My father Isadore Solkoff

Obituary notice

ISADORE SOLKOFF, 1902-1989, Friend of Jabotinsky, Briscoe, and other early Zionist leaders

UNION, NEW JERSEY, January 15, 1989: Isadore Solkoff was buried at the Temple Binai Abraham Cemetery. In an Orthodox Jewish service officiated by Rabbi Phillip Goldberg of the United Hebrew Community of New York, the mourners were reminded of Solkoff’s work in introducing Vladimir Jabotinsky and Robert Briscoe to the Jewish Community of New York City.

Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was an early Zionist leader who is buried in Jerusalem next to the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism. Jabotinsky was an extremely controversial figure. He was also a brilliant orator, capable of delivering his speeches in several languages, including English and Hebrew, which as an adult he learned to speak Hebrew fluently because he believed that every Zionist should speak Hebrew. Although he died in 1940, he predicted the Holocaust, advocating relief measures so Jews could be sent to Palestine. He also advocated strict military training for Jews and a series of summer camps for youth around the world were opened for that purpose. One of those camps was located in suburban New York.

Solkoff arranged for Jabotinsky to speak to a packed crowd at Town Hall in New York City in March of 1935 warning of the impending Holocaust. Solkoff produced a film of Jabotinsky observing military exercises of Jewish youth, later shown at Jewish synagogues in the New York City area.

Jabotinsky was the founder of the Zionist political party now running the state of Israel. Yitzhak Shamir, the prime minister of Israel, was a follower of Jabotinsky. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had been an aide to Jabotinsky. When Jabotinsky died in 1940, Begin inherited Jabontinsky’s movement. Solkoff supported Begin in his efforts to obtain arms and get them into Palestine. Then in 1948 when the state of Israel was created and the War of Independence took place, Begin’s troops obtained arms despite a United Nations embargo. Solkoff donated his correspondence with Jabotinsky to the Jabotinsky Museum in Tel Aviv.

Solkoff worked with members of Jabontinsky’s United States supporters who formed an organization based in New York City called the Revisionist Zionist Organization. They publicized the difficulties of Jewish refugees especially the unwillingness of the British to permit immigration into Palestine. Stories of British insensitivity to Jewish concerns were late in being highlighted by the world’s press. One incident that was highlighted occurred after World War II was over. A ship called the “Exodus” contained refugees from Nazi concentration camps. The British refused to allow them to get off the boat at a Palestinian port. The ship was in poor repair and was incapable of leaving the country safely. The plight of those Jews who had escaped Nazi concentration camps perhaps only to be drowned in a leaky boat because of British policy caused an international sensation. It also led to a best-selling novel based on the incident and a popular movie.

Solkoff was friends with the late Robert Briscoe, who in 1956 became Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland. Briscoe was also a fascinating figure. Before the founding of the states of Ireland and Israel, Briscoe regarded himself as both an Irish and Israeli revolutionary fighting a common British enemy.

Briscoe introduced Jabotinsky to the early leaders of the Irish fight for independence. Before and after Jabontinsky’s death, Briscoe worked at transporting Jews from Nazi-dominated countries to Palestine. Solkoff introduced Briscoe to New York City Jewish organizations. Solkoff and Briscoe both collaborated with Ben Hecht to create a highly controversial full-page advertisement on the back page of the first section of The New York Times. The year was 1943. The ad was entitled, “FOR SALE TO HUMANITY, 70,000 JEWS, GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS AT $50 A PIECE.” Romania had offered to let their Jewish citizens leave Romania on the condition that the Four Superpowers pay $50 for each Jewish head and agree to transport them to Palestine. The British opposed transportation to Palestine, which was under their control. The Jews who might have been saved died.

Solkoff’s most important contribution to the effort to avert the Holocaust was the fact that Solkoff arranged a secret, private meeting between Robert Briscoe and Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) then a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Brandeis took pride in his influential role with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in the American Jewish community. The meeting did not go well. It took place at Brandeis’ Washington home. Briscoe gave Brandeis a warning about the American Jewish community’s indifference to the plight of Jewish European refugees. Later Briscoe reported to Solkoff the warning he gave Brandeis. “Your accommodationist stance with the British will result in millions of unnecessary Jewish deaths at the hands of the Nazis.” Briscoe continued, “The blood of those Jews will be on your hands too and that of the rest of the American Jewish community. It will be on your hands even though you do not directly commit the murders.”


Solkoff was a graduate of Columbia College, class of 1924. Receipt of his diploma was delayed six months because of failure to pass a swimming test. Solkoff, who never learned to swim, said that after sitting around the pool for six months trying to get the courage to jump in, the coach took pity on him. “If you jump in, I’ll pass you, even if we have to fish you out with a net.” Solkoff jumped in, sank to the bottom, was fished out with a net, and formally received his B.A. degree.

