had completed my training. Just to make sure, I later asked the same question of Dr. Chaim Sheba, then also visiting in US (in whose memory Sheba Hospital was later named), and got the same answer. Happily, Israel's War of Independence ended very successfully for Israel without my offer to participate being needed.

Still, I felt a need to compensate in some way for my not participating personally in Israel's historic War of Independence. So, as the least I could do, I ran a personal campaign to sign up as many of my friends and associates as I could as members of the Zionist Organization of America.  Some time later I was surprised to receive a very handsome certificate testifying to, and expressing appreciation for, my very successful (one-man) membership campaign.

 Engaged To Be Married!

Five years after mustering-out of the army I became engaged (at the ripe old age of 32) to the wonderful Syril Appleton (she a most suitable 24-year old). She already had a visa for Israel in her newly issued passport and was looking forward to her trip to Israel. But she deferred the trip, to be courted and married by me (lucky me!). She finally used her Israeli visa on our honeymoon!

I was then a resident at Montefiore. When I told an associate, a psychiatry resident, that I had become engaged, he asked: "To a girl?" I was shocked at the question; but neither of us knew that in later years that might not be such an obvious joke!


 Ilya Schor's Candlesticks

I had friendly personal relations with an attending physician at Montefiore. He gave me as an engagement present a pewter kiddush cup (for the Shabbat blessing over wine), engraved in a most unusual Jewish ghetto-inspired style. It had been made by a Russian immigrant who had been on the staff of the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem. He was now struggling to start a career in the US. My friend suggested that we see more of his work, since we were in the market for ceremonial objects for our future home.   

The wedding present that Syril's grandfather, Menachem-Manya Gross, z"l, gave his granddaughters was $200 for Shabbat candlesticks ($1800 today). Together with my generous friend, Syril and I visited Ilya (Israel) Schor in his studio. We asked him to make us $200 worth of candlesticks.

I messed up the product a bit by suggesting a few modern features that were most inappropriate for his archaic style. Unfortunately, he agreed to them, he was that eager to make a sale. After Syril's death, a"h, David asked to have them for his wife Orna, and she has since been regularly lighting in them. Ilya Schor went on to become a famous artist and artisan. Since his untimely death, the value of his work has increased tremendously.


Appleton-Blondheim Wedding

            Shabbat Hagadol, the Shabbat preceding Pesach, was our wedding day. It was also my birthday and therefore the anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah too. Syril Appleton was my birthday, as well wedding present, the very best present imaginable!

For years Mother had been a friend of Zelda Leff, Syril's aunt, and knew her family. The Appletons, originally from Jersey City, had been living for years on the Upper West Side (of Manhattan). Mother and I had also lived in that neighborhood for ten years, from my days in the sixth grade until I finished college. My last three years of elementary school were in the Jewish Center School, and all through my attendance at Townsend Harris High School and City College we continued to attend The Jewish Center shul. So the Appleton's choice of The Jewish Center for the wedding was just right for us.

            My father-in-law dovined daily in the nearby shtiebel (little synagogue) of the Bobover Rebbe (although the Appletons were Litvaks, from Salant). Having my aufruf in that shtiebel was also appropriate for me, because the Jam family had been Bobover Chassidim in the Old Country.

             Since the Appleton's had had a big wedding for Rasha, Syril's sister, just two months before. Mrs. Appleton suggested that we have a small wedding and that Syril and I would get the money saved. Mother's reaction was, "What, after all these years of being a guest at the weddings of my friend's children (I was now 32) I don't get to invite all my dear friends to my only child's wedding!!" So we had the full, fancy-shmancey wedding and reception deal, with no cutting of corners.


Wedding Ceremony

 It was tuxedos and high hats for the male protagonists, a kittle (ritual white gown) for me, the chatan, and of course evening gowns for the ladies.

            Officiating were not one, but three prominent rabbis: Rabbi Leo Jung, our rabbi throughout our years in his Jewish Center shul and my schooldays. Rabbi David de Sola Pool, whom Mother had known for years and whose shul we had been attending, on and off, for years; and Rabbi Ralbag, on behalf of the Appletons. Also functioning were the chazzan of the Jewish Center, Pinhas Jassinowsky, and its "Ritual Director" (as their shamas was called).  

  I was led to the chuppah (wedding canopy) by Mother alone. Next came my best-man, my best friend, Milton Himmelfarb (since departed). Syril was escorted by her parents, of course. Her matron-of-honor was her sister Rasha, who was not very matronly, having been married for only two months. Her husband, David Sklar, is not only my brother-in-law, but in recent years has been my best friend.

Under the chuppah I was helped into my kittle (ritual white gown): a traditional father-in-law present (along with the full-size woolen tallit). The wearing of a kittle by the chatan (groom) was customary only among Chassidm in those days, but since then the custom has been spreading.

 I had invited a few colleagues from the Rockefeller, all non-Jewish. One of them told me afterwards how very impressed he had been with the wedding ceremony. "There were all those five rabbis, with their long beards standing there lined up in front of you; and you, you were wearing that long, white coat; I was sure one of them was going to whip out a knife and circumcise you all over again!"

            A collation was followed by ballroom dancing: mixed dancing! Unlike the present day, mixed dancing was then fully accepted in modern Orthodox circles. (On our first ('official') date, Syril and I had gone dancing in a night club, after attending Slichot services!)

 Very early the next morning, my bride and I took off for a three week honeymoon in Israel.






            We toured in Europe en route to Israel, sightseeing in three national capitols, only a single day in each. We dropped into little local week-day shuls for impromptu sheva brachot (post-wedding ritual). We were successful in having them in London and Paris, but not Rome. We also had them on flights, when stewardesses didn’t object to our congregating with our minyan overflowing into the aisle. The last of the series was at seder in Jerusalem as guests of the Zelniks, relatives of Syril, whom we were meeting for the first time.

Pesach itself was affected by two complications. One was tzena (national food austerity regulations); the other was one of the periodic Jerusalem water shortages which was then affecting our neighborhood, among others. We had to use bottled orange juice for brushing our teeth! As for bathing, we got ourselves invited to use the facilities of friends staying at the King David Hotel. [An alternative would have been the local mikveh! (ritual bath).] We were staying at a pension in Rehavia that our good friend Eva Loewenthal, z"l, had booked for us.

 We had a lovely time touring the length (almost) and breadth of the country, when its tiny size became very apparent (as one tourist said, "I've seen all the borders, but where's the country?"). We enjoyed the full tourist itinerary, including Kibbutz Dan in the north and Beer Sheba in the south. We didn't get to Eilat, which then still wasn't as yet much of a tourist site (it was only two years after Israel's War of Independence). It was also a long way off, even in little Israel, and was then reached only by an impossibly bad, narrow road.

Of course I also took advantage of the opportunity to investigate job openings at Hadassah Hospital (details below).


 Newlyweds Settle In

            Back home again, we spent a few weeks staying with my in-laws (which was not a very happy time for me, as could have been expected). We finally (sigh of relief!) got our own apartment in Manhattan's East 70's. Housing, except for newly built apartments, had been price-controlled since the start of the war and was therefore in very short supply. So it required the help of a former neighbor of ours who was into real estate to arrange. Our flat was up four flights, but we succeeded in making it quite comfortable, even if it was a bit cramped. We even got used to the noise of the Third Ave. elevated trains roaring past our corner.

 We enjoyed furnishing our little apartment with my mother-in-law's wedding present. (The money I had saved in the army did not become available to me until many years later, for a reason I don't mention.) Our honeymoon had actually been financed by Syril's savings from secretarial work she had been doing in her father's store. No, it didn't bother me one bit to be "sponging" on my bride! I knew I would eventually get back my army savings, which would more than cover all those expenses. Both of us were very economical so we were just able to lead a satisfactory life on the fellowship stipend I got with from the NIH while at the Rockefeller.


Married Life

My exposure to the families of my Aunts Pauline and Mildred (Mother's sisters) had shown me how fathers, mothers and children should function in a family setting. But being the child of divorced parents, I had not observed how a husband should interact with his wife as they ran their household. From my reading, I had gathered that modern husbands and wives were not only fully equal in status, but the actual work of running a household should be shared equally between them.

But Syril, brought up in a traditional Jewish household, had been expecting to do all the house and kitchen work herself, without my participation. I can't say that I didn't enjoy not being burdened with most household chores. So I not only accepted her as the sole boss in kitchen and dining room, but also having her do almost all the work involved!  My conscience always bothered me a bit over the situation. But at the time I was working long hours earning our only income as a hospital resident. Syril only worked at home, although very soon she was also carrying around an increasingly heavy family addition!     


Furnishing our Apartment

In buying furniture for our first home (in NYC), we had to consider

that we would soon have to move most of it to Israel. So furnishing our flat in NY meant also furnishing a future home in Israel, sight unseen. We wound up shopping for both successive homes, in two different countries. Happily, the furniture we bought we used for almost two years in the US and then took it all with us to Israel. There it was used fully till I moved out following Syril's tragic passing, A"H. I then gave quite a bit of it to married children in Israel. After so many years it is heartening to be visiting children and to be invited to have a seat on one of our own old chairs! Back then we bought a dining table that seemed perfect for our own, as yet, unknown needs in Israel. It housed leaves for when the hidden table part had to be extended for more than a total of seven guests. It was also a side board with drawers for flat ware, crockery, and glassware. Depending on how far out the hidden table part was pulled; up to 12 diners could be comfortably seated. (We bought two more such tables for married children.) Later we had a movable addition to the table made with a big fold-down flap. When added to the end of the extended table, it could seat another six more diners, to a maximum total of 20, the limit of Blondheim dinner hospitality! (Padded folding chairs were kept ready in separate cabinets, "on demand.")


 Advice to Newlyweds

            I was recently asked by a newly-wed grandchild what advice I could give as a result of our many years of experience with married life. The response was that my best advice would be a pair of rules we had adopted as newly-weds.

Rule No.1: As "making-up" after an unresolved unpleasantness is often so difficult, going to bed still on the outs with each other is not unthinkable. But each new day should be started anew, as if nothing unpleasant had ever occurred. It had, but that was yesterday, and a new day had since dawned, making it a bygone, to be quickly forgotten and left unremembered and unrecalled!

Rule No.2: Never stop talking with each other. Not talking to one's partner is an absolute No, No. It is not acceptable as a "punishment, as it so often happens, especially since no punishment of a spouse is ever acceptable.

These rules worked well for us all through our marriage. In fact on only two occasions do I remember our ever being angry with each other (and in both I was the one in the wrong!). And we certainly didn’t ever shout at each other! I remember with satisfaction and pride David's remarking that we were so unlike the parents of so many of his friends who often shouted at each other, even in the presence of outsiders.


Blondheim Family Expands

            Climbing four flights with an armful of groceries and a bellyful of baby was taken in stride by my strong young wife. But those forty weeks of pregnancy were so much easier than the first forty weeks of our baby's extra-corporeal external existence! David cried almost incessantly due to "colic," whatever that may be.  

            I remember once sitting, barely awake after an active night of baby-duty, rocking the ever-crying little bundle in my arms. When Syril arrived with the groceries, I got up, opened the door for her and exchanged the baby for her heavy bag. Still only half awake, I continued gently rocking the bag of groceries!


David's Brit

            David's brit (circumcision) was in my Uncle Sam Frankel's Flatbush, Brooklyn, home. The house was large and had a huge, open, curved set of stairs that wound impressively down into the big front room. It was a grand setting for the kvaterin (godmother) to slowly bring the baby down, most dramatically, into the waiting assembly. Present were my Mother, the Frankels and a few friends.

 The Second Piyon Haben in the Family                                                          

It was an outstanding event, held in moshav Eli, north of Sh'chem (Nablus). The celebration also turned out to be something special too. The infant had been a month premature, a premature with a viral pneumonia. So the pidyon was a double-celebration, the delayed brit of a now healthy b'chor (son who was a first born), combined with his pidyon!

The ice has now been broken and I look forward to the next pidyon, hopefully in less than another fifty-seven years. I doubt I could wait that long, in view of my accumulating longevity!



I had been learning fatherhood the hard way. As a young adult I had never had any contact with babies, or even children. Among my earliest experiences with children was with my first child. David. It included trying to quiet his ever-so energetic crying, of which he did so very much.

But after a while I chanced to make a truly wonderful discovery!  When he was screaming his lungs out, I picked him up. With my left arm and hand I held him firmly, his chest against the left side of my chest. I walked up-and-down, with a little bounce at the end of each step, while patting his back firmly with my right hand. The lyrics I sang were my own original doggerel, which went to a tune I composed on the spot: "Oogely, boogely sweet little rabbit'l. Oogely, boogely sweet little duck!" He became quiet almost immediately.

The system has worked ever since. The few exceptions have been when there is a real and important reason, physical or otherwise, for the crying.  These include significant pain, hunger, thirst, etc. It's just a pity I didn't discover it sooner!

 One generation after I first "oogelized" our first baby, David, he is now a father himself. He was now calling me in obvious distress. The baby-sitter for their oldest child Netta, couldn't get her to stop crying. He himself and Orna were out of town, so could I please help? I went right over to their apartment and oogelized his daughter my first grandchild, just as I had oogelized him, my first child! She stopped crying, but only after a minute or so, instead of almost immediately. I presume that was because she had been crying for so very long, before I finally reached their home, that she needed a larger than usual dose of oogelizing!

Netta has recently had a daughter of her own. Although a very "good" baby, Teneh-Shir'in sometimes cries such that she too needs oogelizing. So she is now the first third-generation oogelizée! Through multiple generations, oogelization continues to work its wonders as it first had for me!


 How and Why Oogelizing Works

How and why does it work? My theory is that being oogelized is the closest a baby can get to reliving experiences that it remembers of its always comfortable, always serene, prenatal existence. During oogelization, as in the womb, it is firmly and warmly supported (swaddled). It may even miss the sound of its own weak fetal heart beat probably hears and the impact of the reassuringly slow, but ever so strong, adult heart beat of (only about plus/minus 72/min.). Its own fetal beat may now be too faint to make any impression, so faint coming through two chest walls, that it often may hardly be heard through two chest walls, its own and the maternal.he trso theThrough both the adult chest wall, and feels its It impact through both adult and infant chest walls, the same slow rate of its pregnant mothers heart beat. (Its own fetal rate was double that!) The slow beat is reinforced by the back-patting at about the same rate.

The baby is gently bounced by the bouncing gait of the oogelizer, pacing back and forth, as it was gently bounced about in its fetal bath when its mother strolled about. It hears an adult voice talking and singing and feels its vibrations, as it did prenatally when its mother talked or sang. Thus during oogelization it again experiences the comforting sensations it had enjoyed before being so cruelly pushed out into the cold, harsh outer world. It was then immediately greeted, not with a tender; loving reception, but with a cruel and undeserved spanking, meant to stimulate breathing! But during oogelization it immediately experiences so many pleasant sensations so much like those it had felt in those lovely prenatal times. No longer feeling any urgent need to cry, it stops doing so immediately!

 Just recently (June 23, '08) Time magazine almost caught up with me, now more than half-a-century later. They then wrote: "Stopping the Crying: Try bouncing, walking around, playing music, swaddling or…." They almost had it right. Those modalities work best when applied simultaneously, not successively. And they should be reinforced with back-patting at a relatively slow rate. And it is live singing by the oogelizer, not recorded music that works best. The baby then not only hears the solo singing, (without the confusing instrumental music), but may also feel familiar vibrations, now chest-to-chest.

 Oogelizing vs Simple Rocking

            The world-wide, age-old rocking of a crying baby, probably works, when it does, because it too recalls to the infant the pleasant prenatal sensation of mild motion it had felt as it was slowly bouncing about in amniotic (womb) fluid. But compared with simple rocking, oogelizing involves re-experiencing multiple types of comforting, prenatal sensations. Hence it usually works even when simple rocking, as in a cradle, fails. With absolute self-confidence I have taken crying babies from the arms of mothers rocking them unsuccessfully. I then oogelize them and within a few moments I return a silent, peaceful infant to its grateful mother. We really have no idea what psychological situations, as well as all the physical ones, that are unacceptable to his/her Majesty, the Infant, and are therefore the cause of crying until relieved. 

 (I finally got to look up "fetal memory." on the Internet. It indeed does exist, as I have been presuming all these many years, and has been the subject of much research. About baby rocking, much has also been written. But my idea that both oogelizing and rocking work because they recall pleasant fetal memories, is apparently original and as yet not reported.)




 Preparing for Aliyah

            Getting ready for aliyah presented many practical problems, not least of which was: what do we really need to bring with us, and what not to bring? We were coming to a country with very limited supplies of so very many things (at that time). Israelis in the US gave us conflicting advice. One would say "bring this and not that," while the other would say the opposite. Finally someone gave us the best advice of all: bring everything you can!

