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Remembering Uncle Joe

Posted: 6 December 1998
Uncle Joe passed away 25 November 1998 at the age of 93. In his hesped, his grandson David Golden remembers him.

For Zaida

It is a privilege for me to have this opportunity to publicly honour our Zaida Joe, on my own behalf, on behalf of all of his grandchildren, Jonathan, Shira, Tamar, David and Naomi..... on behalf of Connie, Cathy, and Eli who Zaida accepted so warmly into the family, and on behalf of his great-grandchild, Tamar and Eli’s newborn son Yeshayahu, who it is hoped will be influenced by his life.

Zaida has had a remarkably strong presence in our lives, and I hope, a profound long-term impact. He was able to make each one of us feel special, and recognized and encouraged not only what we have in common, but our different strengths as well.

All of us were blessed with the opportunity to have a relationship with a Zaida that most only read about in story books. We, as grandchildren have felt his influence not only as children, but well into adulthood. For our Zaida had an ability to relate to us at any age.

As little kids, he entertained us with Katz’n’jammer stories, popeye cartoons, dot games, and fantastic stories too numerous to mention.

As young adults, he took a keen interest in our education, both
limudeh kodesh and secular studies. He listened to us preparing our mafter and haftorah portions..... He taught me the sheva broches.....

Later, he took a keen interest in our post-secondary studies.
Zaida loved to hear about my legal cases. He always figured out the ending long before the final plot was revealed.... sometimes before I did!

Joe left a tremendous legacy for grandchildren. If you look at the six of us, all different, you will find that he sprinkled among us traces of his best qualities:
  • his strong intellect;
  • his unswerving commitment to Jewish life;
  • his enormous sense of humour- our Zaida was the greatest kibbitzer;
  • his attention to detail (my brother now makes ‘lists’ just like his Zaida did);
  • his gift of intuition;
  • his touch of perfectionism;
  • his need to be informed and fully aware of his surroundings;
  • his ability to feel comfortable dealing with anyone, be they a scholar, a bank teller, a Rabbi, an electrician, a politician, or just the guy in the hardware store. He understood how to connect with all of these people and get them to see things his way; and lastly,
  • his sense of romance.
For all of these reasons, Zaida was adored by his grandchildren. And although adored, we weren’t afraid to have fun with him, sometimes at his expense!

Each Chanukah, Zaida was toasted AND roasted by his
ainekles at the annual Emerson Chanukah party. That hearty laugh, none of us will ever forget.

I thought it was interesting that the Torah portion this week,
Vayeytze, describes the birth of Joseph. Our Zaida Joe, and our patriarch Joseph shared many things.

Joseph lived his life in a diaspora, in the culture of ancient Egypt - and he prospered. He earned the admiration of all around him. And yet the Torah emphasizes that despite Joseph’s great success in the Egyptian world, he remained true to his family, true to his heritage, and true to his G_d.

So too our Zaida...

One of Zaida’s great successes was his ability to take what was best from the surrounding Canadian society into which he was born, use it to his advantage, enjoy it, yet at the same time maintain an unswerving commitment to his family and to Torah, despite having to face many challenges.

Hopefully, we have all learned from this.

But there is one final thing we all learned from our Zaida, and it relates to the beauty of his 64 years with Grandma.

A little story:

Some twenty months ago, Tamar and Eli were married in Toronto. By that time, Zaida was practically housebound, but he was determined to participate in the simcha. He found the strength to do it. He even walked down the aisle. He blessed his granddaughter at the bedecking. (You knew from the look on Tamar’s face that this priestly blessing would sustain her throughout her marriage.)
We all kibbitzed that night, drank l’chaim, he danced....
Connie and I drove Grandma and Zaida home from the simcha. It was after midnight. We were saying goodnight in the garage. It was dark, but Zaida was still glowing from the evening.
He leaned over to kiss Connie good-bye, and by mistake, grabbed Helen and gave her the goodnight kiss. Connie protested... “That kiss was for me!”
We cracked up... Zaida said “That was pretty good. You know I’m not too old to enjoy kissing your Grama! I think I’ll do it again”... and he did.

Grandma and Zaida, to be so in love after 64 years. What a model for your grandchildren to follow.

An unparalleled relationship of love, of give and take, of mutual support and respect, of rock solid trust, and a touch of romance, until the end...  A spark.... a ‘chemistry’, to use the modern day vernacular, that never faded and which would be the envy of any young couple beginning a courtship.

They knew how to lift each other up, figuratively, and sometimes literally!

As a natural consequence of this beautiful relationship, Grandma was able to give to Zaida in these last few months one of the most precious gifts that a spouse can give to a partner, or for that matter, that one human being can give to another.... dignity. Dignity to the last moment.

Grandma did this not just because it was a mitzvah, and not simply out of a sense of duty, but out of love.

For all of these gifts, we thank Grandma and Zaida.

And as I said at the start, I speak not only on my own behalf,  but on behalf of all of  Zaida’s grandchildren, especially Tamar and Shira, who dearly wanted to be here today to show kavod to their Zaida and to be with Grandma....  Tamar, the eldest of the Emerson grandchildren, now in Israel, who had a unique and special bond, both emotional and intellectual, with Zaida.  And my sister Shira, the youngest Golden, now in Vancouver, who shared a zaida-ainekle relationship with Joe the envy of any.

As large a void in our lives as we will all feel, none will feel it more than you, Grandma. MayHashem help you find a way to draw strength for the future from the many memories and from the deep values and the love that you and Zaida shared together. And may you find a way to continue enriching our lives, as you enriched his.

November 26, 1998