It was with tremendous sadness, and yet such pleasant memories, that I read about Jack's passing. Although I don't your family well, I had the pleasure of seeing Jack often when he would pick up Makena in first grade. His always present smile, his depth of kindness and natural warmth, and his obvious love for Makena, left an indelible impression. I can only imagine how deeply his presence will be missed.
My deepest condolences and sympathy to you, and wishing all of you strength and comfort during this time.
"May you be comforted from heaven" and "May G-d console you together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
I was so sad to learn of Jack's passing. The world is poorer having lost such a man. But as I looked at photos of Jack on the Internet, I couldn't help but smile at the warmth and humor in his eyes. You and Jack meant a lot to my parents. I can't help but think that somewhere, at a dinner party in Gan Eden, Jack and my father right now are mixing each other drinks and sharing funny stories.
I was very moved by the words of Lew Guterson, Doris, Tammy and Makena. Jack exemplified a unique and special trait, and one that I value and try to emulate: he had a gentle masculinity, every bit the man, but a man whose kind voice and sense of humor, and tenderness I saw him show toward you and your daughters, shows a man at his best.
My thoughts and tears are with you, Tammy, Doris and Makena.
The obituary captures Jack's life well. As a child in Salonica, I experienced the pride of the Jewish community in Jack's performance on the soccer field. I remember well turning on the radio to a soccer match and the crowd chanting in unison "Abravanel, Abravanel, Abravanel ....". He was a legend and only in his teens!
Most people know that my Papu and I were very close. He was my babysitter, personal chauffer, and storyteller, but above all, he was my teacher. He was the best kind of teacher because he was able to impart lessons either by being a good role model or by teaching me things in a fun way. I learned a lot about sports, school, enjoying life, standing up for myself, and about Sephardic Judaism from my Papu.
One day during my freshman year in high school, someone asked me what my favorite holiday was. I immediately said, Pesach, or Passover, a holiday that commands us to not eat leavened bread products for a week and to recount the time that God took the Jews out of Egypt. Just the fact that pasta and donuts are out of the question usually makes Pesach people's least favorite holiday, so they are generally surprised when I confess that it is my favorite. When asked why, I did not immediately have an answer. It took me a few years to realize why exactly I liked Pesach so much, and here is why:
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my Papu occurred once a year the week before Pesach. We would take out two Haggadot, the prayer books used on Pesach, a stack of post it notes, and a pencil. We would then go through the entire book and put a sticky note on each page that we intended to read during the Seder, the commemorative meal during the holiday. While we made sure to cover all the basics, such as the introduction, the four questions, and of course everyone's favorite song, Dayeinu, we usually skipped through most of the story because, as everyone knows, most people just want to cut to the chase and eat some brisket. However, what we never skipped was the first paragraph of the Pesach story, which explains that the Jews were slaves in Egypt and God took us out by way of a miracle.
It was not until I was in high school that I began to delve more deeply into the Pesach Seder and started to learn about all the laws and customs that observant Jews practice on Pesach. I noticed how much of the Seder my family had been glossing over and thought that this meant that we were not fulfilling our obligations on Pesach. Eventually, however I learned that the main commandment regarding the holiday of Pesach can be found in the Torah in Shemot 13:8:
And you will tell your children on that day saying, “It was because of this that God took me out of Egypt.”
Here I realized that my Papu had understood something that many people may never truly grasp in their entire lives. The level of ones observance is not necessarily what makes a Jew a Jew. The object of our religion is the passing on of our unique culture and heritage, especially if you're Sephardi and especially if you're from Salonika, to each subsequent generation. Pesach was my favorite holiday because of the lessons I learned from my Papu and the time we spent together making sure that it was enjoyable for everyone at our table.
My Papu's message about carrying on tradition was solidified by the fact that he was a Holocaust survivor. I remember hearing his story with every intricate detail many times throughout my childhood and never feeling like it was redundant. Aside from the fact that my Papu was just a great storyteller in general, to hear of his salvation and then see him carry on his life in a happy and successful way was always amazing for me to see. To close, I want to share the 8 most memorable lessons I have carried on from my Papu, and which I believe describe him very well:
That “Yabasta mi nombre ke es Abravanel,” “It is sufficient that my name is Abravanel”—meaning everyone should know it and that you should be proud of it.
That you shouldn't kiss anyone's a** but you shouldn't kick it either.
That it's okay to take one or two more bites of dessert, especially if it's chocolate.
That the best thing you can acquire in life is a sense of humor.
That if you're born with brains, take advantage of this gift that a lot of people missed out on.
That the Three stooges and the Marx Brothers will be better than Spongebob no matter how much money they invest in that show.
That if you want something badly enough, with enough hard work and dedication, it really can be yours.
That life is something to enjoy, that every moment can be infused with laughter, and that being Sephardi is always a plus.
Over the years, the Abravanel family has become part of our family. There were many joyful celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and barbeques during that time. We will always remember the laughter, friendship and great food. Thinking of you at this difficult time and remember our hearts are with you always. Bonnie, Lowell and Diann Owens