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¬†First)¬†Arab‚ÄďIsraeli War¬†was the second and final stage of the¬†1947‚Äď1949 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‚Äď1949 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‚Äď1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, while the Jewish resistance developed into the 1944‚Äď1947 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: “‚ÄúMarv and Jean were two lights who shone brilliantly as one, providing illumination of all good things in Williamsport, and anywhere else they were.‚ÄĚ 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