Charity, education and helping others were ideals that my father believed in and that our parents raised us on.
My father worked hard and long hours to give us a good education. He would leave for work around 6am and get home about 6pm. My mother also worked full time as a Hebrew teacher. Both my sister and I went to private Jewish schools when many other parents sent their kids to less expensive public schools. We both went to Brooklyn College and earned our degrees with financial help and support from our parents. My father gave me additional encouragement when I really needed it.
Back in 1976-1980, I majored in Computer Information Science. Brooklyn College had a very good reputation in the field and it had extra requirements to earn the degree. One of the requirements was taking Calculus. That requirement turned out to be a big problem for me. I was very good at math in high school, but I could not get a handle on Calculus in college. My father hired a math teacher to tutor me. After several weeks the math teacher told my father that it was not working. My father would not give up on me. In fact, I had a very long (several hours) discussion with my father about changing my major so I could avoid Calculus. My father convinced me to take the courses again. With the help of the tutor and my father, I finally passed.
One of the most memorable photos I have with my father
is the photo of us on our front porch, with me wearing
my college graduation cap and gown. See the photo toward
the bottom of:
Fast forward to 1984. My parents were living in Ramat Chen and I was living in Jerusalem and working at Intel Electronics. My father would cut out (the old fashion way with scissors) every article about Intel Electronics that appeared in the Hebrew printed newspapers. I think I have the folder with the articles in one of my storage boxes. I will keep them.
As many students and teachers know, both Yeshiva of Flatbush High School and Bialik Day School would build their Salute to Israel Parade floats in our driveway. Teachers, students and friends would come over to glue colored tissues into chicken wire and decorate the floats. What many people did not know was that my father would design and build the actual floats themselves (mostly made of wood and chicken wire).
Each year before Sukkot, my father and I would take out the wood frames and wood panels from the garage and build the Sukkah. Ok....he built and I helped a little. When my father would build things (a wall unit in the living room, wood framing in the basement) he would show me what he was doing and give me opportunities to do some things myself. In 1989, when I was about to move into my first apartment in Ma'ale Adumim, he drew a layout of the apartment (made to scale) and made cutouts of the furniture so I could arrange how things would look before moving in. My father passed away from a sudden heart attack on a Friday night before Purim in 1990. That day I tried to reach him by phone to let him know that I attached and installed a shower head to the bathroom wall all on my own. It seems like a little thing but I knew he would like hearing that. I never got the chance to tell him.
My father did many good things quietly without telling others. He gave to many charities in the US and Israel. My mother knew but my sister and I did not know the details. We only found out some of them from my mother after my father passed away. Both my mother and father emphasized helping others whether it was through charity, community events or helping individuals.
Zionism and Israel were part of our daily lives. My father was born in Tzfat and grew up in Haifa. He was also a soldier in the 1948 war. In the early 50's he moved to the US to study engineering. In the US he always kept track of what was happening in Israel. In fact, he would listen to the hourly news on his small transistor radio several times a day. I inherited that news bug and I visit news sites and read Israeli news articles on the Internet every day (except Shabbat).
During and after college, I would have Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) parties at our home. My parents would help me set up the house (including buying all the food and decorations) and then disappear. Our parents trusted us.
My father would visit Israel every year for his mother's birthday. My father probably flew 20 times over the years during the spring. He did not have long vacations like school teachers do. During many of the summer vacations, my mother would take us to Israel and she would rent an apartment. I think I went about a dozen times. My father would be working during the hot summers in New York. My birthday was at the end of August and I remember specific birthday presents that were waiting for me when I got back to Brooklyn. The ones that I remember from over the years: HO train set, erector set, wooden logs, and a 3 speed English racer bicycle. I also remember how I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah in Israel and the big parties that followed in Israel and Brooklyn. 44 years later, I still have the Encyclopedia Judaica that my parents bought me way back.
One of the unique things I remember about my father is how he would meet and greet my friends. Whether it was at the dinner table or just entering the house he welcomed everyone. This was not just for show, he really made everyone feel at home.
Holidays at our home were really special. Our Passover seders had around 40 people. My mother would do all the cooking and my father would buy the desserts. He would buy really good cakes and other goodies. He would also buy holiday presents for us. I remember that he hid the Chanukah presents in the living room coat closet. If I remember correctly, during the Passover seder, we always found the Afikoman that he hid (with some helpful hints). On Passover he would buy presents for all the kids at the seder. He treated both adults and kids with kindness and respect.
I remember Sunday mornings when my father would go out early and buy the newspapers and bagels with cream cheese and lox. I did not inherit the "early morning gene" but I always buy and read the weekend newspapers.
When I was growing up, my father would give me a small allowance. If I wanted more spending money, I would have to work for it. I had all kinds of part time jobs while going to school. I did everything from delivering meat on my bicycle during the winter, to working in a brokerage house making phone calls for the stock brokers. My father worked very hard over many years and he gave me a strong work ethic. I remember he took me to the World Trade Center when he worked for Ebasco Services. He was a mechanical design engineer responsible for the piping layouts of nuclear power plants. We went into a very large room (with a beautiful high view of the New York area) that had a scaled down model of a nuclear power plant. The model included little plastic people. It was cool. I kept in a few boxes, my father's engineering books, slide rule and I think several piping layout designs. I need to find an engineering student or engineering museum that may appreciate what I saved.
There are so many more stories and events that I could share. Our parents took hundreds of photos over the years and they put them in albums which I kept. Each photo brings back very good memories. I was blessed with very good and supportive parents. They raised my sister and me to be active in the community and to help others. My father passed away suddenly when I was 31 years old. I miss my dad / abba very much.
The Hebrew on my father's gravestone says:
Here lies our beloved husband, father, grandfather.
"Naim Halichot, Ohev Tzedaka V'Chesed"
Pleasant ways, likes charity and kindness.
Today, tomorrow or whenever you can, please put a few coins
in any charity box in memory of:
Avraham Itzhak ben Yaakov Meir
May his memory be for a blessing.
Click for photos of my mother and father
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