On October 27th,eleven of my people were killed while attending Saturday morning synagogue services at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue. The synagogue is affiliated with the Conservative Jewish Movement centered at the Jewish Theological Seminary at 125th Street in New York City.
When my mother Dr. Miriam P. Schmereler was 67, she received her doctorate in Hebrew letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Words fail in my grief and that of my people as a consequence of this the worst anti-Semitic act in U.S. history. What follows is the obituary that appeared in USA Today for Rose Mallinger, the eldest of the eleven women and men killed because they were Jewish and because as Jews our obligation to assist refugees made Pittsburgh's synagogue a target because of its support for HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society], the organization that helped settle my father Isadore, his parents and sister before World War I who fled pogroms in Russia.
Synagogue shooting: Crowds mourn Rose Mallinger, 97, in the last funeral of 11 victims
Doug Stanglin, USA TODAYPublished 2:01 p.m. ET Nov. 2, 2018 | Updated 2:56 p.m. ET Nov. 2, 2018
Despite gray, blustery weather, long lines formed early outside Rodef Shalom Temple where the services were held because the Tree of Life synagogue, the site of the shootings Saturday, has not reopened.
Mallinger, who once served as school secretary at Tree of Life, was a fixture there for 60 years, regularly attending worship services with her family.
The synagogue was the “center of her very active life,” her family said in a statement. “Her involvement with the synagogue went beyond the Jewish religion. … It was her place to be social, to be active and to meet family and friends.”
“She retained her sharp wit, humor and intelligence until the very last day,” the family statement said. “She did everything she wanted to do in her life.”
Mallinger was one of six siblings, had three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“It’s surreal to be here because you never think of losing someone who is 97 years old to gun violence,” said Michele Organist, a friend of both Rose and her 61-year-old daughter, Andrea Wedner, who was injured in the shooting.
“I’ve known Rose a long time and it was always going to be that she was so vibrant and bright and sharp-witted that she would live past 100,” said Organist. “You knew something was going to take her eventually, but it wasn’t going to be gun violence.”
Elizabeth Murphy of Sewickley said Andrea Wedner was her dental hygienist. Murphy emerged from the visitation for Wedner’s mother, Rose, with lines of mascara running down her face.
“I moved to Pittsburgh 22 years ago from Boston thinking I came from a strong Jewish community and the Pittsburgh community has been amazingly tight,” she said. “I felt integrated in just a few years and I felt like I needed to be here with my people.”
It was not immediately clear if Wedner was unable to attend the services. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, without naming the patient, said a 61-year-old woman fitting her description remained in stable condition at the hospital.
UPMC said on Friday that the two most seriously injured victims had been moved out of the intensive care unit. Hospital officials say a 70-year-old man has been upgraded from critical to stable condition. A 40-year-old police officer remains in stable condition.
The officer was previously identified as Timothy Matson, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds. The wounded congregant is Daniel Leger, a nurse and hospital chaplain.
I was given the assignment of using found film footage to make a video that could not exceed 3 minutes. I decided to use footage and news reports of major pop culture and political events of the 1970’s, and to make a short video that would include some defining moments of the 70’s. Since it could only be about 3 minutes long, the video had to be pretty rushed, and I had to leave out a lot of important and cool stuff from the 70’s. Forgive me for the rushed feel it has! Enjoy!
“Personally, I can’t see where the difficulty in choosing suitable presents lies. No boy who had brought himself up properly could fail to appreciate one of those decorative bottles of liqueurs that are so reverently staged in Morel’s window…. People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.”
I wish it to be distinctly understood (said Reginald) that I don’t want a “George, Prince of Wales” Prayer-book as a Christmas present. The fact cannot be too widely known.
There ought (he continued) to be technical education classes on the science of present-giving. No one seems to have the faintest notion of what anyone else wants, and the prevalent ideas on the subject are not creditable to a civilised community.
There is, for instance, the female relative in the country who “knows a tie is always useful,” and sends you some spotted horror that you could only wear in secret or in Tottenham Court Road. It might have been useful had she kept it to tie up currant bushes with, when it would have served the double purpose of supporting the branches and frightening away the birds—for it is an admitted fact that the ordinary tomtit of commerce has a sounder æsthetic taste than the average female relative in the country.
Then there are aunts. They are always a difficult class to deal with in the matter of presents. The trouble is that one never catches them really young enough. By the time one has educated them to an appreciation of the fact that one does not wear red woollen mittens in the West End, they die, or quarrel with the family, or do something equally inconsiderate. That is why the supply of trained aunts is always so precarious.
