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Down (2005)

Joel at Lions game

What would I give to believe

like my brother-in-law Joel

that everything is possible

that no matter how far down

we are we can come back

we can always come back?

 

I think of him watching

another showing of Wizard of Oz

every single time it’s on TV

another James Bond movie

and Batman the rerun or movies

doesn’t matter which

 

He asks me once a day every day

when we’re going to see Batman

Begins of how about Charlie

and the Chocolate Factory

and which Lions game we’ll see

in November to celebrate his

48th birthday

 

He stays up every night

late watching TV doing his daily

exercise program his daily

schedule until he just can’t stay up

anymore and finally falls asleep

only to doze off

on and off again

the next day every day

he’s tired all day

 

He asks me if I can get him

another year of ABC Soaps and

Soap Opera Digest which he tears

pages from scatters over the couch

and floor every week every year

so he won’t miss anything new

so he can crack the latest case

of General Hospital All My

Children One Life to Live

 

My mother-in-law asks me to help

To tell him I won’t order

soap opera magazines if he doesn’t

clean up all his clippings and

football schedules and daily sports

scores he listens to me always

welcomes me asks how I’m doing

and then how am I doing again

I his lone “buddy”

 

I can only smile and

think of him listening

to every Tigers game and thinking

they still have a chance to win it all

they still have a chance I think

of us together at the Lions game

when Reggie Brown was crippled

and Barry passed 2000 yards

and the Lions reached the playoffs

 

Or when he puts his favorite foods

together on the seder plate

and mashes them up with catsup mustard

turkey potatoes “bitter herbs” all of it

after he’s read the four questions

in perfect staccato pronunciation

and laughs when he sings the

chorus of Dayeynu

 

I smile, not trying to imagine

how it felt for his parents

to bear their first child in 1957

with Down Syndrome an extra

chromosome number 21 and I can’t

imagine that the average age

of death is forty-nine

is next year

 

What would I give to believe

like Joel that we’re never down

that there’s always a chance?

He is my Peter Pan

always looking forward

to another game

another win. When he and I

left a Lions game against Miami

in 2000, down

by three touchdowns

and a field goal

three minutes to go

all I could hear was heartbreak

in his voice as he begged me to

take him by the hand and

get us to my car fast

so he could hear us

make our comeback

to erase the impossible

lead to let us win

again just let us win

 

From Outlive Me

Copyright 2005

by Arnie Goldman

 

The Bounce in Kenny’s Step

(January 19, 2006, Published in the Detroit Jewish News)

My little brother, Kenny, loved to play basketball. He would go outside on the driveway and bounce and bounce his basketball endlessly, taking hundreds of shots, trying to swish each one.

He would play with his friends, our dad and sister, and me, though I was 12 years his senior. Unless it was snowing or raining, it was reasonably certain that he would be outside practicing.

He was short and skinny but at ten years of age, he could already shoot better than me, from any distance. When he’d finally come inside, he’d watch the Detroit Pistons or Michigan State when they played on TV.

He would stare at Greg Kelser and Magic Johnson, imagining himself in their large shoes, leading a team to the championship, like they did in March, 1979.

After Kenny died from a car accident on the way home from a Detroit Tigers baseball game that he’d attended with my dad in July 1982, the sound of bouncing balls and clanging rims stopped on Arden Park Circle. But the memories never did.

My parents soon felt strongly that even though Kenny was no longer there, it was urgent that they preserve his memory in some way. They just didn’t know how.

They visited the Jewish Federation of Detroit whose executive director, after hearing about Kenny’s love of basketball, suggested they talk to the executive director of the Jewish Community Center, Mort Plotnick. Mort didn’t know if it would work but he suggested that maybe they could start a small basketball league for young kids. Kenny had never received any instruction when he was young, was never in a league, but probably would have loved joining one.

How many young boys and girls were like Kenny? My parents liked the idea and endowed the Jewish Community Center with the Kenny Goldman Athletic Fund which would be used to provide a Basketball League for young boys and girls, from ages 6-13.

It started in the fall of 1984. My father tossed the first jump ball in the first league. My mother, sister and brother-in-law, my future wife and I sat on the sidelines just praying something good could come from the tragedy.

Over the years, the league grew in attendance and became a little better attended every year. My son, Kyle, now 19, was in the league when he was 8, but liked baseball better (and eventually football.)

Hundreds of other children participated in the 21 years the league has existed and even more parents have sat on the sidelines watching as their sons and daughters ran up and down the court, passing, dribbling, trying to make shots from up close and behind the foul line.

So many boys and girls have worn the Kenny Goldman Basketball League shirts, every year a different color. In the last few years, the league became affiliated with the NBA and WNBA, in that the professionals help provide instructional materials for players and coaches.

“Our Kenny Goldman Youth Basketball League is booming,” says Bruce Wineman, JCC sports and recreation director. “We had about 60 kids in the league five years ago. This fall, we had close to 600 on 55 teams.”

