Zeda

by Daniel D. Stuhlman

 

[This is an edited version of the eulogy that I delivered at my father’s (Fred F. Stuhlman, Ephraim Fishel ben Donniel אפרים פישל בן דניאל ) funeral on February 22, 2002 , 10 Adar, 5762. The shloshim (first 30 days) ended on 10 Nisan, March 23, Shabbat HaGadol.

 

My father was a quiet man.  He never sought fame, but his had a large number of people in this community who were affected by his friendship, business, singing, or acting.  His immortality is the memory that lives within us. If there is one mishnah that you learn well enough to internalize, learn Pirke Avot 4:1 “Who is wise?…” I invite everyone to study everyday in his memory.

This not a narrative or biography of my father’s life, but just a few memories and thoughts that I share with you. This replaces the April 2002 issue of Librarian's Lobby. ]

 

Becoming a zeda, means that you have succeeded in one of life’s difficult struggles.  A zeda raised his children and now his children have children.  A zeda can visit with his children and grandchildren and they will go home when the visit is over.  When you call someone, “zeda” you are connected to Jewish tradition.   My father never knew his zedas and his father was not a zeda to me, because he died before I was born.  My father was a zeda to my children and his other grandchildren.  I am named for his father, the zeda I never knew.

 

A zeda connects one to history and tradition through his stories and actions.  He sets the example for his children and sometimes they did not listen.  When he sets the example for the grandchild he is more experienced and sometimes they integrate behaviors, ideas, and personalities that their parents missed or ignored. Zeda is our connection to the past.  Zedas teach things that parents cannot.

 

At this time of mourning our memories are opened to memories of our childhood.  Let me just share some of my memories. 

 

In December 1981 I was in Kansas City with Mom and Dad visiting a very pregnant daughter, Marla.  First grandson, Steven was born January 1, 1982 and won the first baby of the year award.  Dad was so proud and excited to have a grandson on that cold day in Kansas City.  I was the sandak at Steven’s brit milah.  I held the baby in during the ceremony.  Afterwards my father told me that he was glad that I was the sandak because he would have been too nervous to hold baby Steven.

 

Tastes and smells also make memories.  One memory of my Baba Leah, Dad’s mother, is the challah and cinnamon bread that she made.  She never wrote down the recipe and despite the lessons she gave, we were never able to reproduce the same bread.  I had to make up my own bread recipes.  On President’s Day, a few days ago, my daughter, Adina, was off of school. We made cinnamon bread.  We weren’t even thinking about Baba Leah or my father.  To roll out the dough we used Baba Leah’s breadboard.  This memory involved the senses of smell and tastes, not words.  Remembering my grandparents is also remembering Dad.

 

My father loved to sing.  Before he was drafted into Army, he loved to act and sing.  He even thought of being a radio announcer. Dad participated a movie “By the Rivers,” telling the story of Jewish history. Even in the Army he found opportunities to sing.   This love of performing reawaked when he retired.  He was a star of the Yiddish Theatre.  At every production he sang solos.  He was much better at singing, then dialog.  About 10 years ago I was in Congregation Bais Abraham (in University City, MO) and learned that my father had groupies.  These groupies followed my father to every concert.  Groupies!  Imagine my father, a post-seventy-year old gray haired man with groupies.


He sang often in this very room on Shabbat and holidays as a member of the choir.  His powerful tenor voice blended with the others to lead and inspire others.  He told me that when I was five years old and he sang with Hazzan Samuel Schor (1895-1985), I would go on the bimah and bother him. He sang in the auditorium behind us at his 50th wedding anniversary, just a few short years ago. 

 

My son was never in the same room as his two zedas.  I recall sitting in shul and in front of me was a ten-year-old boy sitting with one zeda on each side.  His zedas did not live in the same city, but that day they were together.  I felt jealous.  Not only did I never have that experience, neither did my son.  Now both of this boy’s grandfathers are gone and so are my son’s grandfathers. How much I wanted both of his grandfathers to be with him at his bar mitzvah or even just an ordinary Shabbat.

 

Dad, Zeda taught by example.  He never sat down with a book to learn with my children or me.   He lived and breathed his lessons.  Keeping kosher and Shabbat is easy compared to being a good businessman. The rules of keeping kosher are exacting.  Being a mensh, an ethical and an honest businessman is difficult and lessons my father taught are evident in all my dealing with clients and vendors. Ethics in business have monetary implications.  The rules of being a menshare vague.

 

Perke Avot (4:1) says, “’Eizehu haham? Halomad mi-kol adam.”   Who is wise?  He who learns from all people.  This is the essence of my father’s liberalism.   He sent me to schools where I learned the idea that everyone is equal under law and we all have a place in this world.   We cannot agree with everyone, but that does not mean we learn from only those we agree with.

 

Perke Avot (4:1) also asks  “’Eizehuashir? Ha-sam-ah bi-helko  Who is rich? He who is happy with his portion.  Dad always said he was rich.  He was a four times millionaire because each of his child was worth more than a million.

 

Dad we will miss you.  If this were a simcha I would want to hear you sing shehechiyanu and see you smile.  Now all we have are the memories.

 

 

Daniel D. Stuhlman is the president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, a knowledge management consulting firm in Chicago, IL. Mr. Stuhlman grew up in University City, MO.

 

Last revised April 26, 2006


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©2002 by Daniel D. Stuhlman