Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yitz Heimowitz on Gerry Kandel z"l


Gerry Kandel: Victory of the Spirit

The 20th of Av (Aug. 20, 2011) is the 5th Yahrzeit of Gerry Kandel, an extraordinary person. Below is the Eulogy I wrote for him in 2006.

Gerry Kandel, z"l, (Yosef Aaron ben Leibel v’Rachel) faced up heroically to terrible adversity for most of his life. Gerry’s mother died shortly before his Bar Mitzva leaving him and his younger brother David with only their father. Their aunt Betty, who lived very close by, stepped in to care for them along with her own two children, Stuart and Linda, but not long after she also died.

Gerry became active in Betar and Camp Betar. From what I understand he was an excellent Madrich, Head Counselor of Camp Betar, and eventually Netziv. He was one of the 19 Betarim who took over the Syrian Mission to the UN on October 14, 1966. Thus, he was one of the clients I had to get released on bail and eventually, got suspended sentences. When our son Dani was born on May 14, 1968, Gerry sent him an honorary Teudat Betar.

Gerry married the love of his life, Evelyne, and they had two children, Elan and Mia. Evelyne died when Mia was almost 4 and Elan was 8. Gerry raised the children on his own, repeating the tragedy of the prior generation.

Gerry became the Assistant to the President of City University and when I used to visit New York for business or Shlichut, we would generally have lunch in the top floor dining room of the university building on 42nd Street. Gerry suffered from multiple sclerosis and by then his physical condition had deteriorated significantly. He told me that he insisted on coming to work by subway as long as he was able, rather than getting a special vehicle permit to which he was entitled. Eventually he could no longer climb the subway steps and was forced to accept the permit and park on 43rd Street just opposite the rear entrance of the University, but he continued to work as long as he was able.

Even close to the end of his life, Gerry taught a weekly university class; his helper wheeled him into the room on his wheelchair. Disability could limit his physical performance, but nothing could quench his spirit.


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