Monday, August 17, 2009

Our First Lawyer

For those of us in 1960's New York Betar, there was one name we all thought of when "lawyer" was mentioned. That was Yitz Heimowitz.
Yitz's legal skills were legendary to those who had protested at the Syrian UN Mission in the fall of 1966, simply because he got them out of jail, even though US Ambassador to the UN, Arthur Goldberg was ready to have them executed, without even knowing any details of the case. I was then, just getting acquainted with Betar and was totally awed by the daring of all involved.

Yitz, his wife Phyllis and their baby son, made aliyah just before we did. Over the years, we've kept in touch. Even though they are a bit older than we are, our daughters are about the same age. Their elder daughter was even in Bar Ilan Law School with our second one, and their younger one and our third received "Rector Prizes," as top students at the same Bar Ilan University ceremony.

A few years ago, Yitz celebrated his Seventieth Birthday at a joyous party and we heard some amazing stories. I'm glad to say that he has written his memoirs, "Memories of a Lawyer's Life," and it's a great book. Yitz was extremely involved in legal issues concerning dual citizenship, Israeli-American and was one of the leaders of AACI, Americans and Canadians in Israel.
Following is a story we remember, which isn't in the book:
When we were about to buy our first home in Israel, we called Yitz to check out the contract. We had found a nice new apartment under construction in Bayit V'Gan, Jerusalem. We sent him a copy of the purchase contract and made an appointment with the contractor. The three of us arrived together, and Yitz explained some problems he saw with the contract. We trusted him completely.
The contractor looked at us strangely and asked:

"Who is that man?"
"He's our lawyer."
"Why do you need a lawyer? I have a lawyer."
"But your lawyer is your lawyer and ours is ours."
"I don't understand. My lawyer is good enough for all of us."

The conversation continued rather fruitlessly on the same track until we looked at each other and realized that it was time to leave. As soon as the three of us left the building, we all bust into hysterical laughter. Later on we bought a different apartment.
You can see that humanity in the stories Yitz included in his book. It's privately published.


goyisherebbe said...

One of the things that I think has gotten better in Israel over the years is that fewer people treat new American olim as if they were born yesterday. It may have something to do with the fact that we are better organized with AACI, Nefesh B'Nefesh and Tehila and that we are already in the second generation of kids who have spent their post-HS year in Israel and know their way around. Anyone who doesn't is able to network with someone like Yitzhak, and there are many more now in his footsteps. He gets the credit for showing the way. May we see the massive aliya from North America soon, before it's too late. Of all the things Rav Kahane HY"D warned about, everything has come to pass except the danger to Jews in America, and there the handwriting is already on the wall. Jews, come home!

Batya said...

goyish, I wonder if the newer generation of anglo-olim will really integrate on the level that we and Yitz did, since so many live in immigrant ghettos barely speaking Hebrew.
Also, the old foreign student programs were total immersion in Hebrew and Israeli culture, while today, and the past couple of decades, most programs keep the kids far from regular Israelis and many forbid them to travel to places like Shiloh and Kochav Hashachar.

Hadassa said...

Integration depends totally on the will of the oleh/olah. Place of resident helps greatly, but does not entirely determine successful integration. One of our relatives lives in Beit Shemesh and attends a beit knesset that, although most of the congregation is Anglo and doesn't know Hebrew nearly as well as English, has a rav that, although he is also an Anglo, gives his talk in Hebrew so that all will feel welcome to come. The relative's wife choose to work in an office where she'd have to speak in Hebrew so that she wouldn't get stuck in an American ghetto.
Muse, I'll add that the programs, and for that matter most yeshivot catering to English speaking students, do not do enough to even teach the students the Hebrew language, let alone culture.

Batya said...

Hadassa, good examples. Years, decades ago a student who participated in a program in Israel learned Hebrew very quickly. Total immersion plus classes. Nowadays they don't need it. Even if they prepare their own food, they shop in a supermarket. At the old grocers, you had to ask for each item... in Hebrew, and there were no anglo ghettos.