Categories
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–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.-

—-30—- 
Joel Solkoff, US Editor, e-architect.UK, member Ohev Sha;o,.Cherry Street, Williamsport

Copyright 2021 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved

https://www.e-architect.co.uk/section/c”olumns

Passover Message to my Fellow Congregants Ohev Sholom, Williamsport PA

בה

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.]

–>

Ani Ma’Amin: This is what I believe

בה

Rabbi Horowitz

אני מאמין

 

Let’s start with first principles.

I believe in God. Specifically, I believe in the God who appeared to Moses in the form of the burning bush. Moses asks: “Who are you?” God says: “I am who I am.”

As a mystic, not much more can be said about God with this exception. God is not a He nor a She. God is genderless. Given my contrarian nature, I have taken to refer to God as She in no small part because doing so upsets some people. E.g.:

Kaddish: Prayer for the Dead

English

Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world
which She has created according to Her will.

https://joelsolkoff.com/kaddish/

++++

One of my heroes is Edward R. Murrow. The great North-Carolina-born journalist instituted a series of radio programs ( which on NPR continue to this day) on what prominent people believe.

++++

++++

I am not prominent, but I am old (71j and am so dyed-in-the-wool Jewish that what I believe is equivalent at least in my own mind to what Judaism is or ought to be.

I can readily trace the conceit of my own rectitude to my mother who was an impressive woman and educator. Despite a lifetime of self-doubt, Mother never doubted that to be a proper Jew one must do what she insisted upon.

Here is my mom.


https://joelsolkoff.com/my-mother/

++++

For me,  my belief in God is the least import aspect of being Jewish. I would argue it is irrelevant to what truly matters; namely, “If I am for myself alone, what good am I.”

One consequence of my going to Israel to fight in the Six Day War ( where I arrived at Lodd Airport on Day Four) was that despite the Israeli government’s understandable 1967 assertion (that the impending War was the 1948 War of Independence all over again) was my surprise upon being asked by the military official in charge of the airport,” Why are you here? “ My response (after kissing the tarmac and saying the requisite bracha):
“Whatever you want.”

Had it been 1948, I would have been handed a Stenn gun and sent to the Syrian front where the IDF troops scaling the Golan Heights suffered the worst deaths of the War.
Instead, being untrained naive and young, I was sent to a dairy farm in the South where I was badly needed to shovel the manure that had been built up while the farmer I had partially replaced was off in the Sinai reinventing tank warfare.

https://forward.com/author/joel-solkoff/

++++
My Israeli experience as a migrant agricultural worker resulted in my becoming an agricultural policy expert ( of sorts):

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1986-01-26-bk-0-story.html

 

 ++++
Most recently, my “expertise” has resulted in my efforts to affirm Eli Weisel’s insistance that being a Jew ( surrounded as I had been  in the 1950s by tattooed survivors of the Holocaust) requires us as Jews to end genocide of whatever form; specifically in Yemen, the Mayanmar region of what used to be Burma, Venezuela ( most especially on the Western border in Colombia) the Sudan, and ….
Here is the book I am most eager to complete and publish:

DEVELOPING A BLUEPRINT FOR FEEDING THE 20 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO ARE STARVING TO DEATH

Here is a relatively recent expression of what I regard as my primary life’s work:
++++

https://joelsolkoff.com/playing-politics-with-food-exports/

++++
Fortunately or unfortunately my rotten health ( which is to blame for my not being in shul yesterday) has required me to pay attention to a pressing reality(intervening in what I regard as my primary work).
For the past two  years, I have been suffering from one of the many consequences of radiation treatment that cured me of two of the three cancers I have survived and which resulted in my losing the ability to walk and stand 25 years ago.
The radiation has badly damaged my GI tract which has resulted in an inability to swallow, required that I relearn how to eat, and which most recently is manifesting itself in a severe cough. Last week, I was seen by the Digestive Diseases clinic at UPMC and with any luck I will receive surgery in June to put me on the road to recovery.
++++
In February, by impulse or necessity, I moved to Williamsport after over 15 years in State College. Here I am receiving medical treatment unavailable in State College. And here, as a result of Larissa Simon’s efforts, that of Ohev Shalom and you, I have been rescued. Details available.
How I am able to write and write and write despite the failures of my body surprise me. The image that comes to mind is that my mind is in fifth gear; my body in second.
Clearly, it is time to stop this seemingly endless e-mail but I must first mention the following Yiddishkite issues of importance to me:
1. The revival of the Hebrew language. Eliezer ben Yehuda and Bialik,  Bialik, Bialik.
2. The understanding that the killing of Jews in Pittsburgh and Southern California makes clear that, as Jabotinsky expressed it,  in the Diaspora even the rocks are anti-Semitic.
3. The shameful way in which the elderly and disabled are treated in our society.
4. My reverence for the late Rabbi Heschel, Professor of Mysticism and Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary who marched with Dr. King as did I.

“Leaders of the protest, holding flags, from left Bishop James Shannon, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath.” Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, February 6, 1968. Published February 7, 1968. (Photo by Charles Del Vecchio/Washington Post/Getty Images)

 

 

++++
—30–
Copyright  2019 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.