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Dad and Israel

Max Frankel, 1928 - 2011
David Frankel

Dying on the ninth of Iyar, my Dad’s yahrzeit will always fall immediately after Israel’s Independence Day, which falls on the fifth of the same Jewish month. Dad was always deeply devoted to the Land of Israel and later to the State. That love was not unusual. His older brother Ephraim, for whom I was named, was a member of Shomer Hatzair, the atheist Zionist organization during teen years in Vienna. Indeed, the Frankel were deeply religious Jews, and for a Frankel to belong to Shomer was unusual. To show that he only was moved by the Zionist orientation, he sent his parents and siblings a photo at Shomer camp wearing tephillin.
My uncle safely escaped Hitler only to die of tuberculosis after arrival in the United States. He never found work he needed to survive, and did not want to impose on relativ

Herman, my Dad’s next older brother, was not lucky. From Vienna, he made it only as far as Amsterdam where he lived for a while. Sadly he was by the Nazis who made him a slave at Auschwitz. After the war he came to New York for a few years to care for ailing parents, but then made aliya. He lived in Givataim until he passed on, months after Dad.

Jewish institutions in 1948 were not certain whether or not to support the Zionist movement or to celebrate the establishment of a Jewish State. At my own alma mater, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, legend has it that graduates wanted to include Israel in their graduation ceremony that May. The Seminary was not ready, so students arranged for the carillon player at Union Theological Seminary, a Protestant institution across the street from JTSA, to play Hatikvah during graduation.

Dad in 1948 was managing editor of the Commentator, the daily newspaper of Yeshiva University, where he was a junior. School authorities had yet decided whether or not to recognize the Jewish State. The editorial board was certain. Commentator was printed per Dad’s direction with a watermark of Israel’s official symbol on the day it declared itself a state.

Dad’s devotion to Israel was extensive. He insisted that his sons each learn to read, write and speak Hebrew. We regularly sang Israeli songs, and most LP’s in Dad’s record collection were Israeli music. He considered himself especially fortunate to finally visit Israel in 1976 for several weeks with my brother Jeff. It was the only time he was there.

Dad’s commitment to Israel not only influenced his own family, but hundreds of students and protégées. For most of Dad’s life he was an educator. Many years he earned his livelihood as a school principal. His curriculum often included a course on Israel, long before it became fashionable.

As for the family, each of my children has made aliya. I was thrilled to have been able to spend my junior year abroad as a regular student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora. Several of my professional essays have appeared in Jewish Educational Leadership, published by Bar Ilan University in Bnai Brak.,

Israel is largely a part of my life because it was so consequential to Dad.

As I recall Dad on the third anniversary of his passing and celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut this week, I cannot help but conflate the two special days.

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