Solkoff attended Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York, class of 1930. He practiced law in New York City before moving to Miami, Florida. After becoming a member of the Florida bar, Solkoff specialized in the practice of bankruptcy law, especially Chapter 13, which he used as a device to stop foreclosure on his indigent clients’ homes. Before his retirement from practice in 1984, he represented 97 percent of Chapter 13 suits brought in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. Solkoff met with members of Senator Robert Dole’s staff when they were preparing to make the recent revisions in the bankruptcy law.

He founded the Miami chapter of Parents without Partners, serving as its president. He also formed the Revisionist Organization of Dade County in 1977 to support Menachem Begin. The American Jewish community generally was alarmed because of fears that Begin might be more extremist in his views about Israeli territorial expansion than they thought prudent. Solkoff’s organization helped alleviate those fears. Solkoff met with members of Begin’s staff during a trip to Israel in 1976.

Solkoff died of respiratory failure on January 13, 1989 at the Miami Jewish Home for the Aged at Douglas Gardens in Miami, Florida. He was born on March 14, 1902 in a field outside Odessa, Russia and came through Ellis Island as a refugee from a Russian pogrom.

He is survived by his wife Wilma of Miami, his grandchildren Joanna Solkoff, Melissa and Mark Schollmeyer, Jason and Lisa Herskowitz. He is also survived by his brothers Benjamin, Morris, and Ephraim, and his son Joel of Washington, D.C. Joel Solkoff is a senior writer at the U.S. Postal Service and is the author of The Politics of Food and other books.

News of Isadore Solkoff‘s death was delayed at his request. Also at his request, the funeral was private and in accordance with Jewish law. Memorial contributions may be made to either of two Miami organizations: the Guardianship Program of Dade County, Miami, Florida or the Jewish Home for the Aged at Douglas Gardens.

For further information please make contact with Joel Solkoff, phone at work 202-268-2182, phone at home 202-543-5232, address 612 E Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002-5230.


N.B: I am Isadore Solkoff’s son Joel and I now live in State College, PA. I wrote this obituary notice in 1989 shortly after my father’s funeral. My daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff also attended the funeral and watched as this notice was written on a computer and preserved on a floppy disk. The floppy disk was destroyed and the only copy of the original text was preserved by the Jabotinsky Institute where Amira Stern, Director of Archives, emailed it to Joel from Israel in October, 2011.

Isadore Solkoff arranged a critical interview between Robert Briscoe and U.S. Supreme Justice Louis Brandeis. The interview is recorded in Briscoe’s 1959 autobiography For the Life of Me. It is also documented in correspondence Solkoff initiated with Justice Brandeis.

The meeting between Robert Briscoe and Justice Louis Brandeis was the most important accomplishment of Isadore Solkoff’s life. According to Briscoe, Brandeis almost certainly reported the meeting to the President Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s refusal to act on the information resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of Jews in Europe.

When I was born in 1947, my father was a man burned out by the fact that he had the vision to see the impending tragedy, did everything he could to avert it, and had to live with the tragic reality that he had failed. Jabotinsky was and remains today a controversial figure. He was by all accounts a leader of astonishing magnetism whom my father loved with a love which could not be compared. Isadore Solkoff’s tombstone reads, “Follower of Jabotinsky.” When my younger daughter Amelia was born, following Jewish custom of naming children in honor of the dead, her mother and I gave her the middle name Altalena.

Altalena was Jabontinsky’s pen name. It is also the name of an arms ship that was brought into Israel in the middle of the 1948 War of Independent which to this day is a source of passionate controversy. As one Israeli asked me querulously, “You named your daughter for an arms ship.” I replied, “No, I named my daughter for the man the arms ship was named after.” Either way my father would have been pleased and my father’s love for me was steady and pure and this act of homage is the least I could do.

It is worth noting that after naming my younger Altalena, I received a lengthy letter from my late beloved mother Miriam Schmerler begging me not to name my daughter after that awful man Jabotinsky.

Jabotinsky had served in World War I as co-captain in the Zion Mule Corps with David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. The two hated each other and the views they each represented. My parents met at a synagogue weekend where members of various Zionist groups presented their ideas. My mother was a follower of Ben Gurion. My parents’ marriage was not made in heaven.

The resolution to the inter-Zionist animus, which continues to this day, must be solved before peace in Israel can possibly be achieved. Peace with the Palestinian community and their Arab neighbors is the only way the state of Israel can preserved. Ironically, both Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion would agree with this statement.

Reporting child abuse training

E-mail to all Penn State Engineering Department employees:

On February 28, 2013, the new online training program “Reporting Child Abuse” will be available to all Penn State employees at  The training is not designed to address the entire issue of child abuse, but it has been specifically designed for Penn State employees and Authorized Adults to ensure you understand policies/laws, your responsibilities around reporting, and the reporting protocol.

