Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shalom, Dad

It's been two and a half weeks since my last post. During that period, I was pre-occupied with my father's final days and death, followed by his shiva, the traditional seven-day mourning period. And now I say kaddish in shul/synagogue three times a day. So it has been hard to think of anything else.

I try to keep my personal life and my blogging life separate. But last year I could not resist blogging about my father's support of Obama during the primary battles with Hillary here. Suffering from depression, he was thrilled when Obama took time out from a busy campaign schedule to inscribe for him one of his books, with a message of encouragement. Throughout his illness, until he was too far gone for coherent conversation, Dad asked me how Obama was doing.

How does one explain this 94 year-old's passionate support? My brother summed it up in his eulogy:

Dad, you were not only liberal with your time and energies for your children, grand children and great grandchildren and for the greater communities to which you belonged; you were an old-fashioned Jewish liberal, an FDR or Kennedy liberal. This commitment to liberalism accompanied you throughout your life and has been embraced by your children and grandchildren. The only republicans you ever supported were those you thought were sufficiently liberal. And well into your nineties, while a few members of our family were still supporting Hillary, you jumped onto the Obama bandwagon, having been impressed by Obama's intelligence and core values, and being excited by the prospect of an African-American president. You showed how one can be a loyal and proud member of one's community while at the same time, defending the rights of other communities.

Even now I find it difficult to write about my father, who contributed so much to his family, his community (Jewish and non-Jewish), and to his religion.

Last Shabbat, the haftarah (the portion from the Prophets read weekly in the synagogue) was from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 62. It was the last of the seven "consolation" haftarot that mark the period from Tisha B'Av to Rosh Hashanah. That consolation is the rebuilding of Jerusalem to its former glory. And yet Isaiah does not revel in the restoration of political sovereignty or the building of the Temple, or even the ingathering of exiles. No, this is how he begins…

For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace,

And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest,

Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

And her salvation as a lamp that burns.

 

Until Jerusalem's righteousness, her Zedek, goes forth as brightness, her salvation will not be effected. And until that day, the prophet will not remain silent. Jerusalem will be redeemed not by armies, not by crazies, not by sacrifices, but by justice and righteousness– Ziyyon be-mishpat tipadeh ve-shaveha bi-tzdekah. Zion will be redeemed through justice and its returnees through righteousness. (Isaiah 1.27) Without justice and righteousness Jerusalem is only of historical interest, a quaint little Williamsburg (New York or Virginia, take your pick.) Without justice and righteousness there is nothing Jewish or holy about Jerusalem.

My Dad loved the State of Israel, and during the 1973 war he served as the chairman of the Baltimore Jewish Federation's Israel Emergency Campaign. He supported Israel without being a card-carrying Zionist, and he visited Israel on numerous occasions. But I cannot say that Israel was central to his life the way the pursuit of justice was. It was a question of priorities. Israel's actions against the Palestinians disappointed him and confused him. He never spoke publicly against Israel, but he was disturbed all the same. And he was a fervent believer in pursuing a just peace.

The generation of the old-fashioned Jewish liberal is fading fast. Maybe organizations like J-Street can rekindle the flame for a new generation.

We need such a flame in these dark ages.

 

 

 

 

21 comments:

nicolien said...

My condolences for this loss - to you, and to all the communities and this world he worked for.

Shmuel said...

"Your sun will not set and your moon will not be gathered in, for God will be your everlasting light and the days of your mourning will be complete." (Is. 60:20) Min hashamayim tenuhamu.

Joseph said...

Hamakom yenachem etchem b'toch she'ar aveilei tziyon virushalayim

David said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. HaMakom yenachem etchem b'toch sh'ar aveilei Tzion vYrushalayim.

Devir said...

You didn't loose only a father, Jerry, you lost a marvelous human being too!
I wasn't lucky enough to have a father like yours.
He was a low middle class educated person ( for Portugal standards of that time ), he was a good father in own way - he cared about our education, including the religious one - but he supported Salazar's fascist/colonialist regime that started in 1926 ( I am the eldest of a bunch of four and I was born in 1943 )and was overthrown in April 1974 ( the "Carnations Revolution", you might have known about it ).
Me and two of my brothers gave our modest contribution to overthrow my fathers favorite regime. We became marxists or, at least, left-wingers ( I even was a trade-union leader ).
We are all baptised and raised as catholics and now we all became atheists or agnostics...
It's good to have a father that navigates in the same waters that you do...
Luis

Gene said...

I've been wondering where you were. This is indeed sad news. My most sincere condolences.

Anonymous said...

my condolences & thanks for a beautiful post.

lone_voice_of_reason said...

hi am very sorry to hear of your loss, Barukh Dayan haEmet, and wish you arichat yamim,


בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח, וּמָחָה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל-פָּנִים

He will swallow up death for ever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces

Sincere condolences and all the best

Dan

Rafi said...

HaMakom yenachem etchem b'toch sh'ar aveilei Tzion vYrushalayim.

Anonymous said...

My condolences for the loss of your dad.

Donald

Tobias said...

My sincere condolences to you and your family.

ronh said...

I'm deeply sorry for your loss. I'm sure your father was as proud of you as you are of him. I enjoy reading your posts. L'Shana Tovah.

Richard said...

I had a dad like yours at least in terms of his politics, & I loved him for it. He died in 1995 and I felt similarly about his death, though my dad wasn't able to express his love and inspire as much devotion as it sounds like yours did.

You keep his memory alive by your own commitment to peace, justice & Jewish learning.

Michael said...

I was wondering where you were. Thank you for all your thoughtful, compelling analyses and also for sharing the memory of your father here.
Your father must have been so proud of you.
המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

David L. said...

May your Dad's memory be for a blessing!

Peter H said...

My condolences.

Mike said...

I am sorry to hear the sad news. My sincere condelences, Jerry.

priscianus jr said...

I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. I have the greatest respect and admiration for this blog. No -- I and kol yisroel have a fundamental NEED for this blog. You have not strayed from the path. Your Dad sounds a lot like mine (who passed away three years ago at the age of 88), except my Dad was a lot angrier.
Borukh dayan emes.

Laur said...

thanks for sharing just a bit of your father with us, Jerry.

chaiab said...

Yashar koach on a beautiful tribute. Hamakom yinachem...
Chaia

pabelmont said...

What a wonderful father to remember and to serve as a model to his family and to all of us.