Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Hero

With my Saba, age 8
Tonight I lost a piece of me. My beloved Saba, the man who was stitched into the fabric of my being, passed away. Such is the cycle of life and such is its folly- I know that today was just an ordinary day like every other; he must have woken and eaten breakfast, listened to the news, gone around the kibbutz on his kalnoeet, and maybe he worked on his book. I know that he spoke to my Ima and my brother, I know that my cousin and her young daughter saw him and waved to him from afar. And now confusedly, bizarrely, he is gone. I was going to visit him this weekend to celebrate my birthday. I was going to make the same journey that I've made so much this year from Jerusalem to the kibbutz to spend Shabbat with him. There was so much still to say. There was so much still to do. But the important things were said every time we talked and he knew how very much I loved him and I know how very much he loved me.

I sit here writing in shock with waves of memories sweeping around me and all of the things I thought I would still get to share with him hugging themselves around me and making it hard for me to breath. The title of this blog is "The Way Back Home." There are many interpretations of it and they are all true, but the thing that was most true is that he was my home. He and my Savta. They are the ones, more than any others, who shaped who I am and shaded in my picture book of life. I hope they have met in a valley somewhere,  surrounded by shining fields of wild flowers and a young happy sun tipping its brilliant light over them and warming their faces. I hope they are together and that they can feel my bursting love.

My Saba grew up in Shavli, Lithuania and devoted his life to the Zionist dream. He survived the inferno of the Holocaust and together with my Savta was one of those that fought to establish the Jewish State, built up a kibbutz, and started a loving family. His pursuits in education were widespread and far-reaching, first with his brilliance as teacher and principal of the kibbutz school and later on as creator of a new progressive high school and then as Head of Pedagogy in the Ministry of Education. He was a diplomat and a PhD in Yiddish Literature. He was the head of the kibbutz. He helped shape and lead a Zionist youth movement. He was the author of ten books. He established hundreds of ulpanesque schools in the former USSR and helped Russian Immigrants prepare for aliyah. But most of all he was the warmest, most caring, most eloquent, thoughtful, and insightful husband and father and grandfather a person could have. He was brilliant and had that spark of a true leader who in his heyday commanded the room through his charisma. If I manage to be even a tenth of the educator, leader, writer, speaker, and role model that he was I will have accomplished my goals. He was simply one of a kind.

But a tribute to my Saba and all that he was would take up all of the spaces between the words that I write. He had so much wisdom and knowledge and every moment with him was an opportunity to be a little more enlightened. I came to Israel this year for so many reasons, but the most important one was to be with him. I thankfully knew what a blessing each conversation was and I tried to live up to my word and see him as much as I could. We would sit in my Savta's garden with her roses hovering over us and talk. We would eat piles of fruit and he would always wonder why I wasn't eating more. We would discuss literature and history and politics and education and of course, the Holocaust. And I am so very grateful that he was able to see me this year. I think he re-met me. I am so lucky to have had this time.

He was all "meydeleh, meydelehs" and "heh, heh, hehs" when he laughed, he was all sparkling eyes that lit up when you got him going about something that excited him. He was all fascinating trinkets of history and deep thoughts and ideas. His life story and that of my Savta was the stuff of legends. I was lucky enough to hear that story every year of my life. Every year, whether we visited them or they came to us I would sit on his lap and hear their story. And it shaped me through and through. I am a proud, devoted, passionate member of Am Yisrael because of them and I know how precious family is.

It is two in the morning and he has been gone not even three hours. I feel cold and hollow without him. I do not yet feel warmed. I can't believe he is gone. I simply am numb with denial. But there is the spark that was this year. The collection of my moments with my Saba are so bright with love and adoration that they threaten to blind me. I so wish I could turn back the hand of time and muster some more. Time is so precious. Go share of yourselves with the ones you love and try to learn everything you can from them. Tell them how special they are to you every time you talk. And as tribute to my Saba tonight, I wish you all the beauty of that precious moment with the ones that you love.

I love you so, so, so much Saba of mine. You and Savta were the apex of my world in so many ways. I will so miss your warm kisses and laughter and the brilliant shine of your wise eyes and the many special moments we shared. I am so grateful for them. You were the stuff of epic poems and the hero of so many. I promise to make you proud. I will carry on your legacy and you will live on through me.


  1. Sivanne,

    That was so beautifully written. I am so glad that I got to meet your Saba through you this year and am so glad that you had this year with him. I hope you have begun to find warmth in the family and friends that surrounded you last week and that you continue to find happiness in the legacy that he left behind. I love you! -Alyssa

  2. Sivanne...What a magnificent tribute to your Saba. He was a great man ....warm, loving, intelligent with a brilliant spark of life. Please know that our family is thinking of you.