Now, he expects 700-800 boys and girls from kindergarten through 10th grade to play in the winter leagues that started Jan. 8 (“JCC Hoops,” Nov. 24, page 25.) I have told him that I will attend the first games in January which run from 1-10 p.m. on Sundays and require a hired scorekeeper, who happens to be my cousin’s son, Seth Strasberger.

There are so many people that my parents, sister, wife and I have met who have kids in the league. It’s hard to explain the feeling one gets when a young boy, like 13-year-old neighbor Ben Nadis, talks about playing in the Kenny Goldman League and his love of basketball. When I drive down his street and see him dribbling and shooting a basketball with his dad, I feel both sadness and joy.

My parents feel enormous pride imagining what they started 21 years ago and what it is today. When Kenny died at age 13, a few months after his bar mitzvah, the emptiness was unbearable. But my parents persevered and started something that both preserved Kenny’s memory, but also gave young kids a chance to learn about and play something they love.

The league registration form says, “Have fun, compete against other teams, learn new skills and play basketball. All players receive a trophy and each division plays approximately 8 games, playoffs and a championship.”

This is a league that preserves friendly, fun competition that helps kids grow up into young men and women.

Kenny never got to see the Pistons win their three championships, never got to see Joe Dumars, Ben Wallace or Chauncey Billups, never got to play in a high school basketball game. But I still pray that he is out there somewhere, watching hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls wearing shirts with his name across their hearts.

I hope that he can see them laughing, sweating, and scoring, just being kids.

From Five Fathers

Copyright 2006

By Arnie Goldman

BookSurge, LLC

Kenny at his Bar Mitzvah 1982

Corned Beef and Closed Valves

A few weeks ago, my father, aunt, and I went for lunch at a deli across from the Cleveland Clinic. It’s hard to resist a good delicatessen and my 79-year-old aunt chose the corned beef sandwich with onion rings. I stared at the humongous stack, wondering if it measured six or eight inches high. Why does a good deli pile its corned beef and pastrami so high they can’t fit into a normal mouth? I wondered why people eat foods with the most calories, saturated fat, and salt, even when they realize they can clog the cleanest arteries.

Yet it was my aunt’s last meal before her open heart surgery scheduled the next morning. How could I make her feel guilty for enjoying her scrumptious sandwich? I know what it feels like to crave something you shouldn’t eat. I’ve often felt the tug of war between what I want and what I know I should eat.

In the trip from Detroit to Cleveland, I saw where the what-you-want world takes you. I came on Sunday with my dad and aunt, a widow after my uncle died ten years ago. She spent two full days enduring echocardiograms, pulmonary and vascular tests, chest x-rays and meetings with nurses, anesthesiologists, and meeting her surgeon who was scheduled to replace her 85% closed aortic valve with a cow’s valve. She was at the Cleveland Clinic because her primary coronary doctor said that if she were his mother, he’d send her to this world-renowned surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, ranked by many as the finest heart health center in the world.

We met with the doctor Wednesday after he’d performed his fourth open heart surgery that day. He looked exhausted, his pure white hair disheveled, his long white coat stained with blood. My aunt had a quadruple bypass 11 years earlier but he said he’d done many valve replacements for patients scarred from previous bypass. He admitted 5% don’t survive surgery but if the operation wasn’t done soon, the valve would probably close and death would inevitably follow.

That week and next, I observed overweight people waiting for surgery. We hear stories about huge portions and the great “value” of food at many popular restaurants. When we left the deli, I noticed the huge slices of cheesecake and brownies in a glass-encased area under the counter. I wondered how much saturated fat and sugar were in each massive serving, realizing we treat our bodies like edible pleasure palaces and then suffer the consequences later.

The devastating consequences are showing. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported in their latest survey that 31.1% of men are now considered obese, up from 27.4% in 2000 while 33% of women are rated obese. Even more alarming is that 33.6% of children and teens, ages 2 to 19, were overweight or at risk of becoming so in 2004, up from 28.2% in 2000. It looks like sugared sodas, chips, super-sized burgers, tacos, loaded lattes, buttered popcorn, and full-fat ice cream layered with candies are taking their toll on our kids. And the foods we love are certainly killing us.

I am rated obese, still 40 pounds higher than my “normal weight.” I joined Weight Watchers about two months ago and finally feel in control of my eating urges. I’ve been trying to eat healthy, watching my portions and choices. I’m not following all the guidelines but I’ve lost fifteen pounds so far and feel lighter and more energetic.

My Weight Watchers instructor has lost 90 pounds. He watched his dad die after he’d reached 400 pounds and doesn’t want to keep up the family heritage. He wants to live for his wife and four kids. Like him, I don’t want to find myself in a hospital, struck from a heart attack, needing open heart surgery. I know I’ve had years of calorie abuse but I’m now fighting my own weight war and won’t give up. It’s time to get serious. I’m almost 50 and want to be alive a few more years for my wife and three children.

