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Saba - looking back at the life of David Dror


If you asked me what that word means to me, I would answer that it means everything. Everyone has a Saba, but only a few people were lucky to have a Saba like I did.

Saba is the Hebrew word for “grandfather.” But my Saba was more than just a grandfather – he was one of the biggest influences in my life.

Born in New York, but raised in Israel, my Saba was involved with the creation of the State of Israel. He fought in the War of Independence, and he carried on proud memories of that era. In fact, his last name, Dror – which was legally changed from Kivelewitz soon after 1948 – is a memento of that moment when Israel became an independent nation (Dror means “freedom” in Biblical Hebrew).

But that was not all that defined his childhood. He would often speak of his family’s strong roots in Judaism. He recalled visits by important rabbis to his house (among them, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of what was then called Palestine under the British Mandate, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Hakohen Kook). His father was a renowned grower of esrogim (a special citron used for the Sukkos holiday), and rabbis would come to his orchard to collect the fruits. For a significant amount of time, he lived in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem.

He moved to America in his early twenties with literally nothing in his pockets. He found an entry-level job in a kitchen equipment factory, and he worked his way to the top. Then he switched over to real estate, also finding success in the field. I remember my Saba pointing out a book on his bookshelf called “Grinding It Out” by Ray Kroc, the man who transformed McDonalds from an unknown restaurant to an international chain. He definitely identified strongly with many of the challenges and truimphs of the author.

There are many more details from his life that I could talk about (including the birth of my mother!), but the reason why I am writing this is to highlight his influence on me as a Jew.

My Saba was a Jew, any way you looked at him. He began his life as a Jew born in New York (how much more Jewish can you get?) and now he is a Jew at peace in Israel (if only there were more peace to go around). He spoke with a Hebrew accent, and the only language other than English he spoke was Yiddish. Grandpa? Saba.

As far as I can remember, anything remotely connected to Judaism was always connected to him too. We celebrated Jewish holidays together. As I learned Hebrew, he was always there to practice the language with me. He was by my side at my bar mitzvah. My graduation from my Canadian yeshiva high school was completed by his presence. When I stayed at his house for the weekend, it wasn’t a “weekend visit” – it was a “Shabbos visit.”

The truth is, if you ever took a look at us, you would see very little in common. We don’t dress the same way, and we even have different kinds of yarmulkas. We don't always agree on every topic, Jewish-related or not. And yet, everything that defines me as a Jew came from him.

My Saba was a very special person. He may not have worn his Judaism on his sleeve, but he certainly knew what mattered. He supported a full range of Jewish organizations and institutions, from Chabad to the OU and Young Israel and everything in between. When I started Jewish Deaf Multimedia and began distributing pushkas (charity cans), he asked for one to be placed in his home.

I especially enjoyed sharing tidbits of the things that I learned in yeshiva with him, because I knew he would be able to understand the original Hebrew (and he sometimes surprised me with revelations of the depth of his knowledge of Judaism!). Actually, if there was one thing that he was proud about me, it was my involvement with Judaism. He was a proud Jewish grandfather at my side. When I asked him to join me for a Yom Kippur in yeshiva, he was there. When I asked him to join me for a Shabbos with a special family, he was there.

And now . . .

This past Chanukah was the first time that my family had to celebrate without the physical presence of Saba. And it was certainly different.

But you know what? If everything that defines me as a Jew comes from my Saba, it then follows that he lives on through me. His proud identity as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not fade away into nothingness. It keeps on living, through his children and his grandchildren. Every Jewish thing I do will have come from a seed planted by my Saba.

This is precisely the meaning and value of a Jewish heritage. All of us are inheritors of a special set of traditions and values from our ancestors. If we discard these things, we are also discarding our link to our past - our link to our parents, to our grandparents, to our great-grandparents, and so on. A Jewish heritage is what binds us to those who have formed us into the people we are today.

[There is a famous story of a man named George Rohr, who is a noted philantropist in the Jewish community. He met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and told him that he started up a new group for High Holiday services in Manhattan for “people with no Jewish background.” The Rebbe looked at him in the eyes and said, “Go back and tell them that they have a background. They are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah!”]

Saba may have moved on to a different place, but no way am I going to let go of him. He continues to have a special place in my life and heart. And I truly look forward to the time when Moshiach (the Jewish Messiah) comes, a time when G-d will call out, “Wake up and sing, those who dwell in the dust!” (Isaiah 26:19).

May the memory of R’ Dovid Fishel ben Yechiel Michel be for a blessing.

Yehoshua Aryeh Soudakoff


Thank You For Your Contributions!

* Jerilyn Paley - in honor of JDCC
* Pamela Friedman - in honor of JDCC
* Pamela Friedman - in honor of JDCC

* Hetty Rothenberg -
in memory of Herbert Rothenberg, father
     in memory of Janice Friedenberg, cousin
     in memory of Joseph Rappoccio, father of Josephine Loeffler

FamilyDavid_Dror* In memory of David Dror
Wife Pauline, children Sharon, Dina, Brian & Louis, siblings Chana, Shmuel, grandchildren: Joshua, Michael, Rachel, Yoni, Nikki. Adina, Doni, Eli & Ezra and extended family members.
- Mitch, Alice J., DJ, Alice, Isabella & Liz Kurs
      - Sandy and David Moring
      - Harriet Lefkowitz
      - Shelley & John Goul
      - Hetty Rothenberg
      - Nina and Jerry Treiman

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This Month's Video

Irina, our event coordinator, shares the exciting updates of the #DeafChanukah event in this video!

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