Disability and Elderly Issues

Remembering Jean and Marvin Staiman and their love of Israel

Williamsport, Pennsylvania, US, June 2, 2011,

22 Sivan

For years, congregation Ohev Shalom has benefitted from the services of Rabbi Herbert Horowitz. Rabbi Horowitz  was a friend of my good friend Marvin Staiman. Marvin died on January 17th (my mother’s birthday) at age 93. Marvin died not long after the death at age 92 of his wife Jean. Marvin died four months after Jean’s death. 

Marvin and Jean were married for over 70 years–an accomplishment  praiseworthy beyond my ability. Following the first commandment in the Five Books of Moses, “Be fruitful and multiply,”. Marvin and Jean Staiman were fruitful. Consider, they had six children: Keith, Cynthia, Jeffrey, Richard, Jonathan, and Rebecca. They had 19 grandchildren; {I merely have four grandchildren,} Marvin and Jean also had 19 great grandchildren Indeed!.

Rabbi Howowitz told me over the phone on Tuesday: “The death of Marvin and Jean has left a void for each and every member of Congregation Ohev Shalom.”

Photo of Jean Staiman by me

My relationship with Jean stemmed from the fact that Marvin did not read books; Jean did. {Marvin read newspapers, magazines, and Jewish publications–lots of them}.


 I had been standing next to the Bemma (platform/altar ) at the synagogue Marvin’s grandfather had helped found (back when Peter Herdic was alive). I handed my book on surviving cancer to Marvin and he handed it to Jean. That is when I first met her. 

 Upon meeting Jean for the first time, she smiled. It was the kind of smile you might wish your grandmother was here to smile at you, During the time Jean  and I became friends, Jean was extremely hard of hearing. When I visited her in their home on Grampian Blvd (a house with a far too narrow driveway), I would pull out my reporter’s notebook and we would write back and forth.

Writing on the sabbath is forbidden. The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening to the end of the day on Saturday  (until one can see three stars in the sky); {For candle lighting times please see Congregation Ohev Shalom’s excellent website Congregation Ohev Shalom: )].

To repeat, writing  is not permitted in a Orthodox synagogue on Friday night and S.aturday So, Jean and I could not communicate with words. We would sit next to each other at Saturday lunches and smile and occasionally we would touch each other’s shoulder. At first, it felt strange but after the first time, communicating in this way–this non-verbal happy way–seemed natural.

Our bond stemmed from our love of books, especially books that have something to say. I had published a book on my experience with cancer and surviving it. The reason I know she loved it is because she said so to Marvin and two of her sons.

Photo of Marvin Staiman by me

The void my synagogue is experiencing as a result of Marvin’s death concerns those actions Marvin regarded as essential to his view of what it means to be a Jew. For one thing, being a Jew for Marvin meant praying to God in Hebrew and Aramaic (the language of Jesus). The second requirement, even more significant than Hebrew prayer, is working to preserve the State of Israel. Eretz (land of) Yisrael (Israel).

Marvin remembered vividly the Israeli 1948 War of Independence about which Wikipedia wrote: “The 1948 (or FirstArab–Israeli War was the second and final stage of the 1947–1949 Palestine war. It formally began following the end of the British Mandate for Palestine at midnight on 14 May 1948; the Israeli Declaration of Independence had been issued earlier that day, and a military coalition of Arab states entered the territory of British Palestine in the morning of 15 May.

“The first deaths of the 1947–1949 Palestine war occurred on 30 November 1947 during an ambush of two buses carrying Jews.There had been tension and conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, and between each of them and the British forces since the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1920 creation of the British Mandate of Palestine. British policies dissatisfied both Arabs and Jews. Arab opposition developed into the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, while the Jewish resistance developed into the 1944–1947 Jewish insurgency in Palestine. In 1947, these ongoing tensions erupted into civil war following the 29 November 1947 adoption of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which planned to divide Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state, and the Special International Regime encompassing the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”

Although Israeli government officials compare the current Israeli Hamas War to 1948–nothing could be farther from the truth. In 1948, there emerged true stories of the difficulties involved. Victims of the Holocaust, those fleeing Auschwitz and the other camps, landed on Israeli soil, were handed Sten guns, the often problematic guns the British left behind. Many died, especially on the road to the Old City of Jerusalem. Gone without a trace.