My aunt spent over two weeks in Cleveland and survived the surgery. She still has diabetes and high blood pressure but is thankfully alive. And hopefully, she’ll live to the same age as her mother, 96.

I feel more motivated than ever to lose weight and keep it off. We owe it to ourselves, our friends, and families to try to be healthy. We shouldn’t feel guilty when sampling a sliver of chocolate brownie or a few slices of pastrami. But when we eat whole corned beef sandwiches with large slices of cheesecake, we’re only fooling ourselves.

We need to keep our valves and arteries open, the blood flowing, if not for us, for our parents, spouses, and kids. We must keep them away from the hospital bed, holding our hands, hoping we’ll survive the knives that cut our chests open, praying our hearts will still beat when the doctor’s finished.

 

From Five Fathers

Copyright 2006

By Arnie Goldman

BookSurge, LLC

Hebrew School

 

We should be able to learn something important, something useful every day. It took me only a few days in 1965 to learn I hated Hebrew School.

When I was eight, starting 3rd Grade in Mrs. Schweigart’s class in Botsford Elementary School in Livonia, Michigan, I realized my parents needed to prepare me for my Bar Mitzvah. Even though my family was “Reformed” (translation: we rarely did anything remotely Jewish,) I still had to go to Hebrew School on Tuesdays and Thursdays right after school as well as every Sunday morning. I had to plow through the rituals of learning Hebrew, studying my Jewish roots, as well as Torah, because in five years for one morning, I would get up in front of hundreds of others on a Saturday morning and chant a haftorah which entitled me to be a man which led to a party with lots of food and hopefully a bushel of money which might be used someday for college.

Twice a week, after suffering through the rituals of Mrs. Schweigart during the day, the yelling and punishments from a woman who might have been happier in her heritage homeland, Rhineland Germany, blurting, “Sieg, heil” to another group of kids, I was privileged to come home and before starting my homework, I would walk to the corner of Rensellor and Vassar to take the bus to Hebrew School. I vaguely recall calling it “the ride to hell.”

The Hebrew bus was what I now imagine Henry Ford used to cart the Jewish employees he despised to the Ford Motor factory in 1913. The bus was old, had a dirt-covered floor, and smelled of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and a variety of other oxides that could make a grown man puke.

We brought our school books and sat on them, sticking our heads out the windows, so the smell became tolerable. It didn’t matter how cold it was; the air outside was livable, the air inside foul and rancid. Before we stuck our heads out the windows, we had to prepare. A cardboard box called “The Puke Box” was passed from aisle to aisle so anyone who needed it could relieve himself instead of retching on the floor. The smell of passed puke made me feel like vomiting every time.

The bus ride stopped to pick up each kid for nearly an hour before it arrived at its final destination. But before that ending, we faced something almost as bad as the smell, which was simply the fine art of rock throwing.

We couldn’t keep our heads out windows the entire ride. When we entered each subdivision, we kept our eyes focused on kids outside the bus: goyim, Jews, anyone who turned or bent over with his hands behind his back. Each ride was a target contest. Kids all over Livonia collected their assortments of rocks and let them fly at the nearest Hebrew bus. Every kid’s goal was for their own rock to crack a window. This was preparation for the throwing of snowballs. What must have been their exhilaration was our misery.

Some kids were advanced, using bebe guns like the Red Ryder seen every December 25th on A Christmas Story. I remember the day Debbie Majorovich yelled she’d been shot. Blood trickled down her face. Keith, the brave, black bus driver, finally stopped the bus. He could accept a rock but bebe guns were a different story. He slammed on the brakes and we all got out, following him to the house he thought the shotgun-boy lived at, the one who scampered after firing. We were happy to be off the bus, out of the smell, and waited as he pushed the door bell and knocked. We continued to wait but finally left and were ten minutes late for the United Hebrew School at the Livonia Congregation on Seven Mile Road. Rabbi Zentman, the principal, wasn’t happy.

Hebrew School was two hours of intense boredom, three days a week. My first teacher was Mrs. Adler with the thick Israeli accent. I can’t remember anything I learned but I remember the class bully, the crazed Jewish kid, Arnie Sam. I was excited that someone else named Arnie could be so funny, fearless, and rotten. All the rest of us eight-year-old Jews sat in awe.

Arnie Sam never listened to a word from Mrs. Adler. He said anything that popped into his head, came in when he wanted, and tormented all of the teachers as well. We watched, mesmerized when we stood behind him as he splattered Mrs. Adler with a burst of water from a water gun directed at her face, hair, and shirt. Rabbi Zentman never fazed Arnie when he brought him to his office for punishment. Arnie was just glad to get out of class again.

