In late April, my mother’s cell phone rang, and at the end of the line was a woman to whom she had never before spoken. This woman had heard my brother give a speech in a London synagogue and was impressed, so she simply “had” to track down my mother, call her and give her a chance to kvell. As a grandmother and great-grandmother of many, she regarded kvelling as a basic human right.
Avi Gross Schaefer, a 21-year-old veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and a freshman at Brown University, was killed almost instantly February 12, after being hit by a car driven by a drunken driver. Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer and his wife, Laurie Gross, a prominent artist, have lost a son, and the wider world lost someone who was primed to make a difference as a peacemaker.
Avrom Sutzkever, who died January 20 at the age of 96, was not only a great Yiddish poet but is acknowledged as being one of the great poets of the 20th century.
The Mina Bern that I knew could always rise to the occasion and stop a show — without even trying. Bern, who died January 10 in New York City at age 98, was a dominant figure in Yiddish theater for several decades and brought its emotional richness to audiences around the globe. She also directed and starred on Broadway and landed roles in a dozen movies.
David Levine, who drew idiosyncratic portraits of thousands of celebrities, politicians, artists, and other newsmakers, died on Dec. 29. The Brooklyn-born artist’s caricatures and watercolors appeared in Esquire, New York Magazine, Newsweek, The Nation, The New Yorker, Time and the New York Review of Books, where he started drawing in 1963.