Marvin’s success at raising funds for Israel in 1948 was critical to the effort which still seems like a miracle that the Jews won. Today, as a consequence of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel emerged as an important military power in the region. In six days, Israel conquered the skies on day one and next took over access to the Old City of Jerusalem–since 1948 the Jordanian government had prohibited access to our holiest spot, the Western Wall of the Second Temple. In the South, Israeli soldiers in tanks changed tank warfare forever, causing the United States to create M1 tanks to replace the tanks that won World War II. In the north, where most of the Israeli casualties took place, soldiers scaled the Golan Heights and might have reached Damascus if they so desired

The Israeli air force, widely praised for winning the day, consisted of French Mirage jets–French because the US was not yet willing to sell jets to Israel The American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC).emerged from an organization that was primarily a news source with an excellent newsletter to a lobbying group whose power has been compared to the liquor and alcohol lobby.

At the aftermath of the Six Day. War, French President DeGaulle refused to sell Israel’s air force spare parts. The US then provided Israel with a US built air force, It would seem that the US will continue to provide needed weapons.That may not be the case. There are reports that some Israeli military authorities believe Israel will be helped by receiving Congressional  permission to buy bombs that demolish bunkers, like the ones Hamas uses to make terrorist strikes.

To make sense of this, asking myself how would Marvin react to the news that for 11 days Israel was at war with Hamas. Now there is a fragile and badly needed cease fire. Therefore, I called Richard, Marvin’s son, who runs the family business, to have our synagogue respond to the crisis posed by the Israel Hamas War and the cease fire that has followed. Stay tuned.


Finally, consider Williamsport attorney Fred Holland’s observation: ““Marv and Jean were two lights who shone brilliantly as one, providing illumination of all good things in Williamsport, and anywhere else they were.” I  could not put it any better.-

Joel Solkoff, US Editor, e-architect.UK, member Ohev Sha;o,.Cherry Street, Williamsport

Copyright 2021 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved”olumns

Passover Message to my Fellow Congregants Ohev Sholom, Williamsport PA


As you know, the name of our shul means Lover of Peace. Now, when the threat of infection is all around us and fear grips us here in beautiful Lycoming County, it is difficult to be peaceful within ourselves.

As we prepare for the siddurim, we can take comfort from the Haggadah properly understood.

The story that comes immediately to mind is that of Rabbi Akivah. The Haggadah says Rabbi Akivah’s sedar lasted until dawn. His followers had to remind him the time had come to daven Shacharis.

Scholars explain to us the true meaning of that event noting Rabbi Akivah was helping Bar Kochba prepare for the Revolt— a Revolt that fought the Romans deadly attempt to destroy our people.

Now, the threat to our lives and tradition as G-d’s’ Chosen People is so small as to require a microscope to see it. It is so dangerous that by the time you read this 5,000 residents of the United States have already died and more are expected.

Following Rabbi Hillel’s first rehetorical question, If I am not for myself who is for me, we must all take care. Wash our hands. Avoid touching our face. Have safe distance between and among ourselves. Make sure to open the windows when the temperature permits. Fresh air and sunshine are the best disinfectant.

The second of Rabbi Hillel’s rhetorical questions:

If I am for myself alone, what good am I.

This means we must invent new ways of expressing our love for each other. We must make use of this time to learn Hebrew, read and appreciate the Tanach, study the history of Zionism and the State of Israel we so love. Stand up, sing Hatikvah, And pledge allegiance to the US flag.

Rabbi Hillel’s last rhetorical question, of course, is :

If not now, when.

Remember, we are today united under G-d’s glorious umbrella. It does not matter now in midst of this pandemic whether one’s faith is Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, Buddhist or nothing at all. Never since World War II when I served my country has our country faced as great a danger as it does now.

This Pesach we can learn from Rabbi Akivah’s diligence. The details of the threat may be different.The message is the same. With love and hope we will prevail as a people and as this wonderful United States which we all call home.

Kol tuv,

Marvin Staiman

[Editorial note: Marvin Staiman is the spiritual leader of Williamsport PA’s Synagogue in Williamsport PA. founded as Orthodox, but because women and men sit together rather than being separated, we regard ourselves as traditional.Marvin’s grandfather Kalman was one of the founders of the synagogue in 1907.

Jean and Marvin have been married for 72 years. Jean continues to read avidly and is devoted to literature. The couple are the pillars of our synagogue.]


On chanting Isaiah 61:10 to 63:9


Isaiah, prophet eighth century, as painted by Michelangelo (1475-1564)

“I greatly rejoice in the Lord,”

begins the formal portion of Isaiah which I am scheduled to chant in Hebrew on Saturday September 28th, the day before Rosh Hashana. [1].

This is the Hebrew:

שׂ֧וֹשׂ אָשִׂ֣ישׂ בַּֽיהוָ֗ה


This is how the first three verses of this Isaiah portion sounds when  Sarah Leah, my sister, sang them to help me prepare.


What follows are these verses in Hebrew and English.These are the first verses from the Isaiah haftorah [1] reading on the day before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish calendar  New Year Year [2].