Over the next few years, I got to witness some of the proud accomplishments of my fellow Hebrew School inmates. My cousin, Lenny, a nice, respectful kid at home, became a master of the spitball from the back of the room. David Lipschitz became the Honor roll leader, as a torrent of laughter erupted every time his name was called. Elliot Ring, a math whiz at Botsford (and future CPA) took a vow of silence after his second year of Hebrew School, refusing to speak when called upon. And Arnie Sam passed to the status of Hebrew School legend.

Arnie taunted the third year teacher, Rabbi Rosenzvieg, more than anyone. He pounded the Rabbi with bruising body checks in the floor hockey game at the break. Once, he turned off the lights in the bathroom and urinated on the Rabbi’s pants. Another time, before class, he locked Rosenzvieg in the classroom closet while his classmates quietly celebrated a few extra minutes of time without learning. Rabbi Rosenzvieg often talked to himself during class and walked outside the classroom, still talking. Then, he wandered back into the classroom, still talking to himself. (Today, he is the founder and director of the Detroit Area Holocaust Memorial Center.)

I forgot almost every thing I learned at Hebrew School but learned enough Hebrew to chant the haftorah at my Bar Mitzvah. I remember so little of that day except what was photographed for future viewing. For the Sunday party at King’s Restaurant in Southfield, Michigan, I was allowed to invite up to five boys and five girls. I invited my best friend, Larry Pollack, who later became a devout Jew for Jesus, as well as Steve Schick, who was later sent to the Yeshiva and hated it. Eventually, he married a Catholic girl and settled down in Taylor, Michigan, which could be called the “home of no Jews.”

My good friend, Jeff Lebowitz, failed to make the five-boy cut. He was the sixth boy then but is now within the top five of my friends. Two of my other invited friends when I was thirteen were Rick Sherman and Linda Greenberg, now married to each other for over twenty-five years and still good friends to my wife and me.

After my Bar Mitzvah, my parents allowed me to decide whether I should conclude the last four months of Hebrew School so I could graduate and get a diploma. I think my answer then was something like “Hell No,” though I doubt if I swore to my father then.

I remember that everything was okay after the decision. My parents saved a few months of Hebrew School tuition and I saved at least ten hours a week of dread, sick stomachs, broken windows, and unbearable boredom. Instead, I was able to practice my cornet, do some extra homework, watch more TV, eat more snacks, and play a lot more with Larry, Steve, and Jeff.

Seven years later, in 1977, my parents had to decide where to send my little brother, Kenny, for Bar Mitzvah preparation. I came clean and told them about my adventures in Hebrew School, stories I had never shared with them before. I was able to convince them to find another option to prepare Kenny for his Bar Mitzvah. They were able to find a tutor, Mr. Murmelstein, who would drive to their house once a week to teach Kenny Hebrew, Torah, and eventually his haftorah. Murmelstein was a terrible driver and often parked his Oldsmobile Gas Guzzler on the grass or on the sidewalk. He was filled with enthusiasm and quirks, including asking my parents every week for something different to eat. Yet, at least there was no bus and it was only an hour a week anyway.

When the lessons started, Kenny didn’t seem to care as he just went through the motions, listening and doing the least homework he could. But as the weeks and years continued, Kenny started to learn Hebrew, listened to some fascinating stories from the Torah, and began to care about Jewish studies. It wasn’t as exciting as baseball, basketball, or the latest record albums but it became intriguing to him, a challenge. He became fond of Murmelstein and Murmelstein liked him.

When Kenny eventually rose to the bimah at Congregation Beth Abraham Hillel Moses, he read fluently with a beautiful voice that still hadn’t crossed over to puberty.

I think now of the number of hours Kenny was able to not spend in Hebrew School but instead with his friends, playing basketball, trading baseball cards, riding bikes. When I came over my parents’ house, instead of watching Kenny jump on a bus, we played ping pong together, threw balls in a game of catch in the backyard, or sat on the lawn or in the basement, playing checkers.

I realize now that when I came out of my self-centered world and told my parents not to send Kenny to Hebrew School, I actually performed a good deed.

When a child lives until he’s only thirteen and a half, every hour, every minute takes on more meaning. It becomes precious.

When I now review the years I’ve lived, I can reflect with some deeper satisfaction. I realize that giving Kenny those few extra hours may have been the greatest gift of my entire life, my most sacred mitzvah.

 

From Five Fathers

Copyright 2006

By Arnie Goldman

BookSurge, LLC

 

Congregation Beit Kodesh

Fifth Grade

 

When I went to my 30 year class reunion last October, a divorced woman who had a little too much to drink approached me and said she had a “crush” on me a long time ago. When I asked her how long ago, she told me “fifth grade.”

I was popular in fifth grade, thin, with a thick head of brown hair. There were a few girls who liked me, I recall. I wasn’t shy but I played hard to get. I knew I was one of the “cute boys” and played it up for all it was worth.