            Thus when we were looking to buy 220 volt bulbs for the Israel current, we were told bulbs were available in Israel, why bother? What we weren't told was that that they were indeed available, but only in exchange for used bulbs! It was only the metal bulb bases that were lacking. We were fortunate to have taken the "bring everything" advice so literally!


 Aliyah, at Last! 

            The advice that I, a successful oleh, have been giving when asked by medical students or physicians when best to make aliyah has been: either at the start of your medical career or near its end. But another factor even more crucial was involved in my case, and I got it wrong!

I came at the right time for me, just at the end of my training in internal medicine and clinical research. But it was not the right time for Israel, especially for the Hadassah Medical Organization. And that was the great threat to my Hadassah career from its very start: I came, ready for Hadassah, long before Hadassah was ready for me!


 Jobs at Hadassah

During our honeymoon in Israel I had consulted then visitng Hadassah director, Dr. Eli Davis, about employment opportunities. He was disappointingly non-committal, which, in retrospect, I fully understand:

Almost all of Hadassah's physicians had immigrated to Israel during the years before the war. They had thus long been waiting for the new posts to be created during Hadassah's postwar expansion of its clinical and research facilities. Why should a privileged American get a much-sought-after position? He didn't have to come to Israel to take a choice position away from someone who had been waiting so long for it! It really didn't matter how well-trained he was for Hadassah's the top position in laboratory and clinical research (for which I had had almost three years of superior training and experience in laboratory and clinical and laboratory research at the Rockefeller Institute).

            When Hadassah's newly appointed Director-General, Dr (Jacob) Kalman Man was visiting in NY, we met and had a long, pleasant interview. As a result he offered me, plain and simple, the position of head of the recently established clinical research laboratory and a position on the staff of he staff of the hospital. 


We set Sail on Aliyah

            So after almost three years at the Rockefeller, a year and a half after our marriage, Syril and I packed our bags, baggage and baby (six-month-old David). We set sail for Israel on Chol-HaMoed Succot, 1951, on Zim liner Zion, NY-Haifa direct. (Both the Zion and the two-week, direct sea passage to Haifa, soon gave way to  much speedier El Al planes.

We got a rousing, pier-side send-off by the family; the passage itself was pleasant and uneventful. My father-in-law brought a farewell present, a lulav-and-etrog set which turned out to be the only one available in our on-board shul, and was used by everyone in turn (Succot started the day after embarkation).


 Ship Ahoy!

A fellow passenger was the widow of the artist, Reuven Rubin, returning from a visit to her American family. Her ten-year old sabra son much enjoyed playing with our little David, who was quite advanced for his seven months. He asked his mother why the Blondheims were sitting at a separate table. She explained that it was because we ate kosher. To reassure herself that he knew what kosher was, she asked, and he answered: "Of course I know. That's how Jews in America eat"

 Another shipmate was Irving (Itz) Tobin from NJ. He was coming on aliyah, and was doing it the hard way, because he had so little money. So he did a great deal of his touring by hitch-hiking around the country. He often slept the night in the open, by the roadside. From time to time when visiting us he would sleep on our living room floor (we had no sofa then).

             He had to return home when his father died very suddenly, ending his dreams of aliyah. We lent him the money he needed for the unexpected trip home, a freely extended favor he never forgot. He has remained ever so grateful during our long, interhemispheric friendship. I, in turn, have been most grateful to him for all his help and advice with regard to business and legal affairs over the course of the more than sixty years since our aliyah. He had ever so long ago repaid us both his actual debt and his debt of gratitude, by my accounting, if not by his!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


We came on aliyah three years after the State of Israel was proclaimed. For a long time I felt like a Johnny-come-lately. But the longer we live in Israel, the shorter seems the delay in our having come. Appropriately, I am becoming a "k'sheh-ba-nik," one who often tells stories from his past which often begin with: "When first I came to Israel…"


On Arrival in Israel

            Dr. Man arranged for our arrival in exemplary fashion. A Hadassah clerk came to greet us in Haifa and took us on to Jerusalem in a Hadassah vehicle. He later took care of most of the burden of arranging for freeing our luggage (and later our freight) from customs, and had them transferred to Jerusalem. Our freight included a full sized "lift," and a large van, which contained a full set of new furniture and kitchen equipment, with three, sets of china and cutlery (milchig, fleischig and Pesachdig).

We were housed temporarily in a very comfortable, furnished apartment rented for us by Hadassah. This was in Sha'aray Tzedek, an orthodox neighborhood next to Rehavia. We finally got into our own apartment when the builders finished it some months later (27 Metudela, in Rehavia, which was about one-third Orthodox then as it is now). It was bought by Hadassah and rented to us for an unusually low rent. Hadassah was then doing this for new staff members who had no previous housing in Israel (to avoid their having to pay exorbitant "key money" from their own pockets).


 Curse on 27 Metudela   

            We later found out about a "curse" on that otherwise pleasant  newly built apartment house. Almost every family of tenants had had, or would have some misfortune befall it. They were previously divorced, or as happened to another couple, became divorced shortly they planned to move in, or else after a few years of tenancy. In another case, one of an older couple died not long after they moved in.

We were comparatively "lucky:" Menahem developed infantile paralysis at three months old and was paralyzed from his neck down, but B"H, went on to complete recovery. What we suffered during those months, of course was sufficient to put us among all the other ill-starred families and couples.


Disappointments at Hadassah                                                                                               

A very early disappointment came when Andre de Vries, founder and head of the recently established Clinical Research Laboratory had to delay his leaving by almost a year. His heading of a medical department at Beilinson Hospital had been put off.  Dr. Man told me I would therefore have to wait for "my" lab. I could see no alternative to agreeing to start work without the lab.

 Then came the real catastrophe! The hospital Medical Board, consisting of all the most senior staff members, would not agree to the appointment of a young newcomer to such a highly coveted position. Dr. Man was obliged to tell me that I would not be given the position he had promised me, and for which he had "imported" me!

At that time Hadassah was not only the top hospital in Israel, such as it was, but the only one with even minimal facilities for laboratory research. So there was no suitable alternative for me in Israel. Of course I had bright prospects in the US for many much better positions than the one that was no longer available to me at Hadassah.

Almost anyone in my situation would have packed up and left. Indeed, there were other American physicians who had come to work at Hadassah who had left after brief stays following various disappointments. They were followed by others who came later, soon to leave soon after. But as for me, leaving Israel was no option. I left America to live in Israel, whatsoever the circumstances.

Later Successes at Hadassah

 In the long run I probably achieved as much, and more, at Hadassah than I might  have, had the original promise to me been kept. This was initially due in large part to Ben Brodie's generous contribution of seed money to fund my initial research at Hadassah. In addition there were, of course, my own considerable efforts over the course of time to raise my own research funds. The result was that I developed over the years a rather extensive medical "empire" of my own, on my own initiative and financing to a certain extent.

        I parlayed Hadassah's Clinical Research Laboratory that I didn’t get, into a four-bed Metabolic Unit, which included a nurse and a dietician plus my own little lab (a sort of consolation prize!). The whole unit and lab was part of Internal Medical Department B (P'nimit Bet), headed by the legendary Prof. Moshe Rachmilewitz. That was the department to which I had been assigned and had worked in since my arrival at Hadassah. I later established my own independent two-and-a-half room, well equipped Metabolic Laboratory with 2 technicians, my Metabolic Clinic and a private patient clinic as well as a general nurse.

To a large extent this development was due to my success in acquiring grants from unlikely foreign sources [such as the US Army, the US Dept of Agriculture and the Polio Foundation (later the National Foundation). All of my units I ran while also functioning as a senior physician in Internal (Medical} Dept. B, and working in its outpatient clinic.

 The basis for the "metabolic" was a more recent interest I took in the origins and treatment of obesity. Thus I also set up and ran for many years an "Outpatient Dietetic Unit" located in the middle of town. Patients came three times daily to eat well-prepared, low-calorie meals (800-1000 cal/day), or came for two meals with a "take out" supper. They would also consult with me semi-weekly, or at least weekly.

We had a very good record in the treatment of obesity, always a difficult problem. It led to my acquiring a national reputation in the treatment of obesity, as I was the first, and even for a long time, the only one in that field. As a secondary result, my private clinic practice within Hadassah ("Sharap") developed well. Another measure of my dietetic unit's success was that it was one of the few, financially self-supporting units of the hospital.

    However, over the long run, most of my outstanding therapeutic successes in treating obesity ended in outstanding failure, due to relapses. These have been proven almost impossible to prevent with dietary and/or medical and psychiatric treatment, even today.  But improvements in gastrointestinal surgery, including various "banding" and gastric "by-pass" procedures, have resulted in many long-term successes. Fat-loss, with accompanying water loss, is promoted, with relatively few relapses. However, complications of the operations do occur.  

One of the cases of "intractable" obesity I referred early on for surgery, had been a great long success. I know about it because he had also been having a long and successful political career. As a result, I often saw visual evidence of his surgical success, since his political success led to frequent appearances on the TV news!  


My Integration into Hadassah

            When I was denied the lab I was imported to run, I threw myself into a variety of alternative hospital and medical school activities. In all of these I saw the need for a new approach or for more efficient management. And in those days there were many such activities from which to choose! As a result I volunteered to serve on a number of committees.

As a member of the library committee, I set up a system for displaying the most recent issues of periodicals received by our renewed medical library. This was on a "need to find" functional basis, and the system has successfully endured in our library for lo, these many years.

For a while I was the one-man committee that assigned senior students to subsequent internships around the country. I also worked for years with the records committee, designing new forms and revising old ones. Improved record forms promoted efficient recording of hospital data, including patients' medical histories and results of physical examinations and of laboratory tests.

 One of my most successful efforts was when I volunteered for and was assigned the complicated task of setting up and running Hadassah's first course in physical diagnosis. This included teaching students how to take a medical history and examine patients. Years later, the head of the newly established medical education department told me that the course had never been run as well by any of my successors! She herself had been a student of mine in the first course given by me, and later on, she herself was responsible for organizing and running the course.


Medical "Eticha v'Etiquetta"

I couldn't get permission to set up what I considered a most important project. I saw a great need for a course in medical ethics (which indeed was organized many years later!). I planned to call it: "Eticha v'Etiquetta Refuit," my "Hebrew" version of "medical ethics and bedside manner(s!)." The main objection to setting up such a course was that its substance was mostly what students should learn from informal observation of their physician-teachers during their everyday medical activities in the hospital wards.

Most of our staff was European-trained. They had themselves had been taught in the wide-spread Prussian tradition of strict medical hierarchy and an uncompromising, almost arrogant approach to the needs and wishes of both patients and students.

I thought that our new medical school, the only one in Israel at the time (a fifth is opening soon!), should use the American, rather than European approach. The former is based on friendly informality and on patient and sympathetic understanding of the many difficulties facing both students and patients. As for ethics, even a relatively less important concept such as professional courtesy (mainly a financial matter between doctors) had not been practiced much in Israel.

I failed to convince the powers-that-were that there should be a didactic course in medical ethics. In recent years there has been increasing interest in medical ethics world-wide, with emphasis on its teaching in medical schools everywhere. I had apparently been well ahead of my time more than half century ago!

Much later I got an unusual slant on a local aspect of the problem. A patient asked me why religious doctors [who usually wore kippot (skull caps)] were so much more kind to their patients. At first I had trouble accepting the implications of the question. Then I realized the socio-religious basis for her observations:

Most of those wearing "kippot" in Hadassah Hospital in those days were the few recent olim from England or the US. There they had been formally taught to respect the rights of their patients and to relate to them with understanding and empathy (in courses such as I had wanted to set up!). She had assumed it was their being religious, rather than their having had special training as students in the US and UK that was responsible for their kinder approach to patients.


Editorial Career

I began an editorial career when I was asked by colleagues to edit the near-English of their manuscripts reporting their research. I would meticulously correct and prepare them for submission to English language medical journals. Very often this required almost complete rewriting. I was troubled about taking money from colleagues for editing their articles (a type of professional courtesy!). But I didn’t have to, as Hadassah paid the publication expenses of its staff.

I couldn't help noticing and pointing out the many gross mistakes and deficiencies in the English abstracts in Harefuah (the Hebrew journal of the Israel Medical Association). As a result I was offered the position of editor of their English abstracts. I held it for about 40 years, until long after I had actually retired from medical practice itself after 32 years (although the salary was rarely satisfactory!)


Acta Medica Orientalia

I also became editor of the failing Acta Medica Orientalia. (Israel had been trying to make itself at home academically and professionally in the Middle East.) I renamed it The Israel Medical Journal, and turned it into what I considered a more professional journal, both medically and journalistically. I edited it for two years (1959, 1960), until I went on sabbatical leave for a year, which I extended to fourteen months.

When I returned I found the job of editor had been taken over by the colleague whom I had considered my best friend. He had agreed to edit the journal in my absence. But he liked the job or the increase in income so much that he "arranged" to continue in it despite my return! The Israel Medical Association, my employer, rationalized their taking the part of my treacherous friend and fired me, without warning or discharge note, on a minor technicality. They said they had agreed for me to be on leave for 12, not 14 months (as if that really mattered to anyone except me and my substitute!).

My "replacement" remained as editor only a bit more than three years, when it became the Israel Journal of Medical Sciences. That was when the editorship and full responsibility for publishing the journal was taken over from the Israel Medical Society by Prof. Prywes, Dean of the School of Medicine (1965).

The much later and much improved "Israel Medical Association Journal," under more competent new management by the Israel Medical Association, replaced the Israel Journal of Medical Sciences. The new editor offered me the position of associate editor. I accepted, but nothing came of the offer, for reasons unknown to me. Maybe someone else thought I might have declined too much since I had retired!


 Friend Ernst Ehrenfeld

The vacated status of best friend, originally our family physician, had happily devolved on colleague Ernst Ehrenfeld, z"l. He had been on the staff of Pnimit Bet for many years, since his aliyah from Germany before WW II. We had a long, warm relationship until his death and with none since. Towards the end of my medical career I worked on a research project together with his son-in-law, Yechiel Friedlander, a statistician (see below).

Also, Ernst's grandson, Naftali Friedlander, married my grand- daughter, Gefen Grace, my son David's second daughter (remember Grace?) The naming of their daughter Matar Oriyah (Rain Brightness) was immediately followed by the onset of heavy, long overdue, nation-wide rainfall!        


My Medical Career

            Competing for my attention and energies in my career at Hadassah were the three major elements in my adult life. These were, in order of importance for me: my family, then my medical career, and finally, my only hobby, founding, running and developing our minyan and synagogue, HaZvi Yisrael. I confess that in terms of personal satisfaction and pleasure from my endeavors, that it was the synagogue that often came second to my family.

This was not because my medical efforts were less than successful, but because of the pervading unpleasantness of the professional atmosphere in which I worked. There was so much senseless, "dog-eat-dog," inter-personal competition and pettiness that characterized much of the medical echelon at Hadassah. It was particularly obvious in the department in which I worked. It even seemed to be encouraged by the head of the department, who appeared to think it improved professional performance. Of course it only drained energies that could better have been applied to productive research work.   


My Research Career

            My career in independent research mirrored, in a way, my academic career as a youth. As mention I had always come out just short of the very top performance. I went on to develop an international reputation and professional recognition in not one, but in two very different fields of research. But I was not among the real world leaders in either field. 

            My work in bilirubin metabolism (a pigment derived from hemoglobin and excreted in the bile) and in clinical obesity, my two main fields of interest, was published in top journals. The international leaders in those fields knew me and my work quite well. I was also quite successful in raising research funds. Those granting research funds base their evaluation of the ability of the grantee to use successfully their funds, on the published results of the grantee's previous research.

I certainly could have produced more, and possibly even better and more important work, had I not been devoting excessive amounts of time and energy to my family and to my hobby, our shul! But I was personally happy with the trade off.

A detriment, career-wise, was my inability to confine my scientific activities to only a single major field of interest. I was just blessed with too great an excess of scientific curiosity and "cursed" with the inability to curb it! I had too many ideas for scientific projects that I couldn't resist investigating! Had my work been confined to a single major field, I would have saved so much time and energy. I wouldn't have had to study a whole new literature and set up new laboratory techniques every time I started a project in a new field, minor or otherwise! 


 Developing New Clinical Tests

In the field of clinical chemistry, a measure of success is in the developing of new clinical tests. Again I was successful, but as usual, the success was limited.

I diagnosed a rare case of myoglobinuria (urinary excretion of the red pigment from damaged muscle). In such cases the excreted red pigment must be differentiated from the more common complication of urinary excretion of the other red, protein pigment of the body, hemoglobin. This results from its release when there is increased destruction of red blood cells, rather than muscle.

