Attitude and Gratitude: Chapter Thirty One

Dennis became a Bar Mitzva in August 1961 while he was a camper at Winsocki. Hilda and I, after getting Dennis’s permission, decided to celebrate at camp. Believe it or not, this was the first of four events which were held to commemorate our son’s becoming a “man”. Fortunately, my mother and Hilda’s parents were still alive so that they were able to attend the ceremony at camp. Among the other invitees were Murray and Gert, my sister Ann, Chippy and Al and Pearl and Bert.

Unfortunately for Dennis, the portions of the Torah to be read that Shabbat – Matoth and Masse – were the longest in words of the entire Pentateuch and making it obligatory to read both because that year was a leap year in the Hebrew calendar. Despite this difficult task, Dennis’s rendition was excellent in both the pronunciation of the words and the cantillation; his reading of the Haftorah, similarly, was perfect.

All the meals that weekend were accompanied by joyous singing. Dennis and his guests enjoyed a beautiful and memorable Bar Mitzva party.

Since we were members of two synagogues and Dennis was our last son to be honored in this mitzvah, we felt we could not get enough of celebrating. Consequently, upon his return from camp and after the High Holy Days in October, Dennis again obliged us by consenting to read from the Torah and chant the Haftorahs in Kingsway Jewish Center and Cong. Oheb Zedek. We invited the entire congregations to a large kiddish since all our friends were not invited to the camp festivities.

In November, we held the Bar Mitzva Reception on a Saturday evening at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan inviting our families and close friends. As I mentioned previously, we would not have another occasion to celebrate a Bar Mitzva of a son, so we went all out this time.

My cousin, Tanta Rivka’s son who was a CPA, informed me that 2 of his clients were going to public in 1961 and if I was interested in preparing the “red herring”. This was the term used to describe the prospectus to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At this particular time and for several years previously, many corporations with a small capitalization took advantage of the public’s frantic desire to “get in on the ground floor” and make a “killing”.

These companies usually had a few stockholders who were the officers and would issue a large number of shares at an attractive low price so that the public would jump in. In very few cases, the investors would reap a bonanza; however, in most cases, they lost their entire investment.

As I stated previously, I never turned down new clients because of lack of expertise in their areas of business. I was not intimidated by the importance of preparing a prospectus and the work involved. To add to my inexperience, both companies were going public at the same time and audits were for the same month, September 30. I told my cousin that he could depend on me and thanked him for the additional revenue to be gained by me.

The first corporation that I tackled was Stewart Industries who manufactured stainless steel kitchen and hospital equipment. The initial public offering –IPO- was 80m shares @ 4.00 per share; after a 10% underwriting discount and after legal, accounting and other expenses, the proceeds to the company from the sale of shares amounted to less than $260,000. Today, that figure appears ludicrous compared to present IPOs.

However, considering inflation of the past 43 years, that amount becomes less ridiculous. I was doing well financially having a fairly good practice; my annual earnings before expenses and taxes was $32,000. Today a junior accountant just coming out of school earns more. My fee for this work was the magnificent amount of $2500. You can just imagine what a present day accounting firm would charge for this engagement.

I remained their independent accountant preparing annual financial statements for five years. I do not recall whether the company had to furnish the SEC with independently audited financial statements for 5 years or that they went out of business.

The other corporation was Miltronics Manufacturing Corp. who produced military electronic cases and containers; 90 % of its products were sold to purchasers in the electronics, aircraft, missile and communications fields and most of these products had an end use for equipment produced under Government contract. The Company ranked eighth in the country among approximately twenty manufacturers of metal containers. Another item produced was electronic score-boards sold to many stadium owners.

The IPO was 100m shares @ 2.00 per share; after the underwriting discount and other expenses, the proceeds to the Company was $170,000. The last annual financial statement I prepared for this Corporation was in 1970.

The following year in 1962, I again became a hotel manager. After my “illustrious” debut in hotel management in Spring Valley years ago, I was definitely not interested pursuing this vocation. My clients, Al, Rappi, Maged and Wachsman purchased a vacant building in Long Beach, N.Y. that had previously housed a hotel. The edifice, inside and outside was in shambles. Because of this poor condition, the purchase price was very reasonable; however, the renovations and improvements exceeded 1 million dollars.

Being very charitable individuals, the 4 major stockholders offered a few of their relatives an opportunity to become minor stockholders. I, thus, became overnight an hotelier as I purchased a 10% interest in the new venture. To my complete amazement, all 4 of my partners decided that I was to be the manager while the building was being renovated and refurbished. Also, I was to remain in that capacity for Passover, the entire summer, the High Holy Days and the 8 day Succoth Holidays. I immediately rejected their very lucrative offer for three reasons.