I liked to show off in class, acting tough, worthy of respect. When a nerd named Marty was accused of having “cooties,” my friend and I were designated to take care of it. When Mrs. Ross, the teacher, was out of the classroom, my friend, Randy, took hold of Marty’s head and I lifted my arms as if I were going to smash his head against the desk.

We were kidding, of course, just trying to scare him, the way tough kids do. I lifted my arms and hands to the sky and brought them down, making sure to stop before the pounding. But I was too strong and brought my arms down a little too far.

Marty screamed in pain, his front tooth cracked against the desk. Randy and I looked at each other with that “oh-God-we-really-screwed-up” look. We were called down to the principal’s office and sat in two chairs for a never-ending two hours.

I had never seen our teacher or the principal this angry before. They were ready to suspend us, but we pleaded with them that it was just an accident. We never meant to hurt Marty. We had just been kidding around. We begged them not to call our parents, that we would deal with it ourselves. They told us our parents were going to have to pay all doctor and dentist bills.

So far, this was by far the worst day of my life. I walked home with my best friend, Louis Stone, who said to me he would talk to my parents. He knew it was unintentional and believed he could make my parents believe him.

My fears eased a little as Louis spoke. He was calm and kind and my parents liked him. They said they’d pay whatever bills they received and that Marty’s parents would accept their heartfelt apologies for my stupidity. I felt a little better when I went to bed but had an unbearable sense of guilt.

The rest of fifth grade is a blur to me now, a year of going to school and playing at home. I can remember almost nothing else, except Louis and I walking home from school over and over again.

Sixth grade I remember. I remember the birth of my baby brother, Kenny, two days before Christmas, and I remember the day our sixth grade teacher told us that Louis Stone had died in his sleep the night before from a cerebral hemorrhage. We had no idea what she was talking about. We never said a word.

Louis had disappeared and we were all suspended in shock. Except for my grandfather dying two years earlier, I didn’t know anything about death. My parents and I never discussed the subject.

A few weeks later, our first teacher took a leave of absence and was replaced by a permanent substitute, Mr. Kelly. Kelly was a very large man who had a feminine voice. We laughed when he spoke but we applauded when he took us out to the playground to play baseball,  his favorite sport. He took us out daily as the other two sixth grade classes stared out their windows with jealous faces.

Mr. Kelly surfaced again in high school when I found out he would be my ninth grade biology teacher. By then, I was also overweight like him, shy, no longer popular with the girls. But Mr. Kelly was cool because he kept us laughing.

I saw him once more a few years later at a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Town Center in Southfield, Michigan. I was getting pelted in the head with rolls of toilet paper and popcorn and turned around, furious at the joker behind me who had just doused me with soda pop. A high-talking voice laughed, “Arnie, I can’t believe it’s you!”

It was Mr. Kelly again and so I couldn’t feel that bad, even though I was covered with wet toilet paper. What was great about Mr. Kelly was that he always acted like he was still in fifth grade.

My daughter, Marlee, is in fifth grade now. She seems so much older than my friends and me when we were her age. Her mischief is instant messaging with 20 girls and 10 boys at the same time, all wanting to have their own my space.com websites.

I am happiest when she’s home playing with one of her best friends who is sleeping over, talking, laughing, giggling like the eleven-year-olds they are. I sometimes sit at her computer, playing solitaire, just making sure she and her friend fall asleep quietly, peacefully, the monsters and bedbugs kept away by me.

From Five Fathers

By Arnie Goldman

Copyright 2006

BookSurge, LLC

Botsford Elementary School

Caveman in the Flood

 

On Sunday, September 3, 2017, a day before Labor Day, Bruce Margolis posted these words on his Facebook page: “Always Help Someone. You Might Be the Only One Who Does.”

 

After a week and a half of the most intense flooding in the history of the United States, the most positive messages of Hurricane Harvey and its devastating  floods in South Texas were the incredible responses from so many in Texas and around the world. They came to save, to help, to inspire.

 

Harvey dumped a record 50 inches of rain over parts of Houston and its suburbs, putting much of the 4th largest metro area in the country under water but leaving telecommunications networks mostly intact. That had allowed rescuers to use cell phones, smartphone apps and social media to figure out where to go – either at the direction of professional responders or on their own.

 

Bruce Margolis, a retired Harris County emergency-services commissioner, known as Caveman (his name when he was on radio and as a stand-up comedian), put out an appeal on his Facebook page on Monday, August 28th, for boat owners to join his rescue effort and posted his cell phone number so flood victims could request help.

 

By Wednesday, August 30th, his “Caveman Rescue Team” had grown from 3 to 14 and then by Friday, September 1st, to about 30. They were camping out on his property and conducting rescue missions in Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur. He and his wife had also raised more than $5,000 through a GoFundMe page to cover fuel and other expenses.