            The standard test for myoglobin in urine involves the exacting determination of the specific wave length of the excreted red pigment by spectrophotometry. It requires an expensive instrument rarely found in clinical laboratories, and of a trained technician. So to avoid such work in diagnosing my patient's condition, I investigated chemical methods of extracting myoglobin. I found that it is removed (precipitated) from solution by addition of readily available ammonium sulfate, up to a certain concentration. But to precipitate hemoglobin, a greater concentration is required. So if adding less than that certain concentration of ammonium sulfate to red urine clears the color, the pigment (precipitated) is myoglobin. If it stays red, the pigment is hemoglobin (providing the pigment is a protein, which is always tested for routinely).

Thus I had an exceedingly simple, rapid test for myoglobinuria which could readily replace the existing test. I had the help of two biochemists in writing up the test, which I acknowledged in the authorship of the test. It was published in the widely read JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), in the late 1950s. After more than half a century there have been newer methods introduced, but none much better or simpler.

             I didn't follow through by developing a test-kit for myoglobinuria, which would have been both simple and cheap.  But all that is water under the bridge, or rather urine down the plumbing! Or maybe I should still look into the matter again? At any rate, my test is still in some recently published books on clinical biochemistry and lab tests, over half a century after its publication.

 My other test was for determining the imminence of brain damage (kernicterus) in infants with increasing jaundice (excess bilirubin in the blood stream). It involved a special test-kit we developed and which was produced and commercially distributed by the Ames (Diagnostic) Company, USA.

The Ames medical director never really understood the nature of the test, despite our repeated explanations. He just couldn't understand that it wasn't another, more complicated way of determining the level of jaundice. So the advertising for the test-kit wasn't clear enough for pediatricians to appreciate fully its value. Consequently, royalties from sales of our test kit, "Kernlute," were minimal during the time the kit was being marketed. My mistake was in my not insisting on personally checking, editing and correcting Ames' advertising copy before release.



            As a full professor I had the option to continue working past the usual compulsory retirement age of 65, until age 70. But I was so anxious to escape from routine duties in my unpleasant clinical department that I made Prof. Mann, still head of Hadassah Hospital, a proposition. I would retire voluntarily at age 65, freeing Prof. Man's hospital budget of the burden of my salary for the next five years as full professor Instead, my pension, 25% less than my Hadassah salary, would be paid by the Retirement Fund (to which I had long been contributing). In return I would be allowed to continue doing independent research in my laboratory, with no clinical duties or other hospital obligations for five years. All involved were satisfied with the deal, especially me!

 Hadassah had recently stopped paying for professional insurance of its retired medical staff. Therefore, I had to stop treating all patients in clinics in which I was involved, even on a voluntary basis, and even patients seen outside of Hadassah. Included were Dept. Pnimit Bet, my Metabolic Clinic, the outpatient clinic of Pnimit Bet, and my "Sharap" Clinic (private patients). This was because professional insurance was prohibitively expensive. It was unjustly so, as internal medicine was a low insurance risk field, as compared with the high risk fields of surgery and obstetrics with much higher fees. However, physicians' insurance fees were the same for both.  


XII:  ONLY IN ISRAEL!  (A Miscellany)


Reb Aryeh Levine, z'tz''l

We were privileged to meet Reb Aryeh Levine, within days of our landing in Israel. It was at the suggestion of my father-in-law that we went to dovin in his little shul on Simchat Torah. Reb Aryeh had acquired the unofficial title, "Rabbi of the Prisoners of Zion" during the difficult days before and after the establishment of the State of Israel (1946-8). The title was earned by his concern and loving-care for the prisoners, whom he regularly visited.

Reb Aryeh also appeared in the public eye after the massacre of the "Lamed Heh." They were the 35 soldiers of the Haganah, the Palmach, who attempted to relieve the siege of Kibbutz Etzion and were slaughtered to the last man. The bodies of many had been mutilated beyond recognition by the Arabs, in keeping with their "cultural" traditions (sarcasm intended).  

 The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rav Pesach Frank, had asked Reb Aryeh to undertake the problem of identifying the mutilated bodies. This was, of course, long before the days of DNA identification. Reb Aryeh was obliged to resort to the casting of the "Goral HaGr'a" (Lot of the Vilna Gaon).

In the dark of night, the unidentified bodies lay, lined up in rows outside his little synagogue. Before each of the bodies Reb Aryeh stopped, holding a special two-column edition of the Bible. He opened it at random, turned past a certain number of pages, then past a certain number of columns in the opposite direction. Then the same process for columns, lines, and finally words.

Marvelously, the lot always fell on a word in some way connected with one of the martyrs. Thus, one had been a Levite, and before one body the lot fell on the name Levi, identifying that body. Others were identified when the lot fell on an appropriate first name, or translation of a family name, or a personal attribute. For the name of the last body no lot needed to be cast. Its name had to be that of the last of the unidentified bodies. An official account of these para-normal proceedings was deposited in the archives of the Sochnut (Jewish Agency).


Death of Wolf Appleton, z"l and The Goral HaGr'a

            We received a call one evening from New York telling us that Syril's father, well-loved by so many, had died suddenly. All his four grandchildren here (who knew him well from our recent stay in NY) burst into tears on hearing the sad news. He was to be buried the next day, as late as possible, so that Syril might have a chance to get there to the funeral in time. She would be met at the airport and driven directly to the cemetery. 

            At first we were told that there was no flight leaving Israel that night. Then the travel agent called back to tell us that he had found that the Teheran-Paris direct flight refueled in Israel. The authorities might be persuaded to take on a lone, emergency passenger during refueling. But would it arrive in Paris in time for Syril to catch a flight to NY, and to arrive in NY in time to get to the cemetery, in time for the burial? Just as important, could we get Syril's passport renewed immediately, and in time for her to catch that unscheduled flight to NY within the next few hours?            

 Came the question if it was proper for her to leave her four little children over a week on the slim chance that all those slim chances of making necessary connections would work out in time? She decided to refer the question to Reb Aryeh. He also found the question difficult to answer. To our great surprise, he decided to resort to the casting of the Goral HaG"ra to answer. It fell on Exodus 42, 16: "Tishlechu mikem echad," send one of you.

            We succeeded in reaching the right person in the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. In view of the special circumstances, he authorized the Consul in Jerusalem to have one of his clerks leave home at once, meet Syril at the Mandelbaum Passage ("Gate"), take her passport to the  U.S. Consulate on the Jordanian side for renewal, and return it to her at once.

            We finally got Syril off to the airport, hoping that all the connections, there, in Paris and in NY needed to reach the cemetery in time, would all work out. I waited most anxiously. When I finally called, I found that all had gone as planned. Syril's brother had driven her directly from the airport to the cemetery and had gotten there just as the funeral cortège itself was arriving at the cemetery gate!

It was with considerable relief that I went to thank Reb Aryeh again, and to tell him of the successful conclusion of the complicated arrangements. But Reb Aryeh, man of faith, had taken it all very much for granted. Since the goral came out on "send one of you," it was obvious that the 'send one of you" could not possibly be in vain! How could it have been otherwise? Of course the lot indicated that Syril was destined to get there in time!


 The Strange Case of Reb Aryeh and the Missing Mezuzah!

Another story about Reb Aryeh: He was repeatedly being disturbed by the same strange dream. He dreamed that in the home of his good friend, the poet Uri Zvi Greenberg in Tel Aviv, there was a passul (invalid) mezuzah (ritual scroll).    He told his wife about his repeated dream and she suggested that he simply send Greenberg a kosher mezuzah parchment.  

            Reb Aryeh showed us the letter he had received in reply from Greenberg. "The Rabbi knows there are three rooms in my apartment. When I got the Rabbi's letter, I at once examined all the mezuzot. Those on the doors of all three rooms had kosher parchments. But when I opened the one on my front door I found that the mezuzah case was empty! So I immediately put into it the parchment the Rabbi so kindly sent."


Reznik Pidyon HaBen

Here's another story, in which Reb Aryeh played a minor role for us: We were quite close with our neighbors, the Rezniks (see below, My Role in Rebuilding Jerusalem). Our oldest sons were good friends, and Yehoshua Reznik was attracted to our David's yiddishkeit ('Jewishness') in all its aspects. As a result he had his parents switch him to David's dati (religious day sch) school. There he learned about the rather esoteric rite of pidyon haben (redemption of the first-born son, or "pig-in-a-pen" as one ignoramus heard it!).

On their aliyah from Brazil, the Rezniks had settled first in a kibbutz (Ayalet Hashachar), where Yehoshua was born. Although neither the kibbutz nor the Rezniks were observant, like all boys born in a kibbutz Yehoshuah had a brit {circumcision). However, his father knew that he had not had a pidyon haben, although he was a b'chor.

 Here he was, overdue for the pidyon by one month plus fifteen years! What to do? They asked us, and we in turn asked Reb Aryeh. He was delighted with the question. Of course Yehoshua had to have a pidyon, and he would be glad to attend! Since he wasn't a kohen, our good friend Dave Alexander who was, would do the honors.

None of Israel's coins at the time contained silver weighing as much as a selah (the prescribed biblical weight). Reb Aryeh brought his five Turkish mezhida's which did, and were therefore valid for the ceremony. But I took the liberty of not taking up the offer. I would bring five silver coins which were also valid, but which I thought were much more appropriate for our religious ceremony than Ottoman Turkish coins. Why more appropriate? Because on each American silver dollar is inscribed the religious phrase: "In God We Trust!!"

             David Reznik went down to Meah She'arim to buy a challah koylitsh for the celebration. The baker asked what size challah he needed. So he told the baker the number of guests expected. The baker yelled into the back of the store, ordering "ein achter." While waiting, he asked bare-headed Reznik what the special occasion was (for which a non-observant Jew with uncovered head was ordering a very special ceremonial challah!). When David explained the unusual circumstances of a 15-year old boy redeeming himself, the baker yelled back in again, "a tzehnter!" (He had first ordered an 'eight-er', but then increased the size of the ceremonial loaf to a "ten-er", in honor of the very unusual occasion!)

 [This page is being typed by my good friend and neighbor (computer expert), Craig Preston. He himself goes this story one better. Under similar circumstances while talking here to a friend, he discovered at the age of 39 that he himself not yet had his pidyon haben, which soon followed.]


 Shmura Matzah    

Just before Pesach Reb Aryeh had been senting us sh'mura matzah (especially baked from specially prepared flour, by his family). Four years after his death, we continued to receive them from his son, Reb Raphael, and since the latter's death, from his widow. Throughout the years we have always felt very highly honored. I have just heard from Reb Aryeh's  biographer that he doesn't know of anyone else who had been similarly honored by Reb Aryeh z'tz"l!


 Treating Reb Aryeh z'tz"l

            Over the years my friendship with Reb Aryeh extended to treating him for various ailments including his final illness, although I didn't treat him in his final days.



            We had learned about tzena (food austerity or rationing) during our honeymoon. But then we had it easy. Our full breakfasts were part and parcel of the "bed and breakfast" deal where we stayed and we had our main meals in restaurants. However, immediately on our arrival in Israel on aliyah, we were exposed to tzena in full force, and it lasted for an unpleasant number of years. We olim hadashim (new immigrants) would often pool our rations and eat together on Shabatot. (This pooling of rations made possible much more variety in our limited tzenah meals.)

Another result of tzena was that Syril and I, formerly milk drinkers, were forced to become tea and coffee drinkers. Milk was available on ration only for children. People drank tea because it was available on ration, but coffee had to be bought on the "black" market. So if your host offered you coffee, you accepted with gracious thanks, lest you offend by rejecting his generous hospitality. Every host was sure that a first 'no thank you' to an offer of coffee was just politeness.

Another possible, but serious consequence of tzena was malnutrition. My two sabra sons are tall for their generation of Israeli's, and my daughter is of normal height. But first-born David, who arrived in Israel aged seven months and spent almost all his early childhood under tzena conditions, is quite short. This I attribute to malnutrition induced by tzena, in an unusually active child with unmet, greater caloric needs than most children. However, his lesser height has, fortunately, not been associated with any lack of self-confidence!                                                                                                                   


Bringing Up Children

             In bringing up our children, Syril and I were surrounded by negative examples, both in the US and in Israel. My role model as a parent was my Mother. She had done a pretty good job on me, as according to stories I appear to have been a model youngster in most respects. But Syril herself had had real problems. In fact, as an adolescent, she would actually "run away from home" to seek refuge for long periods with her Aunt Deb and Uncle Simon (Dr. Rubin). Her older sister was a much more tolerant, long-suffering personality. But the youngest brother was a rebellious adolescent. However, all his problems vanished when he was into adulthood and free of maternal supervision. I have always assumed that marked rebelliousness in adolescence resulted from a difficult parent-child relationship.

Syril and I decided that in the raising of our children our respective approaches and methods of training would be as similar as possible. We left little possibility for them to use the common childhood ploy of playing off parents against each other. Thus when our David would ask my permission to do something, I would ask him if he had already asked his mother. Had he asked her and her answer was "no," my answer too was invariably "no!" This was regardless of whether I personally thought it should be so or not.

             The amount of time and effort we invested in raising our first-born was probably excessive, but it was well worth it! He was accepted as a suitable role model by all three children who came after him. Not only did they "follow after him," but he actively trained them for us in proper childhood behavior! He took on the responsibility of an ideal "b'chor," (first-born son), and a leader of his siblings.

            As for adolescence, I used to say that one of my children was never adolescent; one was for two weeks, one for two years and one until adulthood! The latter one got to see much of the country, he later told us, playing hookey from high school and hitch-hiking around the country!


Our Children's Childhood

            Mention has been made of David's excessive crying. He also required us to sing him long lullaby sessions. One of his favorites was "One Little, Two Little …. Indians." Once, after a prolonged session of singing ending with his favorite, I thought him asleep at last! I slowed down, and finally stopped singing. Then slowly rose and quietly and slowly begin to leave.  But at the very last possible moment, just as I was closing the door and escaping he suddenly yelled out, "more In'ians!!" So he got another half dozen "In'ians" at the expense of his exhausted father.       

 Both Syril and I often had original, creative approaches to having fun with our children. We very often took them on trips throughout the country, especially to Eilat and the Kinneret for swimming. Transporting the variety of clothing, equipment and playthings suitable for their different ages was a problem which we solved in our own sloppy but efficient way. We would throw all things, without order or system, into a zippered mattress-cover and then tie it, flattened, on the roof of our car. At our destination, we would drag it into our quarters. On return home we would leave many items in the mattress-cover, ready for the next trip.


Succot in Sinai

Come Succot we would also load our disassembled succah onto the roof of our car and erect it at our destination. We did this once right after the Six-Day War, We said that we were (possibly) erecting a succah in the Sinai Desert for the first time since the Israelites had done so for the very first time after the original Exodus!

The succah we built then was unusually low. When we sat down in the sand inside the succah to eat, we tied Shaggy, our dog (named by Menahem) to one of the uprights. While we were bentshing (saying Grace) Shaggy got restless and pulled away. Down came the succah! So we continued to bentsh next to a "succat Daveed hanophalet! [King David's fallen succah),


My Role in Rebuilding Jerusalem

            Once, when visiting our next-door neighbor, David Reznik, he was working on his plans for the synagogue of the Hebrew University at Givat Ram. Of course I was interested and looking them over, I saw something I thought required correction.

The plans showed the orientation of the Torah Ark, the seating and the entrance to the synagogue to be all due east (literally, "orient"-ed!}. That was in keeping with the tradition that most Jews pray facing eastward, in the general direction of Jerusalem. But that tradition was only that of Jews in Europe, the Americas and North Africa. In Israel, Israelis pray (and Israelites then prayed) not due eastward but in the actual geographical direction of Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) from the location they happen to be in at the moment of prayer, whatever the compass direction.

So we got out a large scale map, located the site of the university shul and drew a line from it to the Temple Mount. This was then the proper direction, I urged, in which a synagogue was to be oriented, and not due east. It meant correcting the planned orientation of the synagogue by some 30 degrees more towards the north! This was easy to correct for as the synagogue was to be round in shape. Only the relative positions of the Torah Ark, the entrance, and the future seating needed to be shifted in the plans, and nothing in the structure of the building itself. And that was my contribution to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, "may it be speedily, and in our days!,"Amen!


Religious Observance and Longevity

After retiring I still had a particular pet research project remaining, among many others. I even had a little seed money that had been contributed to start it, which I hadn't been able to, for various reasons. But I finally got Prof. Jeremy Kark, head of Hadassah's School of Public Health, interested in the project. It required the participation of a number of members of his staff, facilities of his department, and money from his budget, in addition to my little "seed money."

The successful result, thanks to him and his staff, was our article: "Does Religious Observance Promote Health? Mortality in Secular vs Religious Kibbutzim in Israel" (Amer. J. Pub. Health, 86, 341-346, 1996).  After the digging-out of the data directly from the kibbutz records, its collation and statistical analysis, the answer was an emphatic "Yes!"

