Just over two weeks ago, I lost one of my grandfathers. Papa was a man who loved many, many things. Opera music, salmon, game shows, Hogan’s Heroes. But there are two constants in his life that stand out in particular, two never-ending threads that I feel confident in saying he valued above all else. Those are his Judaism and his family.
Never have I met a man more dedicated to his faith. Having escaped the Holocaust from its epicenter at a very young age, he held onto his Germanic-Jewish roots all his life. Even in his final week, spent in the hospital, he managed to articulate the words “don’t let them give me anything not kosher.”
But above all else, he embodied the spirit of a true Jew in his dedication to his family.
This is even exemplified in his most widely-used name, Papa. This was originally a mispronunciation by one of my cousins. But rather than correct it, he took the name as a badge of honor, and took it upon himself to embody it for the rest of his life.
He was a true patriarch in every positive sense of the word. He took the German roots of his family and re-planted them in New York, building multiple generations under his potent sense of tradition and unrelenting blanket of love.
His unmatched dedication to his family has been instrumental part of shaping me into the person I am today. Thanks to his example, I will never forget my heritage, my faith, and, most of all, my family.
I know he made everyone waiting for him in heaven so, so proud, and it warms my heart to know that tonight he is sitting at the Shabbat dinner table with them, complaining that the brisket is too tough.