 

Standing waist deep in flood waters all across the Houston area, Margolis fielded a steady stream of phone calls as he helped residents clamber into and out of boats and eventually onto dry land and into shelters. He had taken hundreds and hundreds of calls from distressed homeowners and others stuck in their living spaces that had become parasitic swamps of water.

 

TRAGEDY AND DISEASE NOT ENOUGH TO STOP RESCUES

 

Like so many millions of Americans and people all over the world, I watched videos and images on CNN and every other network from the first day Harvey struck Port Arthur and the South Texas coast until the flood waters rose and rose through 500 miles of Texas, literally burying much of the Harris County Houston area with more water than we had witnessed since Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 12 years earlier. What made this different for me were the postings of my sister’s high school classmate, Bruce Margolis, as he put out the call to his Facebook friends and then posted his words and images of what he witnessed over the next week.

 

Up until the devastating Hurricane Harvey and its flood aftermath in Southern Texas, Bruce was simply a neighbor of one of my best friends in high school who moved to Texas, a Facebook friend of mine, and a classmate and graduate (class of ’77) of my sister’s at Clarenceville High School in Livonia, Michigan. He was also one of the more political people on Facebook, a vehement critic of Donald Trump, a businessman who had a cigar business, and quite simply, in my mind, a Texas liberal. He and I would share our dismay at what was being said, tweet by tweet, from our president as well as the actions of his administration.

 

Bruce and my sister and I also shared a tragic past, his clouded by the shocking death of his mom and serious injury of his dad in a car accident in 2005, ours by our brother, Kenny, (also a friend of Bruce’s brother Jeremy) who was killed in a car accident in 1982. Bruce wrote at the beginning of 2016: “Almost 11 years ago to the minute, I received a telephone call from Sgt. Garofalo of the Bloomfield Township, Michigan, Police Department informing me that my parents, Bernard and Marlene, had been involved in a fatal car accident.

 

“From that moment on, my life, the lives of my siblings, our children, my aunts, uncles, and their children, my parents’ extended family, their friends and mine, and their co-workers changed forever.

 

“While time eases the pain, it never goes away. Fortunately, and more importantly the life lessons, memories, laughs, and smiles they shared with those of us who knew and loved them, are etched in our hearts and minds forever.

 

“The positive lessons they taught me, stay with me daily. The good things I do are because of lessons they taught me and promises I made to them to make the world a better place.”

 

Bruce has been making the “world a better place” for a long time. He told me other than being a defense contractor in his 30s, he was a part time fire fighter and paramedic. He had also entertained on the radio and as a stand-up comic as Caveman, started American Man Cave stores and the Caveman Cigar Company, and became the Harris County Emergency Services Commissioner. All of these experiences (Bruce calls himself a total Type-A-adrenaline junkie) allowed him to call on and lead others to save fellow Houston citizens in their time of need.

 

What made this all the more astounding is that Bruce has lived through life and death battles with disease for much of his life, including three bouts of cancer, two heart attacks, a year in the hospital with lungs filled with blood clots and most recently in May, kidney problems. But that didn’t stop Bruce from calling on his friends and fellow Texans to save other Texans. He put other lives ahead of his own.

 

 

 

FIGHTING THE TOXIC FLOODS

On Sunday, August 27, Bruce wrote on his Facebook page: “If you, or anyone you know needs to get out of a flooded area, please let me know. A few of us retired first responders are loading up a boat, gasoline, winch, emergency supplies, etc. We can help if you need it.” Later that evening, he wrote, “Made it back safe and sound. The flood waters and storm devastation are so bad out there. If need be, Anthony Wright, April Phillips, and I, will go out again tomorrow with the boat, and emergency supplies, to assist anyone we can reach safely.” And at 10:46pm, he pleaded, “If anyone has a flat bottom boat they would let my friends and I use to get some flood bound people out of their homes, please contact me. The boat we are using currently is small, and a larger boat would make a huge difference in helping us to help flood victims get to safety. We can also use any extra life jackets that you can loan us. Please share this post.” They called themselves the Three Amigos Rescue team and went to Seven Acres Senior Citizens Home to help.

On August 28th, he wrote, “We ran out of daylight and left 60 people in a school because it became too dangerous with water getting deeper, currents, and darkness. We DESPERATELY NEED A BIGGER BOAT, or several!!! All rescue efforts are by volunteers. Please help us save trapped people. We need a bigger boat by morning.” On August 29th, he told us, “Waters are rapidly rising. Tell anyone needing rescue to hang white towels from doors and windows, and to stay put until they see a rescue team.” At this point, the Caveman Rescue Team were “wet, tired, and extremely grateful that we were able to make a positive difference in the lives of so many families. The Team Volunteers are an amazing group of selfless individuals. I am so proud of them. Tomorrow morning we’ll be back at it. Thanks to all of you for the emotional and financial support. Your support means the world to countless Texans, their friends and families, Caveman Rescue Team, and most especially, yours truly.