Mortality rates for all causes of death taken together, as well as the most important specific causes of death taken separately, were all significantly less in religious than in secular (not religiously observant) kibbutzim. For men and for women separately, they were only about half as frequent!

The statistical analyses were carried out by co-author Yechiel Friedlander (my long in-the-future mechutan and the father-in-law of my granddaughter Gefen). The results affirmed, literally, the biblical injunction: "V'chai bahem!" "And you shall live by them!" {by observing the mitzvot, the religious commandments).

 An unusual advantage of our study was that it had a really valid control group. Unrecognized differences between controls and the experimental subjects may be present in studies of this type, possibly invalidating conclusions. However, we could be reasonably certain that the general way of life of all our subjects, both religious and secular, was very similar. For all our subjects lived in kibbutzim, in which general life styles were essentially the same except for the religiously prescribed differences.

             Our paper won the prize of the Templeton Foundation for the best medical article published in (English) on religion and health that year. The prize had not been awarded for a number of years because the studies published weren't of sufficiently high quality. While the scientific differences in the data were very significant, the sum of the prize money when divided among the five authors was not!


 International Congresses

            I had been attending international medical congresses all through the years, in Europe and the US, keeping up-to-date with advances in medical research. Doing so might seem like a ploy to see the world at the expense of research budgets. But research grants usually provide specifically for travel and other expenses of attending scientific meetings especially if a paper is presented.

At one international congress, a friend from my Rockefeller days, (who was also in obesity research), suggested that we hold an obesity congress in Israel. I accepted the challenge and began planning to host a congress of the International Obesity Society, to take place in Israel. We had to wait four years and two congresses, before we got the official nod!

Planning it was a long, and most arduous process. But I had working with me Kenes, the very efficient Israel government organization that helps run international meetings in Israel for our national tourism bureau. I also had the very capable help of my colleagues, Jaime Kapitulnik and Natan Kaufman.

Here follow excerpts from some of the letters received from participants in our "Vth Int. Cong. on Obesity" (Sept. 14-19, 1986, Jerusalem). I quote below only from those seasoned Congress attendees who rated ours as "the best, or one of the best" congresses they had ever attended.


 Excerpts from Letters of Congress Participants:

 "…absolutely marvelous! By far the best I have attended… The warmth of the excellent meeting still glows within me." J. Hirsch, Rockefeller Univ., NY [who had suggested that we hold an Obesity Congress in Israel]         

            "…what a glorious congress…" T. Van Itallie, St. Luke's Hosp., NY

            "…a superb congress! The best ever." A. Stunkard , U. Penn., Phila.

            "…perfect from every point of view. I don’t think there will be anything in the near future that can bear comparison." M. Cairella, Pres. Unione Italiana contro l' Obesita, Roma.

            "…created a "gold standard" for Obesity Congresses against which old and new congresses will be compared." M. DiGirolamo, Pres. North Amer. Assoc. for Study of Obesity, Emory U., Atlanta.

            "…a scientific triumph." J. Stern , U. Cal., Davis.

"…a superb congress…the finest Congress ever." A. Sullivan, Dir. Pharm and Chemotherapy, Hoffman-LaRoche, NJ.

            "…such a magnificent Congress. Most of us rated it the best yet." A.N. Howard, Cambridge U., UK.

            "…the best organized meeting with the best informal and open discussions and the best social and artistic program that it ever has been my pleasure to visit under any circumstances." L. Sullivan, U. Goteborg, Sweden.

            "… outstanding congress … superb effort … herculean achievement … magnificent meeting." B. Hansen, Vice Chancelor, U. Maryland, USA.

            "…excellent. Warmth of welcome exceeded my highest expectations." J. Munro, Edenhall Hosp., Midlothian, UK.

            "… a truly wonderful Congress! The plenary lectures and papers were of superior quality and genuinely fine scholarship… One of the finest congresses I have ever attended." P. Vash, Pres. Amer. Bariatric Physicians, L.A., Cal.

 It made us most happy to have so very successfully promoted the scientific prestige of Israel internationally! The results made our great expenditure of time and effort well worthwhile.


Symposium on Kernicterus and Infantile Jaundice

I also organized a smaller, but no less successful: "International Symposium on Kernicterus and Infant Jaundice." After the Symposium, I turned down with thanks, repeated offers of the director of The National Foundation, our chief source of Symposium funds, for additional funds he thought we "might still need." Of course I should have accepted! We always need additional research funds!

 Between the time we started planning the symposium until we finally held it, Israel suffered through the enormous stress of the Six-Day-War. At the Symposium finale we had as entertainer, Shuly Natan. She sang for us Yerushalayim shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold) as she had sung it at its national (radio) premier just a few days before, on the eve of the war.

That performance of hers was historic. The song was to become a national classic. It was written and composed by the famous poet and song writer, the late Naomi Shemer, and sung so stirringly by the rising young star, Shuly Natan. That presentation had dramatically raised our abysmally low, pre-war national spirits! And then she sang it again, just for our Symposium audience, only a few days later, after the amazing success of that war for our national existence (unfortunately, one of so many!). It was a very moving, never to be forgotten, experience.    


 Volunteer Plumber

            I had always enjoyed doing odd jobs around the house, in the lines of painting, carpentering making-like-an-electrician, etc. But I hadn't had any experience with real plumbing techniques, other than very minor ones like changing washers in leaking faucets, etc. That was in the days when all pipes were of metal and not of plastic. I had always wanted to learn the slightly complicated technique of joining metal pipes so the joints wouldn't leak.

A severe storm had caused extensive damage in our north, especially to roofing and the overhead water supply of the many poultry runs. So I took a week's vacation and went to work as a volunteer in Kibbutz S'dei Eliahu. There I helped re-install the over-head water supply of temporarily de-roofed turkey runs in kibbutzim. After a few days of learning on-the-job, I was able to cut pipe, install threading and connect sections of piping, all on my own.

In those pre-Teflon days, this involved using wadding of pishtan (flax fibers) well-smeared with red base-paint (why red? I still wonder). I worked as if I were used to wearing a blue collar. I returned home feeling very satisfied with myself for having helped a sector of Israel overcome a not-so-very-great but significant crisis, working with my "lily white" hands. I had also learned some basic plumbing techniques.






Mother's Aliyah

            Some years after our aliyah, circumstances had become more suitable for elderly immigrants. So we suggested to Mother that the time had come for her to make aliyah and join us. Some of the Koenigsberg family, with whom she had warm relations since away back, helped her close down her apartment which she had been renting for almost thirty years. We arranged for comfortable living quarters, first in a pension and later in the nearby Kings Hotel (with hot plate cooking) that was near a good, pension, where he could have meals.

She adjusted well to living in Israel. She soon had many friends among older English-speakers who had come, and to retire in Jerusalem. Still moderately energetic and with considerable initiative, she organized one of Jerusalem's first retired-persons social groups for her friends and acquaintances. Meetings were devoted to cultural and educational presentations (most often by her), discussions (which she often chaired), group singing (which she led), raising money for favorite charities, etc. She called her group the "Savtah (grandmother) Club." A number of grandfathers also were attracted, who attended meetings and joined in activities.


Mother's Declining Years

            Mother had been impressed with how often her friends were "imposed upon" by their children by being so often been made resentful baby sitters for their grandchildren. She seemed very determined not to let it happen to her.

As a result, although she lived close by, she always "kept her distance." She didn't visit us nearly as often as we had expected, and she often turned down our invitations for Shabbat meals. Asking her to baby-sit with her grandchildren was no casual matter. We always needed a compelling reason to ask her to mind the children, despite the fact that we were giving her an opportunity for more intimate contact with her own grandchildren in her late 80's. But this was just another aspect of the admirable independence that she displayed, remarkable at her age.   

            When she did come for Shabbat dinner, she would often sing for us Yiddisher liederlach from her youth and from those she had learned during our year in Palestine together. My children loved to hear them, and went on to sing them for their own children. One of my sons recently recalled how impressed they had been then, with the charm and charisma with which she sang for us.

         Until her mid 80s Mother was doing quite well. I would be told by people how impressed they were by her well-dressed, well-groomed appearance (despite her age and her living alone); but this was not to last very long.


Terminal Alzheimer's Disease

Some years later she began to develop Alzheimer's Disease, with all its classic manifestations. She began getting lost; she would light Sabbath candles several times during the week; she would accuse me of stealing her money, etc. Things got very difficult for everyone, especially for her.  

We moved her into the apartment just above ours, fortunately rentable at the time. She eventually needed helpers around the clock. One of them, a particularly efficient foreign helper, abused our trust by holding prayer meetings in her apartment. Since she was actually a missionary, she got Mother to participate in them. Not understanding much of what was going on around her by this time, Mother was encouraged to join them. She particularly enjoyed singing their hymns with them!

One fall too many resulted in Mother's being confined to bed by an inoperable leg fracture for the rest of her days. Her helper at the time, who had been trained as a nurse's aid, had been taking good care of her. However, when she bathed her she didn't notice bed sores developing on the backs of her heels. They went on to ulcerate, leading to her being confined to bed. Fortunately there was a satisfactory little hospital for the chronically ill just nearby to which she was admitted. When David went to visit her and present his bride, Orna, to her, he thought he saw just a glimmer of understanding on her part. After a few years there, she died at the age of 88, a"h.

It had been a bitter, undeserved ending to an outstanding, exemplary life, except when illness finally took control of her. But long before the end, she no longer seemed aware of her miserable condition.

Among other commemorations, I endowed a bed and memorial plaque for her at Hadassah Hospital. This was most appropriate for a founder, organizer, supporter and life-long member of Hadassah.


 Mother's Grave

            Years before her death, I had been persuaded by Zelda Leff, Syril's aunt and an old friend of my Mother's, to buy a grave for her next to the plot she was buying for herself. Later, just before Mother's funeral, I found out that the burial society would hold her funeral service in a crowded little back-yard alley leading into a hospital motor pool, without seating for anyone. I felt that was far too undignified and inappropriate for Mother. So I bought a second grave for her from another chevrah kadishah (burial society) which would use a suitable funeral chapel, despite the price.


Family Graves

I now own three graves: a) the one next to Zelda Leff, z"l, not used for my Mother, a"h, but only available for a woman; b) the one next to that of Syril, a"h, that we bought together with hers for me, a'l'ch"a; c) and the last empty grave of a family group in a Baltimore cemetery that I had inherited as the sole survivor of the Solomon Blondheim family, my paternal grandfather. It was my only paternal legacy aside from a kiddush cup and a b'somim (spice) box.

Syril and I had bought our pair of graves in the new Beth Shemesh cemetery, about half-an-hour out of Jerusalem. We said that we wanted our children to enjoy the lovely drive when they came to visit our graves! In her case she was sorrowfully proved right. When we visit her grave on her yahr-zeits, our family has the honor of paying their respects to their dear wife, Mother, and grandmother, and of fulfilling the mitzvah of bikur kever avot amid of recalling the enduring bond of love that unites her memory and her loving family.


Syril's Grave

Syril's gravestone is the product of much family thought, but especially on the part of Menahem. Its shape is rather standard. The epitaph (gravestone inscription) is not. It reads:

  The next 3 pages the pictures were remove for sending by email

 Embedded in the foot of the gravestone is an unusually large fossilized snail. This represents Syril's love of nature, especially of unusual, little animal species.




 Sabbatical in N. Y.

            Again I backtrack: I took a only sabbatical leave at the end of 1958. It was just before Danny's second birthday, when the price of air travel for children had increased from 10% to 50% of the adult fare. We stayed with my parents-in-law in their Upper West Side, NY apartment in which they had raised my wife and their other three children. This was a wonderful opportunity for our children to learn not to be provincials.

 We davined in the Young Israel of the West Side. Their High Holydays services were in the Greystone Hotel, a bit of a shlep (drag) from the Appleton apartment. On Shabbat Shuvah I was late starting the shlepping. As we were passing the B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue of Rabbi Israel Goldstein, the children asked what that very ornate building was. Thinking that I could expand the horizons of my brood and take a rest at the same time, we went in.


 Weedily Beedily"

The children were troubled by the differences between the modest Orthodox shuls with which they were familiar and this ornate "high-church" (l'havdil!) very Conservative synagogue. These included not only a great deal of English in the services; the bima (Torah-reading platform) was not in the center of the shul but on the platform in front of the Torah ark (the "sanctuary!"); the rabbi and chazzan wearing long black robes and the latter also a tall round ceremonial hat (mitznefet); their talitot narrow and scarf-like (like stoles!); men and women sitting together; etc.

So unusual did they find these differences that six-year-old Menahem asked as we left: “Are they Jewish?” To which eleven-year-old David immediately answered for me, “Of course they are, they just aren't so Jewish as us!” Years later, we were visiting with the (Rabbi) Israel Goldstein's after he had retired and made aliyah. I told him that story. His response was: “You know, he just might have been right!”

 And on our way home Menahem again asked about that shul: “And what was it what they were saying about “weedily beedily?" That floored me. It wasn’t until years later that it suddenly occurred to me: that that was how his Hebrew-attuned ears had heard the aleynu being read by the rabbi: “WE therefore BEnD the knEE… That WE may spEEDILY behold….!


Childrens' Later American Experience

That was the first American experience of any of our children since infant David had left the US when we came on aliyah. The Blondheim and Sklar children later began mutually satisfactory reciprocal international visits (Israel to US and vice versa) of our respective children as each began to mature physically.

It started when Jonathan, son of David and Rasha Sklar (Syril's sister) spent a year in Israel. Part of it was with us, but most of it was with Shimshon and Chana Novick at Kfar HaRoeh, where he attended school. He celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, together with that of our David, on Pesach in our own shul, a most memorable, if inconvenient event!


 David Goes to America

In turn, right after David's Bar Mitzvah we sent him to spend the last trimester of his last year of elementary school with the Sklars in NY. This was when his class had already been assigned their grades for the year (and the national "seker" (review exam of those days completed). Nothing much was happening then in school except for rehearsing the graduation program (the play, etc.).

 So off he went to Lawrence, Long Island to the Sklars, to attend the local municipal junior high) and learn to be more fluent in English. He then stayed on with them for a few more weeks in their summer resort, attending the course in the local summer school in "remedial English." There he also learned touch typing, which he of course found very valuable in later years.

David had a marvelous experience, in all. It included performing with the school orchestra (using a violin they lent him), and getting a disk of their public performance. They also went on a sightseeing trip to Wash. DC where he and the orchestra again performed.


 Menahem Goes to America

            Menahem's trip to the Sklars was a bit different. Racial integration in the US was now progressing, so his class had a number of colored children. One of them asked him, "why you wearin' that funny li'l black hat?" To which he replied "why you wearin' that funny black face?" Maybe a year or so later, when racial integration had progressed and close to a majority of pupils were now black, that might have set off a little local race riot! 


Debbie Goes to America

Debbie's trip to America was put off a year, because she wasn't ready to leave home till she was a bit more mature. When she did, she went to Lawrence High School, not the Junior High

Once there was a tremendous downpour and flooding, and traffic was a shambles. They were gathered together, all those who had managed to get to school, from any class, all in the gymnasium. For want of anything better, the radio was turned on full volume and they had social dancing for an hour or so. All pretty daunting for a little Israeli girl unaccustomed to co-ed schooling and certainly ignorant of social dancing!  


 Danny Goes to America

            By the time Danny's turn came racial integration was much farther along. Hence the Sklar's thought it best to send him to HiLi (Hebrew Institute of Long Island) Day School. But there the emphasis was on getting their pupils to learn to speak Hebrew, while he needed to learn to speak English! His classmates probably learned more Hebrew from him than he learned English from them. And he did not get to go to summer school.

Of course at home inter-child language was now entirely Hebrew, while it had started off with parent-influenced English between David and Debbie. When Menahem joined the family the conversation was still mostly in English. By Danny's time it was all Hebrew. As a result of all factors involved, Danny is significantly less accomplished in English than our other children. Menahem later spent two years plus in the US doing his MA at Harvard, which put his English, especially written, way ahead of that of his siblings.  He later spent another two years studying there which resulted in his thesis and his book (News over the Wires: The Telegraph and the Flow of Public Information in America, 1844-1897) based on his PhD thesis. 


Lavie and Bleema Sklar Stay With Us

            Reciprocally, Lavie Sklar spent some months with us, before and after school in Kfar HaRoeh, where he stayed with Shimshon and Chanah Novik.

Bleema Sklar stayed with us, on and off, while she attended school in Givat Washington, where the program was designed to train the pupils to be instructors in physical training and sports. Many years later she recalled her close ties with Syril by naming her daughter Renana Syril.




 Initial Synagogue Problem

  After our first few years in Israel and four children, I really began to suffer from shlepping them, one in a stroller, all the way to Yeshurun Synagogue every Shabbat (Sabbath). And there the dovining was too long-drawn-out, and the atmosphere too formal and too non-friendly.

