For Father's Day: Memories and a crucial question

Father's Day can be joyful, bittersweet, and sometimes a source of perplexing dilemmas.

G. Honigman & Rabbi E. Hecht ,

Father kisses soldier son
Father kisses soldier son
Flash 90

Father's Day is here again today in America, June 21, 2020.

Memories, by Gerald A. Honigman

My Dad left this planet far too young 27 years ago. I can always remember because (among other reasons) my fourth child, Elana Yehudit, was born two months later. Dad and I discussed having this new addition on one of our many fishing trips together. I told him that it was hard enough on a Florida teacher's salary to support three kids, let alone another. Little did I know then that Elana Yehudit (Judith), would be named for him. Edward was Yehudah.

After coming home from a visit to the cemetery, I stared long and hard at his picture hanging in my computer room where I do most of my writing.

Given the frequent duplicitous vilification of Israel and Zionism, and the constant turmoil in the Middle East, recollections Dad shared with me many years earlier came to mind.

Edward Honigman quit Philadelphia's prestigious Central High School at age seventeen and had to have my grandfather, a naval veteran of World War I, sign for his permission to join the fight against Germany and Japan, as he was only seventeen years old. He would serve in both fields of war, moving between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans several times via the Panama Canal.

Competing against older recruits, he excelled and was scheduled for officer training. And then came the interview when Dad was asked what kind of name "Honigman" was. I've had those encounters myself as well.

Dad wound up in the Armed Guard branch of the United States Navy instead. What a coincidence !

These were the guys (there were just guys on those ships back then) who had to run interference with German U-Boats to protect Allied shipping - with extremely high casualty rates.

Dad's own sister ship went down. There, but for the Grace of G-d, go I.

One particular story that especially came to mind occurred during the WWII Rommel Campaign in North Africa.

Dad and several friends were on leave in Aden in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula (now Yemen). His buddies decided to have some "fun," and so asked him to call the Arab attendant carting them around town "yahudi." - Jew. Here was the Arab man's response:

"Please, sir, curse me, spit on me... but never call me that."


Today, some eight decades later, I realize that this Yemeni Arab, like many/most of his brethren elsewhere, had been raised on "religious" teachings calling Jews descendants of apes and pigs; accusing Jews of using blood of non-Jews to make Passover matzoh (they share that sacred belief with the lands of Christendom); charge Jews with killing Prophets (but, at least not G-d as in Christendom); and other mendacious transgressions. You get the idea.



"Jew" is a common adjective in the Arab world. Kilab yahud -- "Jew dogs" -- is a common appellation for the Arab World's native Jews, who today make up more than one half of Israel's Jewish population with many others having fled to elsewhere.

Greater New City alone has about 50,00 Syrian Jews, who had to leave their birthplace, in its environs.

And if you buy the Arab line that this hostility is only a recent development, only due to the rise of modern political Zionism (I mean, how dare those Jews want the same thing in one minuscule state that Arabs have conquered from others and created for themselves in some two dozen! and authorized by the UN, yet), then I have not one but two bridges to sell you.

For the real story, the works of the Egyptian Jewess and scholar Bat Ye'or (on Dhimmitude, etc.), and those of Professor Albert Memmi, whose family dates back hundreds of years in Tunisia, are must reads.

My Father, of blessed memory, was part of the amazing folks whom Tom Brokaw called in his great book, the greatest generation.

He came home after four years of war and joined the Philadelphia Police force--where he served for almost three decades. I would join him and my Mother on May 8, 1948- the same week as the resurrection of Israel.

In light of what is going on today--both here in America and in the Middle East-- I thought these memories might be appreciated by other readers, who, I hope, have their own..

Happy Father's Day !

But - What if a child doesn't know who his father is? by Rabbi Eli Hecht

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Fathers' Day. Roses are the Fathers' Day flowers; red is to be worn for a living father and white if the father is dead.

I ask what does a son do if he doesn't have a living or dead father? How can that be, you wonder.

Bio-ethical dilemmas are on the increase. With the awesome strides and discoveries made in the medical field we are now facing fascinating and perplexing problems.

If a child is born due to certain types of assisted procreation, meaning, that an artificial form of creation conceived the child, the child may never know who the father is. This may be occur through the following methods:

  • A.I.H. - artificial insemination with the husband's sperm. When they take the husband's sperm and place it within the woman and assist in the impregnation it is called intrauterine insemination. They can also do an I.V.F. - In vitro Fertilization, which involves the joining together of a sperm and egg in a laboratory dish called "in vitro", meaning in the glass. The fertilized egg or embryo is then transferred back to the woman's uterus, implantation is made, and hopefully the procedure will produce a healthy, viable child. Other complicated procedures are called GIFT - Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer, or ZIFT - a combination of IVF and GIFT. All methods have been working for the past few years, resulting in thousands of children being born.

  • With this good and exciting news comes a host of problems. Today, if a woman wants a child she can go to a sperm bank and use the sperm for procreating. She may do it in the following fashion. She may use her own eggs or someone else's. It is possible that she uses a donor egg and a donor sperm, has an IVF procedure and becomes a surrogate mother. Does that child have a father? Will he ever celebrate Fathers' Day? With single mothers and the number of chidren of single mothers growing, Fathers' Day may become a nuisance if that means trying to track down which man fathered which child. What will happen to the good old Fathers' Day when mom would make a dinner including apple pie and the children would bring their Fathers' Day cards and handmade gifts?

I am very sensitive to the couples that want children and need to resort to the above methods to achieve their goals. "G‑d bless them," I say, they are trying to buld a family. My concern is about those who are using these methods because they do not want to marry or have children in the conventional manner.

What does Jewish tradition have to offer in the way of enlightenment? I look towards the Ten Commandments and I realize that there are two tablets. On one side it speaks about man and G‑d whilst the other side speaks about man and man. The first part of the tablets speak about G‑d, the greatness of G‑d - man/G‑d relationship. The second tablet speaks about inter-human relationships, not to kill, covet, etc. One would expect the commandment of honoring your parents to be on the second tablet.

I have wondered for many years why it was included in the first group where it speaks about the commandments of G‑d? The answer may be that the child/parent relationship is like G‑d and man's relationship. There are three partners to every birth, G‑d, the child's father and the child's mother. The material substance is derived from the parents while G‑d grants spirit and soul, the vital form of man.

The reason the fifth commandment is on the first tablet is to show that there is a connection between G‑d and man. Awareness of the parents' role as creative agents leads to contemplation and recognition of the third partner, the Almighty G‑d, provider of all. For this reason, G‑d Himself gives honor to parents by including the commandment of honoring your parents on the first tablet.

The fifth commandment is a religious principle as well as a social one.

Proper behavior towards parents is seen as a logical rung in the ladder leading to the proper behavior towards G‑d. As the saying goes, "He who heeds the parent will learn to heed other religious obligations too."

What a wonderful world it would be if we would all learn to honor and respect one another.

There is a Fathers' Day prayer created by the great Hassidic master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) "Dear G‑d, teach me to embody those ideals I would want my children to learn from me. Let me communicate with my children wisely - in ways that will draw their hearts to kindness, to decency and to true wisdom. Dear G‑d, let me pass on to my children only the good; let them find in me the values and the behavior I hope to see in them."

Children with good behavior bring honor to their fathers (and their mothers). A happy Fathers' Day to you all.



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