There is my Aunt Agatha, par exemple, who sent me a pair of gloves last Christmas, and even got so far as to choose a kind that was being worn and had the correct number of buttons. But—they were nines! I sent them to a boy whom I hated intimately: he didn’t wear them, of course, but he could have—that was where the bitterness of death came in. It was nearly as consoling as sending white flowers to his funeral. Of course I wrote and told my aunt that they were the one thing that had been wanting to make existence blossom like a rose; I am afraid she thought me frivolous—she comes from the North, where they live in the fear of Heaven and the Earl of Durham. (Reginald affects an exhaustive knowledge of things political, which furnishes an excellent excuse for not discussing them.) Aunts with a dash of foreign extraction in them are the most satisfactory in the way of understanding these things; but if you can’t choose your aunt, it is wisest in the long-run to choose the present and send her the bill.
Even friends of one’s own set, who might be expected to know better, have curious delusions on the subject. I am not collecting copies of the cheaper editions of Omar Khayyam. I gave the last four that I received to the lift-boy, and I like to think of him reading them, with FitzGerald’s notes, to his aged mother. Lift-boys always have aged mothers; shows such nice feeling on their part, I think.
Personally, I can’t see where the difficulty in choosing suitable presents lies. No boy who had brought himself up properly could fail to appreciate one of those decorative bottles of liqueurs that are so reverently staged in Morel’s window—and it wouldn’t in the least matter if one did get duplicates. And there would always be the supreme moment of dreadful uncertainty whether it was crême de menthe or Chartreuse—like the expectant thrill on seeing your partner’s hand turned up at bridge. People may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die.
And then, of course, there are liqueur glasses, and crystallised fruits, and tapestry curtains, and heaps of other necessaries of life that make really sensible presents—not to speak of luxuries, such as having one’s bills paid, or getting something quite sweet in the way of jewellery. Unlike the alleged Good Woman of the Bible, I’m not above rubies. When found, by the way, she must have been rather a problem at Christmas-time; nothing short of a blank cheque would have fitted the situation. Perhaps it’s as well that she’s died out.
The great charm about me (concluded Reginald) is that I am so easily pleased. But I draw the line at a “Prince of Wales” Prayer-book.
— from Reginald, by Saki, published by METHUEN & CO. LTD, 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON and made available from Project Gutenberg.
“Hector Hugh Munro (18 December 1870 – 13 November 1916), better known by the pen name Saki, and also frequently as H. H. Munro, was a British writer whose witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. Influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling, he himself influenced A. A. Milne, Noël Coward, and P. G. Wodehouse.” — Wikipedia
[Personal note by Joel Solkoff: Saki’s short stories were given to me by my friend Hyman Yudewitz who was also a friend of my father Isadore Solkoff. Isadore met Hy when my father attended law school at Cornell. Years later, at Hy’s fifth floor walkup on Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village, Hy gave me a copy of Saki’s complete short stories from a pile of 20 from which he handed out presents on occasions Hy regarded as suitable–Christmas not being one.]
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.
In keeping with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, today and tomorrow, I am hereby posting a review of Robert Briscoe‘s book, published on Amazon.com. The book is entitled, For the Life of Me and was recommended to me by Briscoe’s son Benjamin, who succeeded his father as Lord Mayor of Dublin. My review of For the Life of Me discusses the work my father, Isadore Solkoff did to try to prevent the Holocaust.
For the Life of Me
This autobiography by Robert Briscoe Zionist and Irish revolutionary who became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin is a terrific read. The following provides background on Briscoe’s Zionist activates, described in a heartbreaking chapter on Briscoe’s attempt to encourage Polish Jews to leave the country before they were killed.
Briscoe was a friend of my father Isadore Solkoff. Briscoe attended a seder at the rear of my grandfather’s candy store in Jersey City in the 1930’s. Both my father and Briscoe were devoted followers of the charismatic Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940),founder of the political party that currently runs Israel.
My father 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.
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.
My father 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.
My father’s most important contribution to the effort to avert the Holocaust was a secret, private meeting he arranged 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 accomodationist 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.”
An account of the interview and its critical condemnation of President Roosevelt is recorded in For the Life of Me. It was also documented in correspondence my father initiated with Justice Brandeis in which he arranged for the appointment.
— Joel Solkoff, Isadore’s son, is the author of The Politics of Food and other books.