What I wanted was a minyan that filled the following prescription, more or less. It wouldn't start very early, nor end late; every ba'al tefillah (prayer leader) would be competent, have an acceptable voice, but would not indulge in chazanut or repetition of verses; there would be full participation in congregational singing (sotte voce by monotones!) that didn't drag; the privilege (not right!) of leading prayers on a yahrzeit would be only for a first degree relative who was also a competent ba’al tefillah; there would be no chazaka's (chronic entitlement to honors and honorific functions); only one mi-shebeyrach per oleh and only one more on special s’machot; no "sh’nudering" (= "sheh-nadar," announcing sum of donation); pronunciation by chazzan and congregation would be Sefardi and not "Ashkenaz," ritual would be as liberal as possible within the bounds of halachah; and most congregants would not be ancient relics. This was quite a big order!


 Trying to Start a Minyan

So I approached the director of Bet Hillel, the University students' off-campus home-in-town. I told him that no doubt many students, as well as faculty members (myself included), would like to have a minyan on Shabbatot and chagim (Sabbaths and festivals). Could we try to organize such a minyan in Bet Hillel?

The director, a rabbi, replied: "Hillel, you don’t understand, religion is politics here in Israel. If I let Orthodox students dovin (pray) in Bet Hillel on Shabbat, the non-religious students will also want to use it, to play cards or such-like. Since this wouldn't be unacceptable, no one will use Bet Hillel on Shabbat; it will be kept closed."       

 Over the next few years I approached several successive directors of Bet Hillel with my request and always got a refusal. At the beginning of my seventh year at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School we left on sabbatical for NY (1958).


Minyan in Bet Hillel

Shortly after we returned from my Sabbatical leave, I was shlepping along with my four kids in the usual Shabbat pre-shul rush. While passing Bet Hillel (about a block from our home), I heard what sounded suspiciously like dovining coming from the ground floor library.

On investigating, I found that the minyan (quorum for group prayer) I had been trying, so long and so unsuccessfully to start, had been started in my absence! It was under the auspices of Rabbi Shoval, then director of Bet Hillel, and run by the University's Brit Studentim Dati'im (religious student's organization). It fulfilled all of my hoped-for criteria for a minyan and more!

It consisted of students and faculty members of the Hebrew University and a sprinkling of neighbors and their children. My new minyan had already been started for me! My children, Syril, and I became well-integrated into that ever-expanding congregation. How I managed to sound-proof my two youngest during the full course of Shabbat morning services, is a tribute to their unusual juvenile patience and my ingenuity in distracting them from talking when needed.


Starting Mature Adulthood

It was during this period that I underwent a traumatic rite of passage. This was the result of the coinciding of three separate events: I was asked by our good friends, Rachel and David Reznick to be sandak (godfather) at the brit of their newborn Baruch (an honor usually assigned to a family elder, but they had no family in Israel); I was chosen to be their first chatan b'raysheet on Simhat Torah in the Bet Hillel minyan, an honor usually bestowed on those of established maturity (even in that youthful minyan); lastly, I had very suddenly become forty years of age! Old age was now creeping up on me so fast that I was on the verge of middle-age depression!


Bet Hillel Minyan Overflows

The Bet Hillel minyan was becoming much too successful. Over a few years it had grown until it was too large even for the much larger upstairs hall into which it had moved. It had become "standing room only," but with very little standing or even just "hearing-room" still available.

 The then-director of Bet Hillel, Reconstructionist Rabbi Jack Cohen, decided that non-students would have to make room for students, who naturally had priority in a student minyan. But he delayed the banishing until “a positive solution” was found for the problem, such as the forming of an independent minyan for non-students,


Forming Our New Minyan

It took a few months until American oleh, Rabbi Irwin Gordon, who had been dovining with us, found an ideal place for a new minyan. It was in the Metivtah (religious academy) of the Sephardi Community. It's just a few blocks away (on the other side of our home). Parts of its third and fourth floors had originally been built as a two-story synagogue hall and its balcony as well. However, their elderly congregation was using the ground floor community hall and its balcony for services. Climbing all those stairs was too difficult for their advanced years.

 We were to pay a round sum for cleaning, heating, lighting and other expenses. Rabbi Cohen generously returned to our new minyan the fees we had paid individually before Rosh Hashonah (New Year) for seats in Bet Hillel. This was enough to get us well started in our new quarters, with a little reserve. We first met as a new congregation on Shabbat Chanukah, 1962.


 Minyan Members

We were worried at first whether we would have enough regulars for a weekly Shabbat morning minyan (quorum for praying). But we had more than enough even at the very start, and the minyan began to grow rapidly. The same basic formula that had succeeded so well in Bet Hillel was successful for us too.

However, I was afraid that having too many ‘Anglo-Saxim’ (native English speakers, in the local vernacular), would brand our us as "dovening etzel ha’Amerika’im" (with the Americans). That, I feared, would be the kiss of death for our new congregation.

So I appealed to a sabra and a European-born co-worshipper to join our founding committee, with the promise they would have no time-consuming obligations. The three of us who were the prime movers would do all the work. They included Rabbi Irwin Gordon, Roger Berman (a young American engineer), and me, all ready, able and willing to do all the work. This included sweeping the floors Friday afternoons, straightening the rows of folding chairs, filling our heating stoves with kerosene and lighting them, etc.

After a few years Roger left us for reasons of conscience, to adopt a more exacting brand of Judaism, charaydi ('ultra'-orthodox) style. Irwin and I continued to do all the work. We actually enjoyed doing it, because it was what enabled us to have and run exactly our own kind of minyan, one most suitable for ourselves and our growing families.


 A Sociable Minyan

            One of the distinctive features of our synagogue was its friendly, sociable atmosphere. There was a real bond of friendship and good feeling between members (but not usually extending to include strangers or visitors). Most native Israeli minyanim of the time were devoted almost exclusively to their primary purpose of prayer, and there was no socializing during services.            

Three of our early members in particular, by virtue of their active, outgoing personalities, succeeded in infusing the congregation with much of their own heartiness. They were Moshe Brin, yl"a, Bernie Reznikov and Dave Alexander (all, z"l). Their spirit of personal warmth pervaded the congregation. We therefore arranged for frequent shul social events (see below). More recently, that spirit is being found increasingly in other local shuls as well.  


 Idle Chatter in Shul!

One of the greatest curses of modern American shuls is talking during services, especially during Torah-reading. Often the rabbi interrupts his chattering congregants (and the services as well!), with stern admonitions against talking. The noise then usually diminishes greatly (but not completely!), starts up again as soon as he sits down, and then increases slowly until it reaches the original level.

On the other hand, most Israeli congregations maintain almost complete silence during services. The minimal socializing takes place, if at all, before and/or after the dovining. Usually only those really intent on dovining and not socializing, are willing to devote such a large proportion of their single weekly day-off, as does attending Shabbat morning services.

Such was our new congregation. Only later did we tend to deteriorate a bit, with an increased number of newly-arrived, loquacious Americans.

 An Innovative Minyan

From the beginning of our minyan we were always looking to introduce positive innovations. Thus, as soon as Velcro appeared on the market, we tried using it for closing the retzuah that binds the Torah scroll and keeps it firmly closed. But on being opened, it made a tearing noise. So we examined the Velcro under a stereoscopic microscope. We found no evidence of any tearing of the tiny curved plastic hairs involved in the closure. We might well have been the first shul in Israel to use Velcro to bind a sefer Torah.

We insisted that kohanim (priests) leave their shoes in the back of the shul or under their seats, before they went up to the duchan. This was so they wouldn't leave them in the areas around them as they blessed the congregation. We didn't want the shul to look like a second-hand shoe store! Of course we provided slippers for those who wanted them.

On the other hand, we were quite comfortable with having barefooted kohanim performing their ritual, as they had probably done in Bible times. We also had no objection to anyone attending services or going up for an aliyah in sandals without sox (since there is no evidence of socks ever having being worn in Temple times!).

For washing the hands of kohanim before the duchan (priestly blessing), we installed a sink without running water, thus avoiding leaks or floods. Water is brought in by Levi'im (Levites) from the adjoining wash room in a large metal vase with five big handles. Thus a number of Levites can simultaneously perform their Levitical function, holding the vase by its large, multiple handles to pour water over the many outstretched priestly hands.

For genizah of worn-out prayer and other sacred books, we had a large metal urn made. It was shaped like, and about as size of the containers in which the Megillot HaGenuzot (Dead Sea Scrolls) were found. The urn was placed outside the shul, so that it could be used at all times, even when the shul was closed, and particularly by neighborhood non-doviners. The inscription on the urn was in pierced letters. We thought that through the little empty spaces between and within the pierced letters some of the pressure of a bomb that might be tossed in, chas vechalilah, would be vented.

 Since the women's balcony is sufficiently high, it doesn't technically need a mechitzah (separation) according to halacha. But a metal railing was installed, in an attempt to keep everyone happy. Some women consider it only a railing to keep them from falling out of the balcony; others do consider it a mechitza, of sorts; and some don't consider a mechitza necessary. The occasional woman who is still not happy and who drapes a scarf over the railing in front of her is requested not to sit in the first row but farther back.  

 During the building of the shul, a ramp was constructed for the benefit of those who limp, or use crutches, walkers or wheel-chairs. At the time, we were possibly the first, or certainly one of the first shuls in Israel to have such a handicapped-friendly feature. (But we couldn't think of a way to get the infirm up the two stairs of the bima for an aliyah, other than with the aid of helping hands).

As we age, some of our women are finding it increasingly difficult to climb the stairs to the balcony. So we installed a few seats for women behind a more or less transparent curtain in a corner of the men's section indirectly accessible by ramp from the street level.

But a more thorough-going solution may be in the offing. For years there have been vague thoughts of installing a Shabbat-elevator (runs and stops automatically) from the ground floor up to the women's balcony and on up to the floor above it. The elevator shaft would have to be in the rear of the building. As our elderly women continue to age, pressure to solve the difficult engineering problems increases.

 For Purim, after a few unsuccessful ideas were tried, we hit on an acceptable, and by now well-established system for minimizing outbursts of noise that customarily follow the reading of Haman's name (y'mach sh'mo!). We string many balloons across the open space between the two sides (arms) of the women's balcony. Kids take turns at not-so-very-loudly exploding them with a pin-tipped pole, on the proper cue by an adult. Putting water or flour in the balloons ew found too extreme even for our fun-loving congregants!

 For Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) we adopted a custom we saw elsewhere. We erect a chuppah (wedding canopy) covered with greenery over the shulhan for the reading of the Torah. It symbolizes the spiritual union between Israel and the Torah.

We had a few very successful field days on Lag b'Omer, with camp fires and picnicking. There was a tug-of-war between those who usually arrive in shul before Borchu on Shabbat and those who arrive after. But all that was earlier, in our more youthful early days.

             During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur most of the congregation kneels during certain prayers. Some chose to kneel on a handkerchief or talit bag, neither of which we thought appropriate. So we print up big sheets of paper with Holyday greetings, for kneeling on, and distribute them just before the appointed time for kneeling. This custom has been spreading to other shuls.  

             For years there had been a problem finding a body of water in Jerusalem for the Tashlich ceremony (for the "casting away" sins) on Rosh HaShonah. The usual solution was to recite the prayer outside the shul at the opening of the legally required water cistern. (After the siege of Jerusalem during the War of Independence, it was made obligatory for every new dwelling to have its own communal cistern in its basement. This was because the Arabs had been temporarily able to cut off completely Jerusalem's water supply.)

            Once, all through Tashlich, a new oleh kept complaining, "But where's the water?" The water couldn't readily be seen as its surface was deep down in the cistern. I told him he was perfectly right, and asked him if he would finance my solution to the problem (conceived on the spot). So he contributed funds for water-proofing the open channel in the back yard of the shul. It had been built for the runoff of winter rainwater from the roof, but water leaked from it into the shul when it held standing water.                                

            Before the festival we now close the exit of the channel and fill it with water by garden hose. That first year we also put goldfish in the water. They were meant to symbolize the 'scarlet' of the sins being cast in, to be made "white as snow" by repentance. But the smart fish kept hiding out of sight, under a covered unseen portion of the channel. Since then we only fill the channel with fishless water.  

             On the exterior of the cast-aluminum doors of the shul the "Gates of Nicanor" are portrayed. These were the gates which had guarded the entrance to the Bet HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. Our artist (Perli Pelzig) copied his portrayal from a coin of the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion. Next to our entrance, embedded in the wall, is a replica of that coin. It shows the Gates of Nicanor, as they were remembered by the generation that followed the destruction of the Temple.  

            On the inside of the doors is a likeness of the mosaic on the floor of an ancient synagogue unearthed in Jericho. The design shows traditional Jewish symbols and the words: Shalom al Yisrael (Peace on Israel). That is the only site where those appropriate words were ever found displayed. We are delighted for our shul to be the second site! (as far as we know).

              For years our men continued to sit on folding chairs that could easily be stacked away. That left a large area clear for dancing on Simchat Torah. To provide even more space for dancing, there are caster wheels under the bima so it can be rolled out of the way to the rear of the shul. (In the women's balcony, comfortable, fixed seats were installed from the beginning.)

We kept putting off the replacing of the folding-chairs in the men's section until we had solved the problem of providing enough space for Simchat Torah dancing. We finally had heavy, upholstered, individual chairs specially designed for us. The seats are substantial enough and upholstered for those who need the comfort that folding chairs don't provide. But still they can be fitted together to a certain extent, back-to-front, and stacked out of the way against the walls, thus the area for dancing is not reduced by very much.


Annual Shabbaton

A special social activity has been our Shabbaton (Shabbat retreat), on Shabbat HaGadol just before Pesach. We held our first Shabbaton at Kibbutz Hofetz Haim, not long after our minyan was inaugurated. It was such a surprising success that a few years later we had another, at Ramot Shapira. This was while our minyan was temporarily housed in the Moadon HaOleh, while our shul building was being built. The subject of the general discussion that Shabbat was the character and characteristics we wanted for our future shul and the shul building.

For some years having a Shabbaton was neglected, but under the guidance of Stuart Dove we have again been holding them annually. It is now regularly held at the Ma'aleh HaHamishah Guest House, about 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem. It is a very popular cultural and social event. It allows members and their extended families to develop closer relations before and after dining, dovining and drashot (religious discourses). Not least, it allows our women-of-valor a short, cooking-free respite from the nightmares of Pesach cleaning.

 N.B. Most of the above innovations were suggested by the author modestly hiding behind the word ''we," when writing the above section. (The exceptions, the ones which he did not suggest or participate in suggesting, were the designs on the shul doors, the mosaic on the floor of the entrance and the shape of the singularly appropriate genizah urn.)


Chairman Resigns Unsuccessfully!

For many years Gordon and I ran the shul as its popularly elected leaders. He functioned mostly on the religious and ritual side, and I on the secular and practical. After quite a long spell as chairman of the shul board, I felt it fitting to resign so that someone else could take over the running of the shul, guiding its development and introducing new ideas.

But after I resigned, talking during services became a real problem. One gabbai (shul official) couldn't contain himself. He would shout at the top of his voice from his seat to silence the disturbing chatter. After a number of such disturbing outbursts, I felt obliged to resume the burden of the chairmanship. Thus I would again have the authority to "shush-up" talkers, quietly, one-on-one. It worked, so after a year or so I was again able to resign, this time successfully.                                                                                        


"Shushing" Up Congregants

Shushing-up congregants has its complications. One member was most valuable because of his ability to lead services satisfactorily at a rapid but not too fast pace, He was thus able to make up for time lost by an unusually slow ba'al tefillah (prayer leader) or ba'al koreh (Torah reader), and for the extra time taken by long or double Torah-readings. But he began  taking his young grandson to shul and both enjoyed their weekly contact, chatting disturbingly. I repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to shush-up the young grandfather.

I realized that if I kept hounding him he would really take offense and leave the shul. I did, and he did. For me, shul decorum took precedence; for him, interactive grandfather-hood. We both won, but the shul had to pay the price by losing his valuable talent. The undisturbed quiet during services that followed was well worth the price. Better that someone leave the shul because we stop him from talking, than that others leave in protest because we don’t stop them from talking. The latter has already happened when we didn't!

Lingua Hebraica

For years after the founding of our congregation, I would periodically take an unofficial census of members by language spoken at home. For a very long time we were fortunate in always having at least a bare majority of Hebrew speakers. But in recent years that small majority became an increasingly small minority. Unfortunately "Anglo-Saxim" now increasingly predominates in our main minyan.

 A potential problem was the way the ba’al tefillah (prayer leader) pronounces the Hebrew of the prayers. At first we did not see this as a problem. But once when my family was spending Shabbat in another neighborhood, I asked one of my sons if he had enjoyed the dovining there as much as I had. The answer was "No!" because of a "rayach galuti" "scent of the Diaspora" that bothered him. That was because the ba’al tefillah used the Ashkenazi and not the Sephardi pronunciation that prevails in Israel.