1. I was very happy working at my profession and was not looking to augment my income outside of accounting.

2. I remembered my past experience in this line of work and wasn’t looking forward to the many problems inherent in hotel management.

3. Last but not least, I had to live with Hilda at the hotel; a single room not comparable to a fairly large house in Brooklyn.

After a great deal of cajoling, they persuaded me to become the manager. We called the hotel the Promenade Hotel which was situated on National Blvd. and the Boardwalk and was a five story building housing 180 guest rooms. We decided to open on Passover and due to radio and newspaper advertising, we booked a full house for the holidays. The crème-de-la-crème of Orthodox Jewry was among our guests. If I were to name just a few, you would immediately recognize the names.

I must say that the architect and interior decorators did a magnificent job in producing a beautiful edifice, internally and externally. However, the plumbing contractor that was employed was, evidently, a dud. On the first day of check-in which was the eve of Passover, I remember standing at the registration desk in the lobby and being soaked with water from the ceiling above. Whenever the guest or guests on the floor above would use either the sink or toilet, we would be soaked below. Finally, we decided to employ umbrellas to hold over the heads of the people checking-in. This was my second introduction in hotel management.

My second problem was in the dining room that evening. It seems that the chopped liver appetizer was placed on the tables much too soon in that hot weather resulting in a very sour plate that was rejected by all. This was my first experience at a Seder as a married man being away from my home or the homes of our parents. Sitting in a large room with several hundred persons chanting the Haggada simultaneously does not create much kavana (spiritual warmth) in me. I definitely can understand people going to hotels for the Passover Holidays if they secure a private room for the Sidurim. That evening was the first and last time I celebrated Passover at a hotel.

Fortunately, the rest of the Holiday was uneventful in that no further problems arose. For this holiday and for the summer we engaged the leading cantors of the country; each shabbos, a different cantor led the guests in prayer. During the Succoth Holidays, we again engaged a cantor.

The Mizrachi Organization of America held a 3 day convention at our hotel with the guest speaker being Rabbi Dov BerSoloveitchick. Therefore, I enjoyed some very good moments in addition to aggravation at other times while I was managing.

Whether it was due to aggravation or running around the hotel all day, I lost at least 15 pounds during my managerial tenure. When one of the stockholders, Salamon Wachsman, offered to purchase the hotel from the remaining stockholders 2 years later and his offer was accepted, I benched gomel (a prayer thanking God for being rescued from a dangerous situation).

The hotel was converted to a half-way house for mental patients who were not so ill that they required being institutionalized. This saved the State a great deal of money as the cost in an institution far exceeded the sum spent in these homes. Mr. Wachsman retained me as his accountant until 1985 when he sold the building to a group interested in converting to condos.

In 1963, my friend Dave Knaster, whom I knew from Kingsway Jewish Center and Yeshiva Rambam, purchased a firm that manufactured envelopes. He asked me if I was interested in being his accountant for this company. As I stated several times previously, I very rarely rejected an offer. There were a few isolated cases when I didn’t receive the right vibes when meeting a prospective client and invented a reason for not accepting. Thus I became the accountant of the Sterling Envelope Corp. for 9 years when he sold the company in 1972.

A year later in 1964, I received my third nursing home client, the Oceanview Nursing Home in Far Rockaway. One of the operators was Dave Wolf, a brother of one of my classmates in Yeshiva Torah Vadaath, Tobias Wolf; his partner was Joe Weissblum. I cannot recall why they chose me as I didn’t know either one of them prior to my being their accountant. By coincidence, the administrator of the Home was Mrs. Stern, the wife of another classmate at YTV, Saul Stern. I remained their accountant for 6 years when they sold the Home in 1970.

In January 1964, Kenny graduated Columbia College after 3 ½ years and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Having six months before attending post-graduate school, he opted to spend that time in traveling abroad. His first stop was the Sorbonne in Paris where he studied for several months. Then, he visited Israel and stayed there until he was ready to enter medical school.

While in Israel on one Friday night, while praying at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, he met Rabbi Levi, a distinguished gentleman who resided in Mea Shearim and whose ancestors had been living in Israel for 8 generations. Although living in a section of Jerusalem inhabited mainly by anti-Zionist chassidim, he was a loyal Zionist as was his entire family. He asked Kenny if he had a home to visit to celebrate the Sabbath. When Kenny answered in the negative, he invited my son to his home where he met Rabbi Levi’s granddaughter Shifra.

Whenever Hilda and I visited Israel, we made sure to pay our respects to the Levi family; even after several years and the grandparents were no longer alive. A year or two after Kenny met Shifra, she married Yaakov Dior, a charming, handsome, educated and wonderful young man. From the first time we met Shifra, we both fell in love with her. She had all the attributes a suitor would desire; pretty, smart, wonderful personality and all goodness. They have a beautiful home in Rannana and on each trip to Israel, we visit them as do Jeannie and Kenny.

