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October 9, 2009

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PAGE 16A By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- William Satire, the Nixon speechwriter-turned-New York Times political colum- nist, usually sparred with Beltway power players. But in 2001 the wily wordsmith set his sights on one of the Jewish community's major reachers. In a March column that year. Satire criticize&the Anti-Defamation League (and the Ehud Barak gov- ernment) for being part of the successful effort to win a pardon for fugitive busi- nessman Marc Rich from President Bill Clinton. He called for Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, to resign "to demonstrate that ethical blindness has consequences." Foxman called Satire, and the conversation produced a memorable lead. "You never made a mis- take in your life?" an angry Foxman shouted over the phone. "What about when you worked for that anti- Semite Nixon?" Satire insisted that Jew- ish organizations needed to "take a hard look at the ulte- rior motives of their money sources," urging them to "set out written policies to resist manipulation by rich sleazebags and to reprimand or fire staff members who do not get with the ethical program." Shea|ah Craighead/White House photo William Satire receives the Medal ofFreedom on Dec. 15, 2006 from President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony. But Satire also called Foxman a "good man" and backed away from calling -for the ADL director's head, although he said the Nixon jibe was "unfair." He closed on a conciliatory note: "Abe dropped by my of- rice a few minutes ago to take back that unfair telephone crack and answer questions about who sucked him into this mess, which takes some zip out of my conclusion. We wished each other a happy Passover." It was a brief detour into Jewish communal politics for a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist, yet very familiar. Satire, who died of pancre- atic cancer at 79 in a Mary- land hospice on Sept. 27, just before Yore Kippur, made an art of at once embracing and poking the Washington establishment. Satire was an adman visit- ing Moscow in 1959 when he made friends with then-Vice President Richard Nixon by arranging a capitalism vs. communism "kitchen debate" between Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev. the So- viet premier. The friendship landed Satire a speechwriter's job in Nixon's White House in 1969. Somehow he helped cultivate the image of Nixon--who along with being a former vice president was a con- summate GOP insider just elected to the most powerful position in the free world as an outsider to Washing- ton's establishment. He coined the phrase "nat- tering nabobs of negativism" to describe the administra- tion's critics. From the White House he leapt in 1973 to the Op- Ed page of The New York Times, another bastion of the establishment, to become a "hawk among doves," as one account put it. His twice-weekly column. running until 2005, made him a gadfly of Democrats and liberals. Safireworked the col- umn like a beat reporter and won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for raising questions about the propriety of the financial dealings of Bert Lance, Presi- dent Jimmy Carter's budget director. (Lancewasacquitted of charges arising out of the exposes and later befriended Satire.) Later in his career, Satire seemed sometimes unaware how much a part of the Wash- ington establishment he had become. One mid-1990s column was a reproach of the Clinton administration for removing his fellow colum- nist, Maureen Dowd, from the White H0use-sanctioned party circuit. Satire reserved'his deep- est affections for Israel; Israeli prime ministers often used his column's valued real estate to convey mes- sages to the Washington leadership. He was especial!y close to Ariel Sharon. In a Jan. 3, 2005 column, Satire asked Sharon, who was buffeted by criticism from the right for setting the stage for the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip, "And do you expect to be prime minister one year from today?" He recorded Sharon's re- ply as, "Why only one year?" A year and a day later, Sharon suffered a debilitat- ing stroke and was replaced as prime minister by Ehud Olmert. Safiire turned on Israel when he felt`it erred. He blasted the Jewish state for running U.S. Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard as a spy, although he later described Pollard's life sentence as "excessive." In 2000, when the United States stood opposed to Is- rael's arms sales to China, Satire invol~ed the prophetic injunction about forgetting Jerusalem in his warning to Israel not to endanger its most valuable alliance: "Reconsider, Israel; let not your democratic hand lose its cunning." Over the years, Satire made clear in his column his pain at discovering that not only Nixon but other cherished friends from that administrationVice President Spiro Agnew and speechwriter Pat Buchan- an-were not above frequent anti-Semitic outbursts or even, in Buchanan's case, adopting the bigotry as a strategy. After Buchanan, prepar- ing for a presidential run in 1999 on the Reform Party ticket, accused the "Israeli lobby" of not put- ting America first, Satire wrote this of a man he once considered a close friend: "Was this calculated to whip up resentment at Jews' political participation, even at the cost of stimulating anti-Semitism? Of course; he knows exactly what he's doing. To pose as fair, he also imputes policy disloy- alty to Americans with ties to Cuba. Greece. Armenia and a dozen other places. and is careful to say 'Israeli lobby' rather than 'Jewish lobby.' But you know what he means." Satire is equally remem- bered as the "On Language" columnist appearing in the Times Magazine from 1979 until earlier this year. He loved to plumb the meanings of what had become common usage especially common political usage and seemed to take special pleasure in uncovering Jewish origins. In 2007 he asked readers to research the origins of"Go figure." Some uncovered evi- dence that it was an Ameri- can original, others said its derivation was Spanish, and others insisted it stemmed from the Yiddish "gay vays," or "Go know." Satire's assessment: "My call: Go figure is a clip of standard English 'Go and figure it out for yourself.' given a Yiddish overlay by go know and an expressive shrug and weary rolling of the eyes long identified with an ethnic group." Satire. a New York native. was a U.S. Army