“שלושים” translates into English as thirty. The 30 day period in the Jewish tradition following burial, and including shiva. This evening we are at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Englewood for a relatively small and intimate gathering, to honor our father’s memory, Yisroel Dov ben Yosef Aryeh, on behalf of Arlene, Miriam, and me. This takes on special significance because we were not able to laud him during his funeral, which occurred during Chol Hamoed – the intermediate days of Sukkos when remarks in the chapel and at the gravesite are truncated. As it turns out, there is some irony in this evening’s secular date, October 28, 2015, as 70 years ago today Dad married our mother, Violet Rosenthal. We also wish to make special mention of Fay Portnoy Press, with whom my father enjoyed a very loving second marriage, and members of the extended Portnoy family who are with us this evening.
We have invited Yonah and Yossi Gewirtz, two of my father’s special nephews who are among the most learned in our family, to speak on behalf of Dad this evening, particularly with regard to the learning of Mishnayos (and Yonah will represent them).
This tradition stems from the fact that the word “משנה” has the same letters as the word “נשמה”, so that the learning of Mishnayos that took place during the past month in his memory will be pleasing to his soul and spirit which maintains its presence among us. One of our cousins suggested to us that in addition to the Mishnayos sign-up sheet we put out during Shiva, we consider putting out a “sign-up sheet for jokes and anecdotes”, so that we could re-tell some of my father’s favorite lines.
I did take the opportunity in representing the Family to say something in tribute to Dad in in accordance with the guidelines given to me by the Rabbis. I mentioned his fondness for the juxtaposition of the two consecutive weekly Torah portions of אַחֲרֵי מוֹת and קְדֹשִׁים, and his observation that listening to funeral speeches one might one might conclude that אַחֲרֵי מוֹת – after death, קְדֹשִׁים – everyone is holy. Actually I forgot to mention that he strung the three consecutive Parshiyos together: אַחֲרֵי מוֹת – קְדֹשִׁים , and-אֱמֹר, to derive the phrase that after death, everyone is spoken of as holy. As I noted at the funeral, my father didn’t need the turn of a phrase to warrant that praise. He was among the most ethical and holiest individuals I have known, and I suspect each of you sitting here would nod in agreement.
One of my father’s favorite Torah quasi-transliterations was: “Hishamer l’cha, pen …”, an introductory refrain which literally means watch out (or be on guard, or be careful), lest … and then followed by the consequence of not being on guard. An example from the portion of “Ki-Sisa” being: Hishamer lecha, pen tichros beris leyoshev ha’arets asher ata ba aleha (be careful not to make a treaty with the people who occupy the land that you come to). But Dad would qualify the pen in its English transliterated form, as a writing implement. So whenever we discussed putting something in print, Dad would say: “Hishamer l’cha pen” – be careful about what you put into writing.
Having said that, I have chronicled highlights of my father’s life and its immediate aftermath in writing, in a blog format, in a way that I hope has – and will – continue to do him justice. Dad and I spent many hours discussing our respective viewpoints on Judaism, Secularism, and Humanism, not to mention politics and baseball. Those discussions will forever be in my heart and remain very personal between the two of us. Whether he was “Uncle Izzy”, or “Grandpop”, or “Israel” or “Dr. Press”, I know that he had special meaning to each of you here tonight and each of you has their personal memories.
On behalf of Miriam, who my father always considered as more of a daughter than daughter-in-law, and Arlene, both of whom worked tirelessly to arrange this evening, I want to personally thank each of you – our father’s extended family and friends, for coming and participating in this שלושים process and tribute.