Before going on his trip abroad, Kenny applied to several medical schools, including Columbia and Harvard. While he was away, he was accepted by all other than Harvard from whom he received no word. When I contacted him in Israel telling him about the acceptances, he told me that I should inform Columbia that he accepted their offer. I don’t remember whether I fulfilled his desire or waited to hear from Harvard.

At any rate, several weeks later, he received his acceptance from Harvard and in the letter he was informed that he has 14 days to accept or reject the opportunity to be a student in that very prestigious school. I immediately contacted Kenny who told me that he prefers Columbia and that I should notify Harvard that he is grateful to them but he is going to Columbia.

I didn’t comply with his wishes and made a call to the dean of admissions at Harvard and told him that Kenny was abroad and that I couldn’t contact him and therefore requested that he reserve a place for Kenny until he comes home in a few weeks. Believe it or not, the dean was very gracious and understanding and said there would be no problem and as soon as he returns he should get in touch with him. When my son returned, he thanked me for not obeying his request and was extremely happy to go to Harvard.

Around this time, I began to notice strange and bizarre actions by my mother. For instance, on one occasion when she spent a weekend at my house and we went to Kingsway for the Sabbath services, when the Rabbi was sermonizing Mama decided to stand up and pray. In addition, she wore shoes with both soles semi detached from the shoes and flapping noisily. My sister Anne, seeing at home what Mama was going to wear, admonished her for this behavior. My mother, as usual, berated Anne for her interfering in Mama’s choice of attire.

Another instance of her strange behavior occurred that same weekend. I was sitting in the living room conversing with two clients and Mama suddenly came into the room. She told my clients that she would like to visit her son in Schenectady but, unfortunately, didn’t have the fare to do so. Instead of being embarrassed, I realized that they could detect my mother’s illness.

Also, my sister-in-law Gert informed Hilda and me about several instances that she observed that definitely demonstrated acts of severe dementia. A dilemma now arose as to the proper action to be taken by us in the care of Mama. Our first option was engaging a woman to take care of Mama as Anne was working every day and couldn’t take care of her. As we expected, after several days the woman we hired left telling us that my mother was a very difficult patient.

The second option was to have Mama live with us; again this was out of the question since Hilda also was working. After a family discussion with Murry and Anne, we decided to place her in the Garden Nursing Home where Hilda was employed and I was the accountant. Since the Home was a few blocks from my mother’s residence, Anne would be able to visit her every evening.

In addition, Mama’s sister Rivka who also was suffering from dementia was already a patient at the home. Every time I visited Rivka, she would address me as Meyer, her son. Also, Rivka’s husband, Elia who had a slowly progressive cancer was also a patient in the Home. Hilda looked in on Mama several times during the day and therefore made my mother’s stay more pleasant. Murry came into New York from Schenectady quite frequently on buying trips for his store; thus he also saw her very often. I must say that during the entire year that she was a patient she never complained to her children or to the nurses who were caring for her. In fact, I noticed a great diminution in her dementia. Whenever I visited her, she would ask me to get her a few bottles of beer from the liquor store across the street.

One night around 3 am in May 1964, I received a phone call from the Home that Mama was near death. I immediately drove to the Home and when I went to her room I saw my mother in a state more serene than I had ever seen her in the past. She gazed upon my face with a faint smile and took my hand in hers. Not a word came from her lips and she seemed to be awaiting her fate with no fear since she was a very devout Jewess and accepted her Maker’s decision with love. She expired as I was holding her hands. Fortunately, she never had pain and did not suffer during the last days of her life. The cause of death was heart failure; the same cause of Papa’s death. I was now a true orphan not having either parent. Regardless of the excellent care Mama received at the Home, I always had a guilt complex about not taking her to live in my home.

After Papa’s death, my mother reserved a grave next to that of my father and erected a double tomb stone. Although Mama was very religious, she allowed her love for her husband to transcend the Orthodox taboo of lying next to a man. Despite her great love for Papa, at our annual visits to the graves at Beth David Cemetery, she would first touch and speak to the grave of her daughter Irene which was next to her reserved grave. It was a poignant demonstration that the loss of a child inflicts a greater suffering than that of a spouse.

Our first trip to Europe and Israel occurred in May 1965. Whether this was due to celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary or not, I can’t recall. Our first stop was in London where we spent a very enjoyable and enlightening time. We liked London so much that we revisited this city 4 more times on our future trips. After a stay of one week, we departed for Israel. We had reservations at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv and were not too surprised that either our travel agent or the hotel screwed up. Upon arrival, we were told that we arrived 1 day too soon and there were no rooms available. However, they informed us that they could obtain a room in the Jewish Olympics compound which was several miles outside of Tel Aviv.