veteran. He is survived by his wife, Helene: his son, Mark; his daughter, Annabel; and a granddaughter. By Ruth Ellen Gruber RADAUTI. Romania (JTA) It's the custom in Judaism to visit the graves of family members around the High Holidays. This year I went a step further and walked in the footsteps of my ancestors. My father's parents, who immigrated to the United States before World War I, were born near the market town of Radauti in the Bu- covina region of northern Romania. This is where I went a couple of weeks before Rosh Hashanah. It was my fourth trip to Radauti. which when my grandparents lived there was one of the easternmost towns in the Austro-Hun- garian Empire. My first visit there was more than 30 years ago, in the freezing December of 1978. I was a correspondent for United Press Interna- tional and was accompany- ing Romania's then-chief rabbi. Moses Rosen, on his annual Chanukah tour to far-flung remnant com- munities throughout the country. I recall visiting 19 Jewish communities in six days. El- derly people in winter coats and astrakhan hats huddled together in unheated syna- gogues, and puffs of steam came from the mouths of the Jewish choir from Bucharest that came along with us to perform. My brother Sam also was on that trip, and he and I took time in Radauti to visit the Jewish cemetery and pick .our way through the stones to find the grave of our great-grandmother. Ettel Gruber, who died in 1946 and in whose honor I was given my middle name. Discovering her grave did not trigger in me any fur- ther genealogical impulse, though what we experienced on our trip around Romania that week sowed the seeds of my interest in Jewish heritage. As far as I knew, Ettel's was the only tomb of my ancestors in that cemetery, and in subsequent visits to Radauti in 1991 and 2006 for other research projects I never thought to seek any other family traces. My trip to Radauti last month was not supposed to be a roots trip, either. I went there to work on an online photographic project called (Candle) sticks on Stone, about how women are represented on Jewish tombstones through the depiction of Shabbat candles. (See the Web site http://candlesticksonstone. But it was inevitable, I guess, that the ghosts of my long-dead ancestors hov- ered about, and even some- how intervened, as I carried out my business. After all, though candlesticks are There's a difference in our service.You'll see it in your yard NLC Maurice Lawn Care Maintenance Landscaping Irrigation 407.462.3027 " common symbols marking the gravestones o~ Jewish women, the stone marking my great-grandmother Et- tel's tomb in the Radauti cemetery was the first I had seen bearing that image. This ancestral inter- vention was particularly evident thanks to the fact that three of my cousins-- Arthur, Hugh and Hugh's son Asher--had come along with me for part of the jour- ney. The four of us made a pilgrimage to Ettel's grave and took a ritual picture, but otherwise my cousins were not very 'interested in the other tombstones I was documenting. Rather, they wanted to find out about, our family history and, as the expres- sion goes, to walkwhere our ancestors had walked. A friend of a friend in town took us to the city's registry office and helped us examine yellowing tomes that yielded handwritten dates. names and even street addresses of our forbears. With the information that turned up and the aid of a couple of friendly police- men, we actually found the house in the nearby village of Vicovu de Sus where Et- tel and her husband, our great-grandfather Anschel, had livedwhen they married in 1880. Vicovu de Sus, like much of rural northern Romania, is a place where horses and carts are still common forms of transportation. The house we found was an iso- lated old wooden farmstead with a steep wood-shingled roof at the end of a grassy track at the edge of corn fields. Its only outward concession to modernity seemed to be electric power lines and a satellite dish. My cousins left Romania after a few days, but I stayed on for a bit to continue work on my project, documenting the Jewish cemeteries in Radauti and several other towns. But that's not all that I ended up doing. I can't say that I had been bitten by the genealogy bug, but our session at the town hall, the faded names and dates and notations, and our subsequent discovery of our great-grandparents' house kept me thinking. Our discoveries about our ancestors' lives had left some some questions that I wanted to try to answer. and I couldn't leave town without at least attempting to resolve them. One of these loose enos was my discovery that an- other of my female ances- tors-my grandmother's grandmother, who died in 1904--was, like Ettel, buried in the Radauti Jew- ish cemetery, and that her Hebrew name, and even the plot number and row of her grave, were known. Armed with this informa- tion, I again entered the cemetery and its tilting forest of stones on my last day in town. The cemetery caretaker pointed out the row and left me to push through the undergrowth and scrutinize the Hebrewj epitaphs. It was slow go- ing my Hebrew is basic at best, the stones were weathered and I had to keep brushing away spiders. After half an hour or so, there it was: Chaya Dvoira bas Moshe Mordko. She was described in the epitaph as a "modest and honest" woman. Above'the words were braided candlesticks on stone, with hands raised in blessing above them and faded traces of the red and green paint that must once have adorned the carving. In a memoir she wrote by hand when she was well past middle age, my own grandmother recalled how she had lived with her grand- parents in Radauti for two years as a young girl, "the happiest two years of my life as a child." Chaya Dvoira, she wrote, "saw that my clothes were nice and clean, she had meals on time and my hair was always combed nice and neat." They had, she wrote, very little money. I stood there for awhile in front of this memorial to an ancestor whose existence had never really crossed my mind before this trip. "I pulled away a strand of stray vines: not sure what. if anything, I actually felt," I wrote that day on my biog. "Glad to be there; cognizant of distance, time, realms; the passing of time and history. Wishing the Others could have been there too. Wondering what she looked like!" Ruth Ellen Gruber's books include "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," and "Virtually Jewish: Re- inventing Jewish Culture in Europe." She blogs on Jewish heritage issues at jewish-heritage-traveL