Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yoram Kaniuk (May 2, 1930 - June 7, 2013)

From Ha'aretz:
"Kaniuk was born in Tel Aviv on May 2, 1930. The list of people associated with his early childhood reads like a who’s who of the early days of Tel Aviv’s cultural life and society. His father, Moshe Kaniuk, was the personal secretary of Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and became the first curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His godfather was the poet Haim Nahman Bialik; his kindergarten teacher was the wife of pioneer and poet Joseph Haim Brenner; his school doctor was the poet Shaul Tchernichovsky."
Kaniuk wrote 17 novels and participated in many events as notable as the people he knew in his childhood. Also see this from the New Yorker which calls him "one of Israel’s greatest and least celebrated writers, and with each of his seventeen novels and seven short-story collections he died of being neither loved nor read, died the slow and painful death of rejection, poverty, and obscurity."

An editorial in Ha'aretz gives a number of interesting facts about Kaniuk including this:
"Around two years before his death, Kaniuk petitioned a district court demanding that he be 'released from the Jewish religion' and be registered with the Interior Ministry as having no religion, which is exactly how his grandson is registered since the boy's mother is not considered Jewish. In his petition, Kaniuk explained that he didn't want to be part of a 'Jewish Iran.' His struggle was successful and he was registered as having no religion."
The article concludes: "More attention should have been paid to him during his lifetime, and his struggles dare not be forgotten after his death."

I tried to read one of his novels -- must try again!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Frank Lautenberg (January 23, 1924 - June 3, 2013)

Senator Frank Lautenberg has died at the age of 89. I have admired his stands on many issues, but the obituary in the New York Times reminded me of his wide-ranging liberal achievements. Years ago, I worked for the company he ran -- ADP. At the time, I had no idea that its owner was such an exceptional example of a very successful businessman who stuck to his early ideals, perhaps because of his Jewish, working-class background (though I'm only guessing at the reasons).

From the Times  article:
"A freshman senator in the minority party [1984], he pushed through a provision to establish a national drinking age of 21, a measure that threatened to cut 10 percent of a state’s federal highway money if it did not comply." ...  
"In 1989, he led a successful fight to ban smoking on all commercial airline flights." ...  
"Mr. Lautenberg’s other legislative achievements include a 1996 law denying gun ownership to people who have committed domestic violence. He was also the author of legislation requiring that by 2012 all cargo destined for United States ports be screened for nuclear material, a requirement that both the Bush and the Obama administrations said could not be met." ...  
"Another Lautenberg measure gave refugee status to people from historically persecuted groups without requiring them to show that they had been singled out. The senator estimated that 350,000 to 400,000 Jews entered the United States under that 1990 law. Evangelical Christians from the former Soviet Union also benefited from the law."

From the Forward obituary: Frank Lautenberg, Dead at 89, Recalled as Jewish Senator Who Never Ran as One:
"The last World War II veteran in the Senate, Lautenberg was born into poverty in Paterson, N.J., before amassing enormous wealth as the CEO of Automated Data Processing, which he joined when the payroll-processing firm was a three-man storefront operation. 
"Though identifiably Jewish, and active throughout his life in Jewish causes, Lautenberg’s political achievements were largely not in areas of particular Jewish interest. At times, particularly early in his Senate career, he seemed to take pains not to be reduced to being simply a Jewish senator. 
"'He is a representative of the greatest generation and their values, which for many of us in the Jewish community are the values we subscribe to,' said Joel Rubin, a former aide to Lautenberg, speaking days before the Senator’s death.'"