I drew the obvious conclusion. Of course I wanted my children to continue to dovin with me and assumed others felt the same. We therefore made it the rule that only those using the Sephardi pronunciation would lead services. We lost at least one prominent Rabbinical and very valuable member as a result. The alternative was that some of our children would probably choose, as they approached young adulthood, to leave us to dovin in a shul without a "rayach galuti."

 Much later, when our main congregation went on to consist mostly of "Anglo-Saxim," our use of the prevailing Sephardi pronunciation preserved at least the semblance of our being an indigenous Israeli congregation. The high cost of apartments in our neighborhood was preventing our children who married from living within walking distance of our shul. Otherwise, the increasing number of our married sabra children would have assured our becoming in time a true, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-aging, native Israeli congregation.

Fee for Shul Seats

I turn way back again in our story. Mainly on Gordon's insistence, we had always charged full prices for High Holyday seats, despite our minimal expenses. He felt that our religious services were the equal of those of established synagogues and therefore worth the same fees. That our physical conditions had been sub-par and that our expenses were minimal he felt were not of importance.

On my part, I felt that we would sooner or later really need our own facilities and not be beholden to others. But we would need considerable funding for that. So I agreed that we collect full fees, with the thought that the growing financial reserve would eventually become available as a basis for a building fund.

 When I resigned the shul chairmanship lest I hold it overlong, my successor discovered our savings. Pious soul, he decided that having a growing bank account was not proper for a shul. He therefore gave over our savings to a long-established, well-running gemillat hassadim (loan fund) of another shul. This was at the time when Israel's inflation was reaching 400%! Not only were the loans interest-free, but they were also unlinked. Our funds were now no longer protected against the roaring inflation and were rapidly diminishing in value.

When I returned to the chairmanship in order to control talking, I immediately used my authority to get our funds back. After all, saving money for the purpose of building a synagogue building to dovin in was also a sacred cause!

We then set up a loan fund of our own and did not charge interest. But the loans were given linked to the dollar, and were to be returned linked to the dollar. An aunt of Syril's had given us a sum for a small loan fund in the name of her parents. I wanted her to specify that it be linked, but a friend of hers, a distinguished rebbitzin (rabbi's wife) strongly advised her against it. As a result, a decade or so later her fund was so greatly reduced in value that significant sums were no longer available for loans. As a result of not taking our advice there was now no active loan fund in her parents' memory.


Our "Spanish Exile" Eviction and Relocation of Shul

            A well-wisher from abroad, unrequested, donated funds for us to build an appropriate aron kodesh. It was to replace the unsightliy ne/third height little clothes cupboard standing on chairs we were using as a make-shift ark.

This apparently worried our hosts, the Sefardi Community. They feared we were planning on becoming permanent squatters on their property. After the briefest of oral warnings, we arrived one Shabbat morning to find a strong-arm squad stationed at the shul entrance to keep us out.

The following Shabbat was to be the Bar Mitzvah of Danny, the son of Dr. Ted (Reuven) z"l and Estelle Fink, one of our earliest members. Ted immediately went into action, entirely on his own. He got permission from the nearby Mo'adon Ha'oleh for our minyan to use their facilities for our services starting the very next Shabbat (Danny's bar mitzvah day) until we had more appropriate quarters. Thanks to Ted, that kept our minyan from dispersal and destruction until we should finally succeed in building our own synagogue hall.

The Talbiyeh Minyan

            During the War of Independence, early on in bitter fighting, we had captured Talbiyeh, a largely Arab, upper class neighborhood of Jerusalem. It had a small but growing Jewish community, of which Reuven Mas z"l, the publisher, was mukhtar (Arabic for community head). He organized the first neighborhood minyan, which included many holocaust survivors, most of whom were significantly older than ours. It went on to function in a series of temporary locations. Finally he got the Jerusalem Municipality to agree for his minyan to use the air raid shelter that was about to be built on Hovevey Zion St. as its permanent quarters.

            Mas' dream was to build a proper neighborhood shul (on top of the semi-basement, air-raid shelter that was due to house his minyan initially). But that dream was far beyond the potential ability of his little group to finance.


 Inter-Communal Wheeling and Dealing

            I realized that the absolute need of our HaZvi Yisrael for a permanent synagogue matched exactly Mas' yearning to build an appropriate neighborhood shul.

However, Irwin Gordon was adamantly opposed to any possible connection with Mas' congregation. He maintained that their membership and ours were so very different in background and outlook, religious or general, that it was impossible for us to be associated with them in any way. It was our first serious disagreement. I felt that circumstances were forcing both synagogue groups to reach some common modus vivendi; and that most of us, in both minyanim, were still flexible enough to agree on reasonable compromises.

Gordon had to accept the decision of the Va'ad (board) to start negotiating with Mas. Unfortunately, he left us a year or two after completion of our shul building. I always felt that neither of us could have succeeded in organizing our very successful shul without the other. All honor to him as one of our main founders!


The New Shul Building

After long and tedious negotiations, Reuven Mas, (a real gentleman!) with his fellow trustees, and our representatives, Mosheh Brin and myself, came to a more or less equitable agreement. The two minyanim were to be integrated. We could thus "join them" in their building the new synagogue over their semi-basement/air-raid-shelter/shul.

We would contribute our modest building fund, but as the much larger, younger group, we also offered our greater potential to contribute and to raise the rest of the huge sum of needed funds. Members of both minyanim would be free to dovin in either the new, larger upstairs shul or in the older, smaller one downstairs. Both minyanim were to be run by a joint va'ad and we were to accept their Rabbi Reich as our Rabbi as well.

            So our Yavneh minyan contributed its building fund and individual members of both shuls contributed financially to the best of their abilities. We used the original building plans of the synagogue that Mas had hoped to build. But when the skeleton of the building and most of its walls (except for that behind the aron kodesh) and the roof had been built, funds ran out.

We were able to hold one-time services on the High Holydays in our unfinished building. That involved stringing old parachot (ark coverings) in place of the missing front wall, and building a temporary toilet in the unfinished stairwell. I got my brother-in-law, to contribute funds for what I called in his honor, the "Mordy Appleton Temporary Toilet."

 After the heart-warming experience of dovening for the first time in our new but far from finished shul on Rosh Hashanah, we continued dovining in the Moadon HaOleh. We were waiting for the eventual completion of our shul building, whenever that would be.


Raising Building Funds

We had long been investigating additional sources of funds. Recently, Israel had been given almost all of the money received by the shul society in Arverne, Long Island (NY) when it closed and sold its shul property. Many of their aging members were now participating in spirit in celestial minyans and others had retired and left for warmer Florida. Since there were too few members left to keep the shul running, it was closed and its property sold. (I had once dovened in that shul one Rosh Hashanah, with local relatives of ours.)

So I wrote a detailed letter to the Epitropus Haklali, in charge of funds donated to the State of Israel, asking for a grant to complete the building of our shul. I gave all the good reasons why I thought we were entitled to this benefit from that particular source.

As a possible result of my letter (or more likely the possible influence of someone I prefer not to mention), we got $140,000 of the $150,000 Arverne shul money that had been given to Israel. Unexpectedly, we also got all their sifrei Torah, which were probably worth even more! They now almost filled our new but almost empty aron kodesh (only one scroll of our own! With the additional ones, too many) The money was just enough to complete our new shul, except for most of the interior of the top floor. On that floor there was to be a combined auxiliary shul, kiddush and assembly hall, and a small kitchen for collations.


Integration of Two Minyanim                         

Came the great day, the Shabbat our new shul finally opened for continuous use. The chairman of the downstairs, senior minyan, ordered their shul to be locked, so all would be forced to dovin together in the new upstairs shul. He was apparently afraid that we might renege on the full integration of the two minyanim that had been agreed on.

I believed in free choice, and especially appreciated the value of more than one minyan for a synagogue. So I organized an impromptu minyan of Yavneh volunteers to dovin downstairs that very first Shabbat. Thus I prevented the death of the downstairs minyan, which had a fairly long, varied and impressive tradition of its own. The following Shabbat, and from then on, there continued to be free choice of minyan to dovin in for everyone: either downstairs, or upstairs in the new shul. Not only did a number of those who had been dovining downstairs move upstairs to our new shul with us, but there even were some of our Yavneh members who decided to dovin downstairs regularly!

There was one completely unexpected benefit from having parallel minyanim. When someone got very upset because of differences of opinion with some shul official, he could storm out and "leave the shul!" Leaving now meant going away all of a single flight of stairs to the other minyan, either downstairs or upstairs! When tempers cooled he could return to his regular minyan (as indeed really happened in the cases of at least two members!).


 Bernstein Family Contributions

            A lovely, little old Jew (a shayner Yid!) from the US, recently retired, became a very devoted (and devout) member of our minyan.  When the Torah was carried to the reading table, Mr. Bernstein always joined the little procession. I thought it was just an expression of his personal piety. Our procession usually included the ba'al tefillah carrying the Torah, followed only by the member who had been honored with opening and closing of the ark. We finally learned that Mr. Bernstein was joining the procession because of a tradition we had not known, that the Torah scroll always had been accompanied by a livuy (an accompaniment) of at least two persons. Thus he was not only personally covering for our ignorance, but also avoided having to correct and possibly embarrass us!

Some time after his wife died, he began to appear in shul with a string of two neckties tied around his waist, instead of his usual gartle (ritual prayer girdle). I realized that he had lost or misplaced it. So I went to buy him a new one. I asked my religious-goods dealer what was the most unlikely item he thought I would want to buy. He guessed "a shofar." I reminded him that that was what I usually bought our family Bar Mitzvah boys and sons of close friends. When I told him a gartle, he agreed that he would never, ever, have thought Prof. Blondheim would want to buy a gartle!

            Mr. Bernstein, a"h, died the same day Dr. Fink's father, a"h, had also died. Providing full minyanim for the shul and the two home mourning services, twice a day on weekdays, was very problematic. The minyan of the large Fink family itself presented no problem. But for the Bernstein minyan I usually had to stand on the nearest street corner, stopping possible candidates until I had finally collected a full minyan. This I succeeded in doing twice daily the week of the shiva (mourning).

  The Bernstein family made a very generous contribution to our new shul in his memory. They also donated an impressive aron kodesh and their family sefer Torah as well.  I asked his daughter for the gartle I had bought Mr. Bernstein, as my personal memento of that lovely old man.


Rabbi Reich, z"l

Rabbi Reich, originally from Hungary, had migrated to England in good time and there headed a small congregation. He later made aliyah and settled in Talbiyeh. Mr. Mas had him made Rabbi of his minyan and also had him appointed to the honorary position of Rav HaSh'chunah (neighborhood rabbi). As noted, our agreement with Mas and associates included our having to accept Rabbi Reich as Rabbi, not only of our new combined shul, but of each of its two minyanim, ours included.

 Rabbi Reich seemed very affable, but was very strong minded and autocratic. He was firmly opposed to our sitting, as has always has been the custom in Sephardi shuls, and as we also preferred for our own congregation, facing the central bimah. He maintained it was "untraditional." He dismissed the fact that sitting in rows all facing forwards was a church custom that had been adopted only by Ashkenazi synagogues in Europe and America. It was really the sitting in rows facing forward that was untraditional!

 He refused to face the fact that in all of the many ancient synagogues ever unearthed in Israel, seating was in-the-round. He maintained he would not permit it in his/our synagogue when completed and permanent, fixed seating installed. It was a very wise tactic on his part; it put off the confrontation that would have followed his insistence on our changing our seating mode.

 We got around his "p'sak" (ruling) by taking advantage of that loophole he had provided. We continued "temporarily" sitting in-the-round in our folding chairs. Meanwhile we were waiting to solve the problem of seating that would be both comfortable and also movable.  

After Rabbi Reich, z"l, was called by the Bet Din Shel Ma'aleh (the Heavenly Tribunal), we were no longer under his dominion and jurisdiction. We now felt free to arrange final seating as we wished. We kept our seats arranged in the most historically authentic way known: that of synagogues when the Bet HaMikdash stood on its mount, shedding its glory over Jerusalem and its many small synagogues!


Chaim Potok's Semi-Fiction

The novelist, Rabbi Chaim Potok, z"l, had been a member of our shul and even a member of its Va'ad. That was when he lived here for few years, doing his writing in Jerusalem's special atmosphere, before he became Editor of the Jewish Publication Society. He published a semi-fictional account of our stand-off with Rabbi Reich on the issue of the arrangement of shul seating.

We reprinted that story in the official history of our shul that has just appeared. It is a very handsome volume that was compiled by Shoshana Dolgin Be'er with my assistance. It was edited by Robert Binder and published by the firm established by the late Reuven Mas. It had taken years to get our board to finally agree to the project (This was when I was no longer attending the shul.


 Rabbi Reich's Kind Words

I was often at odds with Rabbi Reich, a"h, and not only with regard to seating.  I had finally resigned from the chairmanship of the Va'ad after the merger of our original two shuls succeeded, and our Mikdash me'at (Lesser Sanctuary = synagogue) was completed.

 At that meeting of the Va'ad, Rabbi Reich gave a most favorable evaluation of my leadership. He did not mention my initiative and efforts in the building of our shul. Instead he stressed my frequent, successful efforts at keeping the peace and good relations between the two disparate elements of our combined congregations. It came as a most pleasant surprise to me. His words seemed to imply at least partial exoneration for my having so often disagreed with him.


My Superb Assistants

            The success of our synagogue was due, in no small measure, to our having been blessed with a series of superb, young assistants over the years.

Shlomo Elituv was the first in the series. He did outstanding work in helping in the ongoing organization of our shul. He also organized and ran, single handed, an ambitious but successful youth program for our children and those of our neighbors as well. Shlomo left us to assist in a congregation in Manchester while he studied there for the rabbinate. He became a very successful rabbi and leader of the Sephardi community in that city.  He has been living abroad ever since.

Philip Rezmikov (z"l), was the son of founding members Bernie (z"l) and Violet Reznikov (y"l"ch"a). He functioned efficiently in so many ways, bringing order out of the threatening chaos that accompanied the construction of the shul building. Thanks to him, we were able to move into our shul and dovin there even while construction was still going on. Most tragically, he died a very untimely death.

            Chaim Frankel was the next in that series of very capable assistants. Unfortunately he couldn't stay with us very long.

 The last in the series is our current executive secretary, the exceptionally multi-capable Menahem Levinsky. He has always merited my continued insistence that his conditions of employment be such that we needn't ever have to worry about his being hired away from us by another shul or organization. He has adroitly managing the full range of the shul's activities in recent years. He foresees problems and solves them in advance. Everyone likes and appreciates him and his work. He succeeds in keeping all our members happy with the way he runs the shul (and even our Va'ad as well!). May he long continue as our executive secretary!



 Detached Service in Morocco  ("It Is My Duty")

One night (in 1956) I got a phone call from Hadassah Hospital Assistant Director, Dr. Jack Karpas, who asked: "Hillel, do you like adventure?" My immediate answer was "No!" He went on to tell me that the Sochnut (The Jewish Agency) was looking for a physician with an American passport to work for a few months in the camp for olim near Casablanca. There was another large wave of Moroccan Jews waiting to make aliyah and there was a severe epidemic of an undiagnosed fever in their camp.

 Morocco had been taken over by the anti-Semitic Istaklal nationalist party, and had just declared its independence from France. Only American citizens could enter the country without a special visa. Jack said he hadn't thought I would agree to go as Syril was then obviously well into her (fourth) pregnancy. But he wanted to know if I knew of any possible American candidate for the job, which I didn't.

Syril later asked what that conversation had been about. When I told her, she said that if I really wanted to go she could get along for a while without my help with our three small children. I immediately changed my mind.  I decided that maybe I didn't dislike adventure so much that I would avoid participating in an international, if relatively minor, Jewish emergency. And it happened to be one in which I was uniquely qualified to participate.

Furthermore, I always felt guilty because as an American citizen I was not required to do reserve military duty in the Israel's Defense Forces. That was because at that time, Americans might lose their very valuable US citizenship by serving in a foreign army.

 I immediately called back, but Jack's line was busy. Now I was afraid I might not be so unique a physician in Israel as to have both an American passport and an MD, and be willing to work in Morocco. I therefore got on my motor-scooter and scooted over to his home to respond positively lest by chance some other willing American physician might turn up!     



En Route to Morocco

I must tell the next part of the story in detail, because it was so infuriating! At that time neither Israelis nor permanent residents were allowed to hold foreign currency. But of course many nevertheless did! It was usually hidden "under the ballatot" (floor tiles, many of which were usually loose).

