I have just gotten off the phone with our wonderful relative in Rehovot, Shmuel Elchanan, who had informed me shortly before by e-mail of the passing of his beloved wife Zippora last December at the age of 76. As Shmuel explained, Zippora suffered a stroke at the Weizmann Institute where she had been a faculty member for 50 years while chairing a session at an International meeting on Photosynthesis, her subject of research for years. If I understood him correctly, she was rushed to the hospital and remained in a coma for five days before passing.
Shmuel, whom I have never met face to face, but have had several extended phone conversations about our family history, is a wonderful man with I feel an instinctive kesher (connection). His warmth, understanding, deep empathy, primal Jew to Jew connection and sheer humanity amidst all the horrors he and our people have endured, is emblematic of what I have loved about Israel and Israelis all these decades; indeed, what keep my love for Israel unconditional though I have spent far too little time in Israel over the past decade and despite my disappointment with Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, etc. I am so sorry we never got to meet Zippora, who must also have been a wonderful person.
Shmuel urges us to come to Rehovot to talk family history and we really should all do that as soon as possible. It is so moving to me that he is so connected to Rehovot and the Machon Weizmann which is of course where Jo, Danny and I spent that mind blowing life transforming year of 1961-62 as children, when our father Stan was there on sabbatical. Rehovot is a kind of lodestone for us and here it is again.
In the meantime, Shmuel has agreed to a conference call with Dan and myself to help us to better understand many things, including that 'last letter' from his parents to his elder brothers of June 6, 1944, when they thought they and Shmuel himself were about to be liquidated by the Nazis. Kol hakavod (all honor) to Dan for getting hold of Ethical Wills and finding those letters as well as gthe last will and testament of our common ancestor Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor. Thanks also to Moshe Spector and Jeff Spector for connecting with Dan and providing us with so much new information.
Shmuel also mentioned a book by a well known Israeli writer, Hanoch Bartov, entitled "BEYOND THE HORIZON, ACROSS THE STREET" published in 2006, about our family. Apparently the book focuses on the stories of young men killed in the 1948 War of Independence, including one of Shmuel's older brothers, who had apparently served alongside Bar-Tov, It is unfortunately only in Hebrew which I read with great difficulty but I'm sure we will find a way to get the relevant sections translated.
Tomorrow, July 27, I will finally make it to the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Queens and, God willing, see the graves of Joseph Rabinowitz and Lena Lincoff Rabinowitz, our great grandparents.