We did not know that these sporting events were being held at this time and, consequently, all rooms in Israel were solidly booked. When we arrived at a building which was erected specifically to house the Jewish athletes, we were given a fairly large and simply furnished room lacking air conditioning. Since the heat was oppressive, we were forced to sleep with the windows wide open. Of course, there were no screens and we spent the entire night sleepless, killing all the insects that wanted to share our room. After this introduction to Israel, we moved the following day to the Dan Hotel.

A day or two later was the holiday of Log B’omer and was told that if we cared to experience an unforgettable event we should visit Mt. Maron where the grave of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakaii was situated. This Rabbi was held in reverence by Sephardim throughout the world. When we arrived at this site, we could not believe what we saw. Hundreds of men, women and children were congregated with sheep to be slaughtered on this occasion. There is a tradition among all chassidim, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, to cut the hair of their 3 year old sons on this holiday; the Israeli Sephardim do this on Mt. Maron. The singing and dancing accompanying this celebration will forever be etched in our minds.

On September 14, we celebrated our 25th anniversary at a party tendered to us at the home of our dear friends, Anita and Jack Walker. Among the many guests were our two sons, our close friends, the Lupkins and the Judds. We will always remember Dennis’s toast to us on behalf of Kenny and his “siblings” in Brazil. That created a great deal of laughter among all those present and, of course, neither Hilda or I were embarrassed by his remarks knowing full well that Mac was not unfaithful to his loving wife.

Hilda presented me with a sterling silver “esrog” box inscribed “To My Darling Husband on Our 25th Wedding Anniversary”. I gave her a pair of sterling silver three arm candelabra inscribed “To My Lovely Dear Hilda on Our 25th Wedding Anniversary”. Kenny and Dennis jointly gave us a beautiful sterling silver shaped box with a floral décor inscribed in Hebrew “To Our Dear Parents on their Wedding Anniversary”. Pearl and Bert gave us a Dutch silver “Reindeer & Sleigh”.

The occasion prompted me to express my long harbored feelings that I had for my beloved partner in life; I wrote the following letter.

Dearest Hilda,

This is the first time in my life that I am writing to you while not being separated in distance. In fact, as I write these words, I am gazing at your beautiful face as you are dozing on the couch.

As we say at the Passover Seder, ma nomar, ma nidaber (what shall I say? what shall I speak?) My heart is really too filled with emotion to articulate clearly my feelings on this milestone in our lives; the 25th anniversary of our wedding.

To tell you that I love you would sound too much like a cliché and, of course, would be insufficient to express to you how I really feel towards you. A little incident 27 years ago taught me how strong my love is for you and since that day that love has become stronger with each passing day. So, just to tell you “I love you” is hardly any news to you.

To tell you “I respect you” should also not be something revealing to you. In the 29 years that we know each other, I have always asked you for advice and guidance. Many has been the occasion when I was troubled and groping for the proper and wise solution.

Your incredible wisdom, common sense and mature understanding always rescued me from the dilemmas that befell me. How many times have I praised you and even envied you for having the right saying or the right thought at the right time. Your capacity for human understanding and for your transmitting your warm personality to others has made you beloved by young and old, by the healthy and infirm. So, just to tell you “I respect you” is also nothing new to you.

To tell you “I am proud of you”; that you have heard hundreds of times from my lips. Your beauty, carriage, dress and just plain CLASS has made me the envy of many a man. When you enter a room, all eyes stare at you; when you stroll in the street, all eyes follow you. You are always clean, neat, impeccably dressed and, of course, crowned always with a great big smile. Yes, Hil, I am truly proud of you and know that I will continue to be until we are called to Paradise. So, just to tell you “I am proud of you” again does not startle you because you have heard it before.

To tell you “I am grateful to you” for the wonderful sons that you bore in your womb for me; again this would be repetitious since I have never ceased telling you that after the Almighty, I credit you for their marvelous upbringing. I can never forget the difficult years you spent in rearing Kenny with a father thousands of miles away. His childhood illnesses and problems you bore alone.

I was stern with the boys at times; however, you tempered my severity with the warm love of a mother. Thus, you were an ideal partner in the rearing of our sons and, incidentally, you are quite aware of how grateful they are to you for the manner in which they were raised. So, just to tell you “I am grateful to you” doesn’t really surprise you one iota.

What I will say to you now is that “I need you” more than you can ever imagine. I need you now and for the next seventy years. Without you, I am just a floundering man. The many times I have been separated from you have shown me vividly what your presence is to me. So please, Hil, stay close to me for many years so that I can enjoy your warmth, lively disposition, hearty laugh, gorgeous face, exciting body, wise counsel and, above all, your precious companionship. I repeat ma nomar ma nadaber. What shall I say? What shall I speak? Nothing more than I NEED YOU. All my love!

Mac

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