In preparation for my trip I called my new employer, the Sochnut (Jewish Agency), asking for an allotment of foreign currency for my  travel expenses. I was told that I "would be met at my first stop, in Rome, by the Sochnut agent, who would take me to the hotel in which he had booked me, and would give me local foreign currency for my expenses."


Landing in Rome: No Foreign Currency!

            But there was no agent to meet me when I landed in Rome. So there I was, in a foreign country, at midnight, and (theoretically) with no valid currency But just before leaving home I had had the good sense to pull out from "under the ballatot" US currency that I, like so many other not-so-very law-abiding Israelis, kept hidden for just such an emergency.

            So I took a taxi to a hotel near the airport that I happened to remember from a previous trip. The next morning I called the Sochnut (Jewish Agency) and told them of their "fashla" (mess-up), my not being met by their agent, taken by him to a hotel he had booked for me and my not getting the foreign currency for my expenses. They assured me that on my next landing, in Paris, "their agent would meet me, would take me to a hotel in which he had booked me, and give me local foreign currency for expenses," as well as further instructions.


Landing in Paris: Still No Foreign Currency!!

            In Paris, again there was no agent to meet me, and so again I theoretically had no local foreign currency! On calling the Sochnut clerk, she told me that I wouldn't need any local foreign currency or even a booking at a hotel as I was to take off for Casablanca on the very next plane. At Casa' their agent would "meet me, take me to a hotel (in which he "had booked me for as long as I worked there, and give me my allotment of local foreign currency."'

            Cautious as a result of my recent repeated negative experiences, I asked the clerk the name of the hotel in which I was booked, but she said I wouldn't need it as "their agent would meet me, take me to the hotel in which I had been booked, give local foreign currency for expenses, etc., etc." But I insisted, until she found out the name of the hotel for me.

            It was Friday, and when I refused to travel on the Shabbat, she insisted it was an emergency. I insisted that the emergency wasn't so pressing and that it had lasted so long, another single day wouldn't really matter so very much. They later proved me very right in this regard!

 Still not having been given any foreign currency, I spent a pleasant Shabbat with the Zamirs (as I had arranged with them by phone while still in Jerusalem). I left the next morning for Casa' as scheduled.


 I'm An Enemy Alien!

            Shortly before landing in Morocco, I suddenly realized I might be facing another, much more serious problem. Looking through my passport, I noticed an unusual detail. Prominently stamped in it was detailed the fact that it had been issued, not in Washington, or New York, but in Jerusalem! I weighed the chances that passport control in Casa' might discover that I was an "enemy alien" and assume that I was trying to slip into peaceful Morocco for nefarious purposes! I could only hope that the airport clerk would not examine my passport too meticulously, and would miss that incriminating detail.


 Landing in Casablanca: Still No Foreign Currency!!!

I passed through passport control without my enemy status being detected. But again there was no Sochnut agent waiting to meet me, to take me to… etc., etc. But having had the good sense to insist on knowing in what hotel I had been booked, I took a taxi there on my own, and paid for it with my own "illegal" dollars" from under the ballatot."

            I called the local Sochnut and was told to wait at the hotel until I was contacted and taken to the immigrant camp to start my duties. Despite the emergency that they had insisted that demanded my travelling on the Shabbat, I then spent almost a full week waiting at the hotel until I was finally contacted with instructions where I was to work.     


Moroccan Jews     

            Moroccan Jews had not been oppressed by their government. However, as was the rule in Moslem countries, Jews were treated as second class citizens, "dhimmis" in accordance with Islamic religious dictates. "Dhimmitude is an institution of inferiority, isolation and obedience."

Sultan Mohammed Cinque and his predecessors were usually favorably disposed toward their Jews, and supported them whenever necessary. When the State of Israel was proclaimed, many Moroccan Jews decided the time had come to leave for Israel. And a few years later, when the extremist nationalist Party took over the government, many more decided to leave as soon as possible for Israel.


Camp for Olim

            In a Casa' suburb, some 15 miles inland, a large (military?) camp was being rented by the Sochnut for their olim en route to Israel. There they were prepared for aliyah. Travel documents were completed and they were thoroughly examined by camp physicians, and vaccinated and inoculated against the usual serious diseases. They then sailed across the Mediterranean to Marseilles, where they remained in another camp until they finally sailed to Haifa.

Suddenly, the Istaklal dominated government decreed that no more Jews would be allowed to leave the camp. Following the ban, the camp filled up to far beyond its nominal capacity of at least 5000.                                                                                                                          

Typhoid (?) Epidemic

            I had been mobilized because, after a long period of devoted service, the American Jewish physician who had been heading the medical service at the camp had finally left. He had been staying on unwillingly through many postponements of his departure. Two full-time Moroccan-Jewish physicians remained: a general practitioner and a pediatrician, as well as two other non-Jewish local MD's who alternated on night duty. Two large barracks served, one as an infirmary and one for outpatient clinics

 The need for a new chief of service was pressing because of an epidemic of high fever whose nature was unclear. The local physician had found that a number of the first cases tested positive for typhoid fever. He had treated them appropriately with chloromycetin and they responded well. But soon thereafter, many of the new cases of fever being admitted daily, either didn't respond to the drug, or appeared to respond but then quickly relapsed. That was the situation I found when I took charge.


A Lucky Strike: Malaria!

I had extraordinary great luck! The day I started work the very first new case of fever admitted was in a young man in whom I easily felt a much enlarged and unusually hard spleen. It was what my new chief in Israel, Prof. Mosheh Rachmilewitz, would call "a gefilte miltz." It was not the soft, mildly enlarged spleen often felt in acute typhoid. It was so large and hard that it suggested a chronic or relapsing disease, such as malaria, kala azar or chronic infection among others. I asked, but malaria was not endemic in Casa'. However the patient had just come from Marakesh, many miles inland. There, I was told, malaria was indeed endemic!

 The local physician had stopped testing for typhoid because "all the new cases of fever were testing positive for typhoid" and he wanted to "save money for the Sochnut." He had been treating all of them on the assumption they were also due to typhoid. They had all responded to treatment with chloromycetin. He had wanted to "save (the Sochnut) money" by not continuing "unnecessary" testing for typhoid. So I ordered that from then on, all cases of fever continue to be tested routinely, not only for typhoid, but for malaria and other febrile diseases as well. That first case of mine, and almost all the subsequent cases of fever, tested positive for malaria and not typhoid! My suspicion was amply confirmed.

 Our camp had used up all of its supply of chloromycetin, and most of that of the Casa' drug stores as well, treating "typhoid." I had been on the point of trying to order more as an emergency through the good offices of the World Health Organization in Geneva. This was now no longer necessary, as we had plenty of quinine (and of atebrine as well) with which to treat malaria. Almost all our new cases of fever were now proving to be malaria and were responding well to anti-malarial treatment. So were the remaining cases of "resistant" or "relapsing typhoid," which were now being proven to be of malaria, not typhoid.


 Source of the Malaria?

The next question was: what was the source of our malaria? The camp had not been receiving any newcomers since the ban on migration. Therefore all the new cases of malaria must have been infected when they were already in the camp.

I scoured our camp looking for any possible breeding places of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, such as bodies of standing water. I compulsively turned off every dripping faucet I found as I systematically continued my search until I was well outside our camp. And there I found a huge, foul-smelling swamp of our own sewage! It had formed and was being amply supplied by the waste from the overcrowded camp that had been exceeding the run-off capacity of its sewage system.

The chalutzim of yesteryear had worked to drain the malarial swamps they found on aliyah. Our would-be olim had actually made a swamp of their very own, before they had even left Morocco on aliyah to Israel! And now in that swamp they were actively breeding their own endemic malarial parasites and the mosquitoes to spread it!

Apparently some of our olim had been infected in their home areas where malarial mosquitoes and malaria were endemic. These olim then carried the parasites with them in their blood, into our camp (like my first case of fever with the "gefilte miltz"). Here the mosquitoes of our own swamp went to work, stinging and sucking parasite-infected blood from arrivals from endemic areas. Then these newly infected mosquitoes went on to sting other olim. They thus transferred the malarial parasites to them by stinging and infecting them with malaria. Our full-blown epidemic of malaria was the result.


 Ending the Epidemic

I ended our malaria epidemic by ordering the surface of our swamp to be oiled, suffocating the mosquito larvae wriggling on it. No more larvae, no more mosquitoes, no more malaria! My success in diagnosing and ending our epidemic was all because I had felt "a gefillte miltz" my first day on the job and recognized its significance!


End of Moroccan Episode

We finally received permission from the Moroccan government for the excess population of the overcrowded Casa' camp to leave for Marseilles. I was very happy to get to Casa' port to see the successful end of my mission to Morocco, to see the olim finally embark, en route to Israel. A bit later, the epidemic finally controlled after it had been diagnosed correctly, I too could leave for Israel and home!

Now that over half a century has gone by, I assume I can now reveal a few more details. Our sh'lichim (emissaries) throughout Morocco had seen to it that there were potential olim waiting outside the camp the very next morning, replacing most of those who had left for Marseilles (read, Israel). Those boarding the ship and filling it to capacity probably exceeded by far those officially permitted to leave. Was that all the possible result of  never well-invested baksheeh (bribery)?

 The origin of the first cases of the initial typhoid epidemic had apparently never been investigated. However, that typhoid epidemic burnt itself out before long. Coincidentally, the malaria epidemic began, that replaced the typhoid epidemic shortly before I arrived.


Postscript to Malaria

The morning after I returned home to Jerusalem I went on ward rounds. An olah had just been admitted who had landed that morning in Haifa from the Marseilles camp. She was suffering from fever. So our intern, assuming she had typhoid like so many others who had come from Casa' via the Marseilles camp, had ordered the usual tests and started her on chloromycetin right off, before the results of the tests were in.

As she had been in the Casa' camp, I asked if a thick smear for malaria had been ordered. The intern patiently explained to me (to me!) that the epidemic of fever among the olim from Morocco was of typhoid, not malaria.

In my private wisdom, and with in my authority as senior, I insisted that the intern order a thick-smear for malaria. The next day her tests returned positive for both typhoid and malaria as well! She was apparently one of the last cases of the initial real Casa' camp typhoid epidemic. However, she had also been infected with malaria in the Casa.' camp. Apparently she had been incubating both diseases, and had come down with both en route to Israel!

The very first case I had examined in our camp, the one with the "gefillte miltz," had luckily led me directly to the solution of the compound, epidemiological problem of the Casa' camp. But I was afraid to publish details of the story of the two unusual, sequential epidemics, lest it somehow result in Moroccan-Israel, politico-medical complications. To this day it is (till now!) an unrecorded episode in the history of the great post-Holocaust aliyah to the newly proclaimed State of Israel (in which the Blondheim family, Mother, David and I, had also participated in!). I now have let you into the secret of this unknown bit of Jewish history!


The Sinai Campaign

            A few months after my return home, the Sinai Campaign began. This was Israel's attack on the Egyptian Sinai, coordinated with French and English attacks on Egypt itself and on the Suez Canal. Our motive was to end the persistent series of bloody attacks by fedayeen into Israel's Negev region, which originated in Egyptian territory. England and France were reacting to Nasser's takeover of the Suez Canal which had always been under international control.

Israel's military reserves were called up, including many doctors from Hadassah Hospital. Not being in the IDF reserves, was I happy that I had recently been on voluntary medical shlichut (service abroad) for Israel! Otherwise I would have been most embarrassed to show my face around the hospital, that of an apparent shirker of my national duty! 


 Six Day War

The Six Day War took place in part in Jerusalem itself. Hadassah was then actually a not so far off front-line hospital. I was assigned to the emergency room, which had become the triage ward for the wounded. It was the same kind of work I had done in the Ardennes Campaign during WW II (but the mid-winter climate there and then was now so completely different!).

 I was also in charge of our hospital's biological and chemical warfare defense. Happily they never were problems. I also did the same kind of work in Hadassah later, during the Yom Kippur War and the War of Attrition (Milhemet HaHatashah) that followed almost immediately.  I had already retired by the time of the two subsequent Lebanese Wars, and of "Cast  Lead," Israel's 2009 invasion and capture of the Gaza strip.                                              




 A year after the death of Syril z"l, I married again. Eva Meisler and I met when we were invited by colleague, Prof. Marco Caine, and Dolly, to Friday night dinner. But our late-in-life romance blossomed only some months later, when we found ourselves together on a Mediterranean cruise organized by our good friend Bernie Reznikov, z"l. Except for religious observances, she was almost as different from Syril, z"l, as possible!

Eva and I were married by Jewish law "with huppah and kiddushin." For reasons financial and legal, we did not register our ketubah (religious marriage contract) and marriage license with the national authorities. Therefore our marriage is only valid religiously, not legally, the reverse of what so often occurs these days!

The wedding itself was unusual, with many young grandchildren from both sides mostly mine present, as well as our adult children! For the benefit of the former, an important part of the wedding proceedings was a performance by a costumed clown! Much of the entertainment that followed consisted of solo musical performances by various grand-children, and also a mother-and-daughter (daughter-in-law Ady and granddaughter Ya'arah ) piano duet. A few congratulatory speeches could not be avoided.

Since our marriage (1991), Eva and I have been happily settled in her apartment (Pinsker St., corner Yitzhak Elchanan). We live down steeply sloping streets from HaZvi Yisrael, so walking up to the shul (which Eva had long been attending) is a problem for me, especially after I fractured my (replaced) hip.

The result of that last hip fracture has been inability to walk more than a few steps without my walker (due to problems of balance, not orthopedics). While I no longer attend services at our HaZvi Yisrael synagogue, I am always remembered there because the auditorium on the top floor was named "Ulam Blondheim" (Blondheim Hall), and the shul always refers to it by my name. With characteristic lack of modesty, I very much appreciate having my name permanently and so prominently associated with the shul of which I was one of the two prime founders!

 Eva is now largely walker/wheelchair-bound, and we both have fulltime helpers. Her main pastime is now playing Scrabble with her helper, and mine writing this account!




 The Temporary Present

            I recently celebrated my 94rd birthday (now 2012), k'i"h. Thank God I am happy in old age and enjoying relatively good health. My biggest problem is being walker- or wheelchair-bound. But with the walker I get around, although I can’t walk more than a few steps without it. My hip replacements have been holding up for decades past the time they were supposed to wear out and to need their own replacements! Thanks to my

physical inactivity there has been relatively little wear-and-tear on those hip prostheses.  

I fell about over five years ago and shattered (not just broke!) my left femur below the hip replacement (for a painful, worn out hip some years before). Right after the difficult fracture repair came a series of unrelated complications in rapid succession. They kept me in a series of four different (Jerusalem) hospitals for a total of four months!

I was finally discharged to home, where for years I have since been dependent on a full time assistant. The first year's quiet and efficient assistance was the result of Lloyd Solomon's efforts (no, not Jewish, from Mumbai, Bombay India). He was followed by a Filipino, and most recently by Robin Parmar, from Gujarat, India. Eva has had Filipina helpers, the last of whom, Julie, a trained operating room nurse who also cooks for us foursome. Robin sleeps in every night in a little room we cut off from the much larger living room. (At their 50th college reunion one alumnus said to another in surprise: "I don't remember there ever having been so many Filipinos in our class!")

             Immediately after my first fall, my mental state was affected. I can recall absolutely nothing of my falling, calling for help, the ambulance trip to the hospital, nor anything of the first days after the operation. Thereafter, there was continuous, slow improvement, both mental and physical. Recovery was complete.  A year or so later, a stroke left me speechless, literally!  But recovery was rapid and complete.

I am now quite well, (B"H, applies also to ends of previous two sentences!), except for trouble with balance, and therefore with walking. Due to lack of stamina I can't do more than just a few blocks, even with my walker. But the limitation in the distance I can walk doesn't bother me at all. That’s what my wheel chair, my helper, and taxis are for! Lately I have been seeing more signs of physical deterioration, but none very serious (as yet, BH!).

 Remarkably, all of my children and many of my grandchildren maintain that I am now clearer and even brighter than the old man I had become before my previous fall and surgeries. Although it is rather paradoxical, Ellie Wertman, my neurologist son-in-law, has a plausible explanation, too technical to present here. At any rate, I now sometimes remember remote details that I used to struggle unsuccessfully to recall before the accident (e.g., the name of that hotel in Casa', Le Dauphin!). And again, after recovery from a recent, relatively minor illness which kept me in bed for a fortnight, again I had become brighter and more positive than before, according to my children!

 Also, I no longer suffer from the writing of this long saga (going on now, off and on, for some seven years!). I used to write at very long intervals; and much disliked doing it. But more recently I have been working at it more frequently and for longer periods and have even have come to enjoy the writing! That is probably because writing is now my only constructive occupation these days. Also, some readers, even non-family, tell me how very much they enjoy these typed scribblings, which may also be a factor. On the other hand, I still have some serious, original articles waiting to be written, or rewritten, tasks I find increasingly difficult to undertake.