The next day, Caveman Rescue Team worked with several rescue teams, successfully getting over 500 people, and countless pets out of harm’s way, south of Memorial Drive to Briar Forest, west from Highway 6, east to Wilcrest. The team in Port Arthur rescued and relocated numerous people, and four horses. Bruce displayed a picture on Facebook of a smiling dog. When asked about it, Bruce wrote, the (dog’s) “owner is in LA on business. She left her dog, and cat with a neighbor; the neighbor apparently evacuated days ago, leaving the beautiful animals locked in an empty apartment. When she returns, her fur babies will be waiting.”

Bruce was interviewed by Houston Public Radio, the National Public Radio’s Morning Addition tomorrow morning, as well as Reuters News Agency. He also had a news crew from Italy riding along and accompanying them during their rescue efforts, and a news crew from Spain. They also took CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and her team of doctors and scientists out to get water samples to determine the pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in the floodwaters.

Allison Lee from Houston Public Radio (“Volunteers are Helping with Water Rescue Efforts,” August 31, 2017), wrote, “Rescue efforts have been underway for nearly a week now. Emergency responders have been working tirelessly around the clock, and volunteers are pitching in to rescue victims of Tropical Storm Harvey. Bellville resident Bruce Margolis says he has organized a volunteer rescue team—made of 7 boats and about 14 volunteers, so far. News 88.7 caught up with him, before he headed over to Memorial and Kirkwood, on the Westside. Margolis says some on his team are retired emergency responders, and they’re also using boats from other cities and states.

“‘We’ve got Florida here, we’ve got Fort Worth, we’ve got Dallas, we’ve got local ones. We’ve got Michigan on the way. We’ve got more [from] Florida on the way, too,’ he said. While resources are coming in from other cities, Margolis says being a local resident is also an advantage to rescue efforts. ‘We know the area better than a lot of the folks coming in from out of state, or around the state,’ he said. ‘We try to get to the places they’re not.’

“Margolis has been posting some of his team’s rescue efforts on social media. Margolis says emotions run high, for both the evacuees and the rescue team. ‘It’s emotional, when you rescue a baby,’ he said. ‘Or you see that senior citizen who can’t walk and we’re having to carry them through the water.’ He says they ask for them to take only the very bare essentials. ‘There’s a lot of nervousness. They have got all the anxiety and all the emotions of leaving everything behind,’ says Margolis. ‘They literally have the clothes on their back. Some of them have a bag, some of them have a couple suitcases, and lot of them have just what they’re wearing.’ He says some people in rescue areas have refused to go with them, and they’ve lost count of how many people they have rescued.”

 

 

SICKNESS, SORROW, AND A LONG CLIMB BACK TO DRY LAND

On Sunday, September 3rd, Bruce’s Facebook friend, Dwayne Williams, wrote, “Bruce I have been so impressed this past week not only in you and your team and the terrific job you have done, but also the thousands of Americans who selflessly sprung into action to help those in desperate need. The road ahead will be challenging but there is no doubt that Texas will recover and will be that beacon of light that shows the world what Americans can accomplish together. God Bless.”

After more than a week of Team Caveman and his boats of rescuers going door to door across Texas, there were at least 40 people in South Texas who perished but Bruce’s crews saved over 1000 people and animals from the perils of flooding toxic waters. They were part of many heroic rescue efforts from professionals from all over the world and simple citizens who just wanted to help. Estimates are that over 75,000 people were saved from drowning, illness, and other hazards.

When the calls for rescue ended and Team Caveman finally rested, Bruce admitted that he was exhausted. “On behalf of Team Caveman,” he summed up, “we are honored to be able to make a difference. The outpouring of civilian volunteers coming from across the nation and around the world has been mind blowing. Those civilians who took off of work, brought in their high water rescue vehicles, boats, canoes, kayaks, medical and first aid equipment, cases of water, etc., should restore even the most cynical person that people will help people in their moment of need.

“Now that the rescues have are down, and the waters begin to recede, the next chapter begins. The recovery/repair chapter does not make for interesting pictures and videos. It is a non-glorious, filthy, and still dangerous phase of the story known as Harvey.

“Team Caveman volunteers are running on little rest, and minimal food breaks, as the dozen or so volunteers remain. We will continue the efforts of providing relief, as well as distributing monetary gift cards to the individuals and families that lost everything. Every bit of effort, and all financial donations matter. Team Caveman is made up of 100% volunteers. Donations go straight to those in need, without a penny going toward overhead or staffing. We are still accepting and distributing donations. This will continue as until the last dollar has helped those effected by devastation resulting from Harvey. https://www.gofundme.com/evxaav-harvey-disaster-fund#GoTeamCaveman

Bruce and his teams admitted they knew the “risks, visible and invisible,” with the Harvey Rescue. They found out from the inspector amidst the CNN crew that the waters were filled with bacteria, chemicals, and fecal matter. Several of his team, including Bruce, began to experience some health issues and one of his team members because very ill and was admitted to a Houston Hospital, where she was pumped full of liquids and antibiotics and a tetanus shot before being released.