You should expect to receive a welcome message from SkillSoft (the company we are partnering with to deliver the training) via email. !   The message will have instructions to login to the SkillPort system (including your login credentials for the training).  You will then be taken to the SkillPort landing page, where you will be able to access the Reporting Child Abuse training.  Instructions will be available on the site to help you navigate through the course.

Under policy AD72, all Penn State employees are required to complete the training each calendar year.  It will be important, once you complete the training, to retain a copy of your Certificate of Completion. If you are classified as an Authorized Adult under policy AD39, you will have to complete a background check and the training annually prior to working with minors. You will need to produce a copy of the certificate of completion, prior to working with minors, to the program or uni! t where you are working with minors.

If you have questions regarding the training the following link will take you to an FAQ sheet.  If you a have problems accessing the training, contact the ITS Service help desk at [email protected] or (814)865-HELP (4357).  Questions about the training itself can be directed to the Center for Workplace Learning & Performance (CWLP) at [email protected] or (814)865-8216.

Robert A. Hannegan

Manager Human Resources

College of Engineering

Penn State University

Dental Updates and Movies

Tooth 18 Extracted

Family, friends, loved ones, and casual acquaintances have been asking about my tooth extraction on Tuesday.

My left rear bottom molar—tooth 18—is extracted. My father Isadore’s birthday was yesterday—from whom I inherited many of my stubborn genes [not to mention the stubborn genes on my mother’s side]—and Isadore (who would have been 113 born in Odessa while it was still Russia but is now the Ukraine) is almost certainly responsible for the fact that my molar root refused to let go in my kindly dentist’s chair a week ago Tuesday.


This figure is correct in being lower, but my side was the left and not the right. So imagine this illustration being on the left; it was the last molar that was removed—called by everyone involved as tooth number 18, but when I looked up dental notation…Trust me; ask a dentist about which dental notation system they use here in Pennsylvania and why (if you care).

The Big Sleep

Clearly, the thing to do after you wait for the pain to go away (with pills that make your tummy hurt) is  watch movies.

Then after the Novocaine wears off and I am good for nothing because of the penicillin, it does not matter what I watch as long as there is something distracting on Netflix, Amazon, or the DVD collection from the library around the corner.


There are times, during dental adventures, when it does not matter how many times I watch the same movie. Take The Big Sleep, for example, based on the wonderfully romantic novel by Raymond Chandler, which I have read three times, turned into a brilliant film by Howard Hawks, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. “What wrong with you?” Bogart asks Bacall in a memorable conclusion which is in no way a spoiler, “Nothing you can’t fix.” As the credits roll the screen shows two partially smoked cigarettes neatly paired next to each other in an otherwise empty ashtray.

What’s next? 

Well in dentistry, quite a lot.

The big question is can I save my teeth? I have good teeth. Unlike my parents, who entered their respective nursing homes with their teeth in a glass, if things go well false teeth are not inevitable. Whether things will go well is an open question.

First, there is the radiation treatment. Yes, I am grateful to be alive and not die at age 28 as would have been my fate without radiation treatment to cure me of Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer once immediately and invariably fatal.

One consequence of the radiation treatment is that it burned my spine and turned me into a paraplegic unable to walk, run, or even stand without holding onto something. I would prefer being able to walk but c’est la vie as Don Marquis’ cockroach Archie would have put it, “C’es la vie.”


Another consequence of radiation treatment is that it dried up my salivary glands and that not only prevents me from competing in spitting contests, it means that for decades saliva, which is good for my teeth, was not plentiful and dry-mouth Solkoff’s teeth rotted as a consequence.

Are my teeth salvageable? Probably. If I hurry. If I find the money to pay for them. If I hurry.

[Consider this your place for updates to Joel’s teeth. Stop by often and I will give you a tooth by tooth breakdown.]


As for movies,

I recommend, Jackie Brown.


Pam Grier plays Jackie Brown whose skill at driving Robert De Niro and Samuel Jackson totally and completely crazy caused one magazine to list the film as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and rightly so.

More on this film, others, and my observation about how difficult it is to become an actor and similar cinematic musings as my dental adventure continues.


Also, I will not neglect the politics of dentistry: the President’s unwillingness to include dental care in the Affordable Care Act, the absence of dental care in Medicare, the pathetic attempt to provide it in Medicaid, and the absence of sufficient philanthropic dental care.

Does the President really not have a government provided dental plan? Do the 535 members of the House and Senate really have to dip into their own pockets to get their teeth cleaned?

[Please, readers, provide me with statistics on the cost to our society of neglected teeth—the cost to the gross national product of lost productivity due to unnecessary dental pain. I want charts. I want statistics.]

This site is about to launch a Dental Crusade.