Some inspirational people passed away recently. Among them were:
ASSI DAYAN. Assaf Dayan, actor and filmmaker, the son of a military leader and a peace activist, passed away this week in Tel Aviv at the age of 68. Born in Moshav Nahalal in British Mandate Palestine in 1945to Ruth and Moshe Dayan, Dayan directed sixteen Israeli films and appeared in about fifty. Among his survivors are his mother; his sister, Yael Dayan; his brother, Udi; four children; several ex-wives and girlfriends; and fans of one of the most successful Israeli TV series, Be’Tipul, (In Treatment), in which he played a psychologist; Time of Favor; My Father My Lord; Life According to Agfa; Operation Thunderbolt; and Beyond The Walls.
STEFANIE ZWEIG. Ms. Zweig passed away at the age of 81. A best selling author, she wrote “Nowhere in Africa,” a novel about a Jewish family that flees Nazi Germany to Kenya. The book was based on her family’s experiences during WWII. It inspired the 2003 Oscar-winning film which was directed by Caroline Link. A later book, “Somewhere in Germany,” told the story of her family’s return to post-War Germany in 1947, and the attempt to re-adjust, their residence in the former Jewish Hospital of Frankfurt, and her father’s role as a court judge who was not tainted by past Nazi affiliations.
BOB HOSKINS Actor Bob Hoskins” passed away in London yesterday after complications from Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia at the age of 71. Relatively short for an actor and leading man, at 5’6″, he played tough – sometimes Cockneyed – men, as well as a tender Jewish romantic in “Mermaids.” He is perhaps most remembered to Americans for his role in 1988 as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Born in the Autumn of 1942 in wartime England, he dropped out of high school as a teenager and joined the circus. In 1967, he traveled to Israel to work on Kibbutz Zikim and then returned to London to work in theater – as a set painter… which led to an audition, roles, and stardom. Kibbutz Zikim was founded by immigrants from Romania. Hoskins grandmother was of Romani heritage.
AL FELDSTEIN, the man who made the satirical MAD MAGAZINE the staple read for adolescents and others in the 1960s, passed away in Montana at the age of 88. In 1956, Feldstein was working as a comic book illustrator and writer when he joined the irreverent MAD. Feldstein provided the magazine with its voice and identity for over three decades and added the gap-toothed Alfred E. Neuman (aka Melvin Cowznofski) to its cover. He gave many artists their start in the commis business, and made Spy vs. Spy a national phenom. Under Feldstein, the magazine’s copies grew more than 400% to over 2 million.
RABBI AARON LANDES. Rabbi Landes, the longtime senior rabbi of Beth Sholom in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park passed away at 84. In addition to serving his congregants, Landes – the son of a Massachusetts rabbi – was a U.S. Navy chaplain and rose to lead over 700 of the Navy’s chaplains. He was promoted to Rear Admiral. The Navy was a natural choice, since he was a lifeguard at Camp Massad, a Jewish sleepaway camp in the Poconos as a teen. Once asked at Annapolis (the U.S. Naval Academy) why more Jewish students had not joined the Navy, Landes replied, Let’s analyze this (his famous phrase). Annapolis’ chapel seats 2,500 midshipman, and its Jewish chapel is off campus and seats 45. You have no Jewish chaplains and no Jewish chapel. He converted an unused room into a chapel for all faiths. Jewish services were held there for the next 25 years until a Jewish chapel was built.
PEACHES GELDOF. Peaches Geldof, the daughter of British musician and philanthropist, Sir Bob Geldof, passed away suddenly at the age of 25. The mother of two young children, she was married to Tom Cohen. Although the funeral was held in a church in Davington, Kent, England, the service was Jewish in nature, since she identified as Jewish. Peaches was a fashion celebrity in England. Sadly, her death might be linked to heroin abuse, the same illness led to her mother – Paula Yates’ – death at the age of 41 in 2000.
LOIS AMSTER ROTHSCHILD. Lois Amster was the inspirations for Superman’s colleague and love interest, Lois Lane. She passed away at 97. Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel said it was his wife, the late Joanne Siegel, who was the main inspiration for Lois Lane, but it has long been accepted that there were other women who provided Siegel with some of the inspiration for Superman’s feisty girlfriend. Brad Ricca, author of “Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry and Joe,” said the relationship between Lois Amster and Jerry, which was purely one-sided from Jerry, mirrors the relationship between early Superman and Lois Lane. “Lois Amster was an unknowing participant in the whole thing,” Ricca said. “(Jerry) idolized her in high school and she had no idea who he was. He wrote poems to her in the school newspaper. He had a crush on her that was unrequited. In the comics, you can see that in the relationship where Clark loved Lois and she could not have cared less.” In one of Siegel and Shuster’s pre-Superman works for DC Comics, Amster is even named in a comic, and is saved from vampires. Larry Tye, author of “Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero” said. “The true story, I’m convinced, is one that Jerry and Joe told when Superman turned 50. That is the story that it was a girl in Jerry’s class at Glenville High School; in a poor section, an almost 95% Jewish section of Cleveland, there was a girl named Lois Amster that Jerry was in love with. He had a crush on her, and she never knew that he had a crush on her. He never was confident enough to tell her. She barely knew that he existed.”
HERB GRAY. Herb Gray, 82, was unknown in the lower 48 states, but known to America’s neighbor to the North: Canada. A Canadian MP (he was elected 13 times) and Cabinet Minister (in 11 posts) from the Liberal Party, Gray he was a skilled orator, question deflector and former deputy prime minister. Gray was Canada’s first federal cabinet minister of Jewish heritage. As a young MP, his mother, an immigrant from Belarus, ran his constituency services office from her home. Gray met his wife, Attorney Sharon Sholzberg-Gray, on the campaign trail in 1964. She said he was most proud about saving 10,000 jobs in Ontario by keeping a Chrysler plant open in 1980.
JACOB BIRNBAUM. Fifty years ago, May 1, 1964, Jacob Birnbaum founded the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, a movement that taught a generation of young Jews how to create a grassroots protest and political movement. Sadly, he passed away just weeks before the anniversary at the age of 87. to free Soviet Jews, has died at 87. He was the grandson of Nathan Birnbaum, the leader who was credited with coining the word, “Zionism.” On May 1, 1964, more than 1,000 students from Columbia, Yeshiva, Stern College and other schools demonstrated outside the Soviet mission to the United Nations and called for freedom for Soviet Jews. A movement was born. He was called, “unyielding, uncompromising, relentless, stubborn, steadfast and tenacious.” Shunned by establishment Jewish organization, he was ostracized and given little credit for his organization skills and tactics. Many of his tactics were later used by Jewish service organizations. It was Birnbaum who commissioned Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach to compose a theme song for the movement: “Am Yisrael Chai” (Dear Jacob: I still have my SSSJ buttons and Prisoner of Conscience bracelet in a drawer)