This is the first line of the selected reading. Unlike English that reads left to right, Hebrew reads right to left. This is an indication the Hebrew is a very old language. When language was first written, it was carved on stone. Since most workers are right handed,…
As a child of six, I was taught Hebrew in the morning and English in the afternoon. This happened for the first eight years of elementary school. Then, in high school, more Hebrew— compulsory after school Hebrew which I often resisted followed by one year of college Hebrew.
To this day when I am handed a book all too often I open it up without thinking. All to frequently, I open up an English book the wrong way and then pa Hebrew book the wrong way. When that happens, I feel maladjusted.


Later, I will discuss the considerable age of the Hebrew text. This text has been handed down in written form for hundreds of years by and from generation to generation. The original draft contains occasional errors which are not corrected lest the instinct to correct might lead  to unwanted consequences. Instead, when a mistake does appear it’s correction appears immediately afterward in brackets. Here is an example from this haftorah.

[Insert example here.]

The Jewish Publication Society is responsible for the English translation. My mother Dr. Miriam Pell Schmerler helped in the Jewish Publication Society’s historic efforts in the late 1950s and early 1960s to produce an historically accurate translation of the Old Testament incorporating modern archeological findings and Biblical scholarship.

When I was a child, beginning at age 8, I attended working sessions of the translation efforts at summer sessions at Penn State, Cornell University, and Westchester County, NY.
While there I met some of the experts in global scholarship including experts, such as Zeev Vilnay, who wrote a classic travel guide to iIsrael which incorporated Biblical scholarship. When I was in Jerusalem in 1967, I attended his high brow Saturday afternoon teas.. All my life, willing or not through childhood and adolescence, the Bible has always been with me.



When was the last time you exalted? Or even used the word “ exalt?” This is the most beautiful and sophisticated poetry I have ever read in any language. Reading these words causes me to exalt. Learning the musical notes is hard sledding.


How should I begin?

Ancient Eastern wisdom suggests one should begin as one would proceed.  My goal here is to invoke in you the sense of beauty and awe the prophet Isaiah invokes in me as I prepare to read/chant it at my new and wonderful synagogue Congregation Ohev Shalom ( lover of peace) here in my new home of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In February, I moved here as a refugee from Addison Court, a de facto nursing home in State College. For over 10 years, this was the view from my apartment.

Earlier this year, my neighbor and friend John Harris lamented the death of a dear friend who seemed indispensable to our happiness. John observed that in the past calendar year 13 of his friends had died–many our neighbors.
On the average of once a week, by the estimate of the State College police, an ambulance pulled up to my window At any time, day or night, I could expect to see outside my window, a gurney carrying one of my neighbors who might already be dead or who might never return. Much of last year and the year before I was ill unable to leave my bed for more than four hours a day. No doubt this distressing view contributed to my illness.









This is the third floor view from the balcony of the residential hotel where I live–surrounded by residents of multiple generations (children, parents, truck drivers,workers–not all my neighbor for a change are old, neglected, focused seemingly entirely on their poor health.
Daily I see this ever-changing/ever-beautiful view of the sky and mountains and it has helped me get well after serial bouts of pneumonia. I feel about this view and its ability to make me well much as I feel when reading the astonishingly beautiful Hebrew poetry of Isaiah.



This is the first line of the selected reading. Unlike English that reads left to right, Hebrew reads right to left. This is an indication the Hebrew is a very old language. When language was first written, it was carved on stone. Since most workers are right handed,…
As a child of six, I was taught Hebrew in the morning and English in the afternoon. This happened for the first eight years of elementary school. Then, in high school, more Hebrew— compulsory after school Hebrew which I often resisted followed by one year of college Hebrew.
To this day when I am handed a book all too often I open it up without thinking. All to frequently, I open up an English book the wrong way and then pa Hebrew book the wrong way. When that happens, I feel maladjusted.


[Editorial note: In the course of producing this posting, I must use multiple computers for reasons Marshall McLuhan might understand. As a result, it is easier for me “publish” this now with the firm intention of returning and completing. Hurry back, now, hear.]








1. Haftorah. Wikipedia:

“The haftarah or (in Ashkenazic pronunciation) haftorah (alt. haphtara, Hebrew: הפטרה; “parting,” “taking leave”), (plural haftoros or haftorot) is a series of selections from the books of Nevi’im (“Prophets”) of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) that is publicly read in synagogue as part of Jewish religious practice.

“The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on each Sabbath and on Jewish festivals and fast days. Typically, the haftarah is thematically linked to the parasha (Torah Portion) that precedes it. The haftarah is sung in a chant (known as “trope” in Yiddish or “Cantillation” in English). Related blessings precede and follow the Haftarah reading.”

My reading/chanting from Isaiah follows a reading from Deuteronomy, the last of the five Books of Moses.