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Citizen Moskowitz

By Tzvi Fishman
1/9/2011, 12:00 AM

Early this morning, I drove my 18 year-old-daughter to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem to catch a bus to Eilat where she is spending her year of Sherut Leumi National Service, working to bring the spirit of Torah to children from unreligious backgrounds. I reached home just in time to bless my son, the soldier, as he set off to his base up north, near the Lebanon border, where his elite Egoz Golani unit are stationed, the first to go after the Hizballah, when the occasion will arise. After getting the little ones off to school, I drove to Yad Benjamin to give a lecture on screenwriting at a film school for religious students. Last night, in order to prepare, I took a very quick glimpse at the movies “High Noon” and “Citizen Kane” to choose a film to talk about, like I used to do in the old days teaching screenwriting at NYU.

Putting his life on the line for everyone.

While I was explaining “High Noon” from the screenwriter’s POV (point of view), I realized what a perfect metaphor it was for our situation in Israel. We Israelis are like the sheriff who has to stand up alone and face the bad guys (the four kingdoms of Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome) after all of the  townspeople back down, cringing from the battle which is due to commence at high noon, hiding behind their church pews, whisky glasses in the saloon, and behind their wives, who block the doorway, turning the marshall away. I don’t have to spell out who the townspeople represent in our parable, leaving us Israelis to go at it all alone, as if it weren’t their fight as well.     

Of course, there are many exceptions. One of the most prominent is Dr. Irving Moskowitz, who is once again back in the news, with the announcement that building is underway in a new Jewish neighborhood in “East” Jerusalem, on a piece of property that he purchased, a Frisbee throw away from Israel’s Central Police Headquarters and the Israel Ministry of Science building on the other side of the street. Hopefully, the destruction of the former house of Hitler’s friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem, will put the final nail in the coffin of the Obama peace initiative, just like the Moskowitz projects of opening the Kotel Tunnels and building Rasal Amud, knocked other American peace powwows off their tracks as the clock ticked down to high noon.

Dr. Moskowitz doesn’t just donate money to worthy causes. He rolls up his trousers and gets involved with the nitty gritty, frequently visiting Israel, where he has a home, in addition to his house in Florida. While he spends much of the year in America, running his business concerns, he is on the phone to Israel, literally day and night. As much as anyone, he is fighting the battle with us to hold down the fort until all of our reinforcements arrive from the far corners of the world. Now that he has been slowed down by an illness, his wife is continuing his work.

Charles Foster Kane lost his childhood love. Dr. Irving Moskowitz found his.

During my last visit to the Moskowitz home in Florida, where I had the honor of sitting hours upon hours with the Doctor, preparing an authorized biography for his family, I had the unique opportunity to discover what made “Citizen Moskowitz” tick, to uncover the “Rosebud” of his life, the spark plug that gave him such a towering love for the Jewish People, and a superhuman drive to further the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the restoration of the Nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael.

In truth, just as the reporter in the film “Citizen Kane” admits – no one thing can sum up all of a man’s life and achievements – but it became clear to me that Dr. Moskowitz’s “Rosebud” was his beloved wife, Cherna. Again and again, he would interrupt his narratives to give credit to his wife for her selfless backing and support, as well as for her sound counsel and advice. The adage that “behind every great man is a great woman” certainly applies to Dr. Moskowitz. She herself says, that besides raising her family of eight children, her work, side-by-side with her husband, on behalf of the Jewish People in Israel, is the most rewarding thing in her life.

Their selflessness for the Jewish People, their willingness to give all of their time, and efforts, and resources, to the rebuilding of Israel, flashed through my mind as I watched Gary Cooper standing alone, facing down the enemy on the deserted streets of the town that he loved, side-by-side with the woman who was willing to sacrifice everything to save him.

This year, I nominate Dr. Irving Moskowitz as a recipient of the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism. There isn’t a more deserving candidate.

He is an example for all of us.