Current Shul

            The built-in shul in the ground floor of "Migdal HaShoshanim" in which Eva and Iive, is quite satisfactory. But as its members age (I am now the oldest member, B"H), it is dwindling in numbers. Some years back it was usually crowded to capacity. Recently, on Shabbat mornings there had been barely a minyan. But, only once did we have no minyan at all!  And that brings us up to today.

Thankfully a few slightly younger-aged, (but still aged!) tenants have recently moved in, and what with their young local relatives, have refilled the congregation to comfortable near-capacity!

The latest new tenants are a little younger than the others. They have filled out the minyan and taken over little jobs connected with the running of the minyan and the smooth running of the building. Also, we have acquired a first rate, in fact spectacular ba'al koreh, to lein for us freqently (chant the Torah scroll reading) quite frequently for us. He, Prof. Jonathan Halevy, director of Sha'arey Tzedek Hospital, is extraordinarily proficient in that art! His Torah reading helps keep the minyan going strong at not so far from capacity!




             (Much of the following section is of interest only to immediate family members)


 "And These Are the Names" (V'ayleh Sh'mot b'nai ….)

The Blondheim family has a very good record as patrioti c Israelis. Syril and I made aliyah, Succot 1951, with David, our seven-month-old, fifth generation American. Since then, every single descendent of ours, (and pairs too: two sets of twins!) has/have been Israeli-born, and all live in Israel as well! (The following are all Blondheims, except as indicated). Here were born a daughter and two more sons for a total of four children of Syril & Hillel:

David Simeon (m Orna Gorney), Debra Blumah-Beila (m Eli Wertman), Menahem E.  (m Chagit Plesser) and Daniel Eliezer (m Adi Friedman).

         Then came sixteen grandchildren: (whose names are followed by those of their spouses, (original family names in parentheses):

     David and Orna (Gorney) had: Netta Rose (m Ronen Shraga), Zemer Menahem Yisrael (m Yael Rosenmann), Gefen Grace (m Naftali                     Friedlander), and Sela Daniel.  

     Debbie and Ellie Wertman had: Shachar Menachem (m Osnat Nemesh), Maayan Ze'ev (m Elisheva Breuer), Dagan Mosheh (H"yd), Tamah          Varda (m Hillel Bar-Natan), and Kerem Shalem (m Moria (Schindler) Bar-Nitzan).         

      Menahem and Chagit (Plesser) had: Roni Jaine (m Akiva Brin), Shir Syril,   and Daniel.  

      Donny and Ady (Friedman) had: Ya'arah (m Nitzan Yeshurun), Yonatan  Yehudah (m Malkah Blum), Sara Yael (m Meier Breuer) and Sarel          (engaged to Liron Schwartz).

 After them came twenty three (the last born last night!) great-grandchildren (including two sets of twins), with three of the grandchildren yet to be married (7/1/12):  

1.           Netta and Ronen Shraga had: Teneh Shiriyn and Kerem ???  

2.           Zemer and Yael (Rosenmann) had Omer Dagan.????  REVERS and Noam Uriele

3.           Gefen and Nafali Friedlander had: Matar Oriah and Ofri Nehama

4.           Sella Daniel is unmarried as yet

5.           Shahar and Osnat (Nemesh) Wertman had Gefen Emunah and Dagan Haim

6.           Ma'ayan and Elisheva (Breuer) Wertman had: twins, Ro'ih Tzuri and Naveh David, Oriah Areva, Eitan Shaviah, and Dagan Yair

7.           Dagan Mosheh (H"yd),

 8.           Tamah and Hillel Bar-Natan had: GurAryeh Yehudah, Tov Roi, Shiloach Gili and Ahinoam Ori .

 9.           Kerem Shalem engaged to Moria (Schindler) Bar-Nitzan)

10.      Roni and Akiva Brin.

11.      Shir Syril is unmarried as yet.

12.      Daniel Amitai is unmarried as yet.

13.      Ya'ara and Nizan Yeshurun had: Eden Tziporah, Ofek Yair, and twins: Noga Haya and Segev David.

 14.      Yonatan Yehuda and Malka Blum had: Be'eri Yoseph.

 15.      Sara and Meir Breuer had: Shalev-Yishi Reuven and Choshen      Tziporah.

 16.      Sarel and Liron (Schwartz)

 As mentioned there are still three unmarried grandchildren, may they soon find their true mates!

 N.B.: There is one singular advantage to having twin boys: When our Maayan and Elisheva did so, both great-grand fathers TED FINK and I (y"lch"a) both sandakated (godfathered) at the double brit. Thus, there was no disappointed competitor for the honor of a single sandakut (godfatherhood)!     

 Sarah Yael, gave birth to her first-born, a boy, Shalev-Yishi Reuven Breuer. The father, Meir Breuer, is a grandson of the late Dr. Ted (Reuven) Fink and Estelle Fink, y'l"chaim'a, and son of Yehudit (Fink) and Prof. Rafi Breuer. Statistical note: Between the birth of my son David, and the recent birth of great-grandson Shalev-Yishi Reuven Breuer, no b'chor was born into our family for 57 years! Shalev-Yishi was born a premature, and a sick one at that, so his brit had to be delayed. It finally was performed, together with his pidyon haben, when he was 30 days old, and bH, well!

 We are grateful that we have no children, grandchildren or great-grand-children living abroad. Thus we are spared the obligatory trips abroad of those less fortunate who are obligated to travel abroad for congratulatory visits to close family on the occasion of births, bar mitzvahs, marriages, round-sum anniversaries, etc.

    [Here will follow explanations for SOME of the names in the family roster above, and of for the many given double names, and even of two triple given names!]

 (add Debra Blumah-Beila to this section of double/triple names)

             The distressing circumstances of my own double first names have been related above at length. But by chance we ended up with almost all of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren getting double given names. In three cases there was even a triple given name! Zemer Menahem Yisrael Blondheim and Shalev-Yishi Reuven Breuer). Zemer's other two names are after each of his grandfathers. Shalev-Yishi is a double-name to which Reuven was added, the name of his distinguished greatgrandfather, who died shortly before he was born, Dr. Reuven (Ted) Fink z"l.                                                                            


XX:  Grandson, Dagan Mosheh Wertman, Hy"d


I record with deep sorrow, the only death in our family in the twenty years since that of  my wife Syril z"l, ("Savta Mommy").

 Our grandson, Dagan Moshe Wertman, 31, a major in the Israel Defence Forces, was killed on the third day of the Gaza campaign (2009) by fire from one of our own tanks. He had just started a two-year study leave and was taking courses in religious and secular subjects. We all hoped he would also have time to find his true bat zug (mate). When the war started he volunteered to return to service, and insisted on being assigned to a combat unit.

 There were thousands at his funeral. President Peres and staff generals attended the shivah at the family home in Michmas. I find it too painful to write about him myself. So I quote some of the many who have told us of his great love and caring for his soldiers; his success in training them; his daring military initiative and personal bravery; his achievements in Torah study; his athletic ability of national standing; and despite all that, of his pervasive modesty. He had an army nick-name "AgaDagan" ("LegenDagan" Hebrew: Agada Dagan): he had already become a legend in his own short lifetime.

 I quote a song that moved me when I heard it during my year here as a child (1927-8). It impressed me so deeply, that now, more than eighty years later, I remember it well. I bring it with my translation, in Dagan's memory:

 The face of heaven has darkened,      Kedru p'ney shamayim,

And a cruel wind does howl.                V'ru'ach az ra'ash.

Receive, O Hills of Ephraim,                  Kiblu harey Ephraim,

A new, young sacrifice.                          Korban tza'ir chadash.

Rest you, rest you, O our comrade,   Hoynucha ucha chaveyreynu      

And lie forever there.                             U'sh'chav lanetzach shum.

Like you, our lives as well,                     Kamocha, gam chayeynu,

We wlll sacrifice for our Nation.          Nakriv be'ad ha'am.

              I now sing that dirge in my heart, with "Sands of 'Gaza'" in place of "Hills of Ephraim," (Dagan's grave is actually in the military cemetery on Mt, Herzl, Jerusalem). Our entire family is fulfilling with me the privilege of rebuilding Zion.


May the memory of Dagan Mosheh ben Eliyahu and D'vora be blessed.

"Lord, avenge the blood of your servants"



 XXI:  Finis Coronat Opus – "The Ending Crowns the Work" (Life Work): Yakir Yerushalayim, May 20, 2012!

  These days I don't see so well (cataracts, still relatively early: "not  yet mature") I don’t hear so well (one ear partially deaf since mastoidectomy in childhood; the other, just getting old). I recently had bleeding from a pair of duodenal ulcers (just now discovered after 60 years of unsuccessful X-ray searching for the cause of intermittent belly pain!); I get aches and pains in various joints, my dentist has to replace aging teeth (six so far), and my skin is getting so thin it bleeds even on mild bruising. And on top of that, I am now walker/wheel-chair-bound.

 But aside from all of that, I am feeling just fine, B"H. I am really enjoying old age, as much as my disabilities allow!

 Of my twenty three great-grandchildren eight were added in the past year, 2012, BH. (At least another two are in their respective ovens, b'sh't"um!).

 The most senior of my current great-grandchildren (but who's counting?) are a pair of "taninim!" (= twin-ninim, great-grandsons). And a few months ago I "sandakated" (godfathered) at the brit of one of the recent additions (one of a pair of twins, a he-male and a she-male).


Hebrew Biography

I am happy that the first Hebrew edition of this biography was finally finished and distributed. It is now in the hands of those of my grandchildren whose English can't cope with my somewhat high-flown style, or who are just more comfortable reading Hebrew. It is now waiting for other great-grandchildren to be able to read and understand it in their mamma-lushon (mother-tongue). The second Hebrew edition is already translated and waiting for editing before printing and distribution.

 Our late across-the-street neighbor, Chief Rabbi Nissim would correct his guests who apologized that they couldn't talk Hebrew because it was not their "mother-tongue." He would tell them that every Jew's mother-tongue is Hebrew, just that in some cases "the tongue their mothers' spoke" was some other language!              


 Effect of Delaying Autobiography

            A serendipitous outcome of writing this autobiography so many years after the events described is that I now have much greater insight into those events.

I now understand why Mother would often tell me so many stories and sing songs of bygone times. In our very tight little family circle of two, an adult and a child, topics of conversation were rather limited. Those non-pertinent topics filled very nicely gaps in conversation that might otherwise have occurred.

            Also, I think I understand why Mother sometimes shocked me by revealing to me intimate details of her married life. She had no husband to warn me in advance of certain less obvious pitfalls in the mechanics of married sex. She had probably suffered as a result of them, and hoped to help me avoid committing them. So she undertook that delicate job of warning me herself, well in advance! One that shocked me the most was her mention of a husband's obligation to satisfy his wife's desires, as well his own.



Our building is making preparations for an emergency of a municipal-national scope. An essential aspect involves the miklat of our floor and that of the miklat of the whole building. These 14 communal ones on each floor are window-less and relatively stronger in construction than the residents' 56 apartments. This "safe space" contains that which is vital for survival. The miklat in the basement is large enough for cots and has running water, toilettes and showers for, God-forbid, longer emergencies.


 Intimations of Mortality

I had felt, between the ages of 75-89 years, that "meeting my Maker" was only a statistical possibility. But now that I am in my 90's, it has become less vague and theoretical: It is now an imminent probability; yet still its imminence lies only in my subconscious (and rather deep at that!).


My Secular Religion

I suppose that I am an unorthodox Jew, a not so very pious, Orthodox Jew. For mine is largely a secular religion. Isn't God too busy with the myriads of asteroids, stars and galaxies and what is so far beyond them too, to really consider me? Are we anything more than dust on this, our tiny planet?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 And that's as far as I can go!  I do pray. Our forefathers found it of importance. I go along with them. A person needs to find for himself what's most reasonable and stick with it. Judaism is not based on faith, as is Christianity, l'havdil. It is based on performing good deeds and the fulfillment of specified mitzvot. So I practice mitzvot, as many as I can, and don't worry if my concept of God's role in my own life is deficient. I don't worry if my concept of God's role in my life is too counter-current for a true Member of the Tribe. But what a marvelous Tribe it is that we are so lucky to belong to!

These thoughts are not systematic, not reasoned, but they do seem to reach out. Where to? To beyond where my poor mind is capable of reaching. To where the recent concept of "biocentrism" seems to fit in (which I read about it just yesterday in Time Magazine!                                   


 Eva Today

Unfortunately, since her stroke Eva has had a bit of difficulty with pronouncing words. Also she has an accent, however slight. And even with my hearing aid, I have considerable difficulty hearing and understanding her.  As a result, between my hearing defect and her difficulty with talking, I find it almost completely impossible for me to understand her, which of course, makes communication almost impossible. Sitting together without talking, watching television, is a very poor substitute for conversation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       About a year ago, I, and then Eva, suffered successively from almost identical strokes which rendered both of us completely speechless. I recovered completely, but she, only almost completely. She still has mild difficulty expressing herself.

 "Meeting my Maker" was only a distant probability for me between ages 70 and 89 years. But now that I am in my 90's, it has become a less theoretical eventuality. It is now a real possibility, but the thought of it is tucked well away back in my subconscious.



                  Put following on p.                                      

Advent of the Lambretta!

So here we were in Jerusalem, forced to take long bus rides daily. When in Italy, honeymooning on the way to Israel, we were impressed with all the many little motor scooters (Lambrettas and Vespas) scooting about. Here in Israel we felt we were definitely in the market for one. We met up with two other local Americans also in the market for scooters and together imported three Lambrettas. It was quite an exciting experience opening the freight box and assembling our new vehicles! At this time there was only one other motor scooter in Jerusalem, (owned by an employee of the Swiss Consulate).

             Early on I usually had to push my way through little crowds of sight-seers that always gathered around the strange new vehicle! There was a back seat for a pillion rider, and I had bought a little seat that fitted between the driver's knees and legs for our little David. I also had bought a side car but it proved impractical. The sidecar plus its passenger were just too much of an additional burden for a mere 50 cc engine, so we had to sell it.

             Getting a license to drive the Lambretta was a minor problem. The licensing examiners had to devise a proper test for the ability of drivers of this new creation. The examiners consulted with each other until finally one suggested, "just have him drive it around the parking lot here while we watch."

 After a few years, Hadassah Hospital moved into its "sumptuous" new buildings in Ein Karem (Jerusalem suburb). By then the daily scooter ride to and from the hospital, largely through 10 kilometers of open countryside, had gotten to be too demanding traffic-wise, and of course especially in winter rains. However, through the years I had been steadily building up a private Sharap practice, so we finally could afford to substitute a car for the good old Lambretta.


 The Family Peugeot

The car was a family model Peugeot that barely managed to seat our not-so-little family of 2 plus 4 comfortably. We used it for many years, almost "driving it into the ground." We then were also finding it too difficult to find used replacement parts for a long no-longer-made car model.     Then came a variety of used cars over the course of the years. One day I faced a problem. I had developed an orthopedic need to upgrade to power steering. Should I also up-grade into a car with power brakes? These were expressions of new physical disabilities due to aging. And if one or two such problem now faced me wouldn't others soon be gathering as well? I decided I would "upgrade" to using taxis! Eva made a similar decision a few years later. B"H, taxi service in Jerusalem is excellent and not very expensive.

 I had always enjoyed driving. I therefore  had done all the driving for the family except when I needed Syril or Eva to spell me. And Thank God, we never had a significant car accident over the years, just minor scrapes and bumps.


 My Lambretta Accident        

            Of course any two-wheeled vehicle is really dangerous because of its basic instability. I was only involved once in an accident, when a pedestrian suddenly stepped into Jaffa Road (no less!) in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, and immediately fell into the road, hitting the side of my head on the pavement. I was able to pick myself up, get back on the Lambretta and despite some dizziness, and drive up a long upward sloping street with a twisted handle bar, to Hadassah's Ziv Hospital. The next day the Lambretta and I, dizziness gone and handlebar now straightened, were back in service, B"H. Not long after that I graduated to using a car!


 Good-Bye OLD Appendix

            Appendicitis is mostly a disease of children and young adults. So when this spring-chicken of 93 years presented with abdominal pain not distinctly limited to the right lower abdomen, I was a diagnostic problem. I was later reminded that I myself had suggested to the surgeons at my bedside that I might be having appendicitis, despite the confusing symptoms. Finally, a ruptured appendix was seen through an exploratory laparoscopy and removed through a laparotomy.

Three weeks of immobilized, postoperative recuperation, plus the orthopedic limitations resulting from three hip operations in past years, plus lack of balance, left me unable to walk without a walker. In the long run I made a satisfactory, if slow recovery, as well as might be expected after a ruptured appendix in a 93-year-old.








[*] An early American-Zionist song