 

FAITH IN MANKIND

On Facebook, Bruce calls himself President for Life and Founder of Project World Peace. “Life is always interesting and never boring,” he claims. “After several years of utter craziness, I’ve dedicated the remainder of my life and energy to teaching the world the importance of tolerance, peace, and love.” And on Labor Day, 2017, he wrote, “It’s not about political affiliation, religious or spiritual beliefs, ethnicity, race, sexuality, or where we’re from. The volunteers that make up Team Caveman, who left their comfort zones, homes, and families, to risk their lives to help strangers, are my proof. They are my heroes! Our volunteers were Asian, Brown, Black, White, liberal, moderate, conservative, straight, gay, atheist, Christian, Jewish, Pagan, women, men, from Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, and Ontario, Canada. Donations for our efforts have come from across the nation, and around the world. We rescued everyone we could, without judgement or prejudices.

“My faith in mankind is stronger than ever. So please, after the Harvey tragedy is over, I hope people will quit judging others for their beliefs, show empathy, practice random acts of kindness, spread kindness, peace, and love!”

Eleven years after his parents’ car accident, Bruce wrote, “To this day, people who hear of the accident say ‘I’m so sorry.’ While the sentiment is appreciated, there is no reason to express condolences or sorrow anymore. You see, my parents never really left me. They remain alive within me, I talk to them daily, and it’s amazing how much guidance they provide to me throughout my days. Of course I miss their physical presence, sharing life events with them, our conversations, their loving hugs and kisses.

“I am thankful for everything they gave me. I know they did the best they knew how to do and loved me, my sister, my brothers, their grandchildren, our entire family and their friends. Most of all, I know how much they loved one another. For all of that, I am grateful. Still, this date and hour are painful. Regardless, when I think of Bernie and Marlene, between the tears I smile, I am thankful for the life they gave me, and the time we had together. My only regret is that they didn’t get to know Michelle and Joshua. Mom, Dad, thank you. You are missed. I love you.

“Perhaps Facebook is an odd place to share this piece of myself and my parents. But putting it into words, and sharing my love of my parents with others, somehow makes it easier for me to get through this day.”

Bruce told me that his parents knew that he loved to help others and were inspired by his time as a Fireman and Paramedic. But in the years since their passing, Bruce has never given up, no matter what diseases and troubles came his way. He has shown his compassion, political passion, and caring toward others, all exemplified by his efforts since Hurricane Harvey, calling out of nowhere to so many others to help him help others.

Bruce has done his family proud. His parents must be looking down on him and smiling at the boy they raised, the boy who became a Caveman in the Flood, leading others, rescuing everyone he could, without judgement or prejudice, spreading kindness, peace, and love throughout the deep, dark, frightening waters of Texas

Bruce Margolis parents

Support Great Causes in Israel

 

I was not aware of Shai Asher (Milton’s Gift), an Israeli charity that provides meaningful employment and career training for people with disabilities. I doubt if many Americans has heard of Jeremy’s Circle in Tel Aviv, an organization that supports children living with cancer, or Sulam L’Atid, a charitable organization in Jerusalem that helps impoverished Israeli high school students advance to higher education by giving them free tutorials along with economic support.

 

It is hard enough for Israel to survive amidst the incredible pressure from its Middle East neighbors, the European Union, and the United Nations. Imagine what it’s like for so many of its excellent charities to survive. Many American Jews would like to support Israel’s worthy charitable organizations but they don’t know most of them and do not have an easy way to contribute and get tax deductions. Until now.

 

Imagine supporting Israel, your way. You can now donate to any of dozens of outstanding Israeli charities when you sign up with Cause:Israel (www.causeisrael.org.)

 

“Ever wish you could help shape Israel today and what it will be like in the future…without getting into political arguments on Facebook? We do too! So, we made a modern tzedakah box that lets you do exactly that!” That’s the tagline from the homepage of Cause:Israel, which was developed by Jewcer (www.jewcer.org), a nonprofit that helps organizations and individuals run crowdfunding campaigns. Jewcer charges fees for those campaigns which pay for all the operation of all their programs, including Cause:Israel. This is why they are able to make sure that more support gets to the Israeli organizations that need it.

 

 

Personalized Giving

 

Cause:Israel allows you to pick the organization you want your donation to go , and it only includes organizations in Israel that have been thoroughly vetted by known and respected, trusted organizations such as Midot The Good People Fund or The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. It has developed a unique algorithm that takes into account your preferred causes and the history of your picks, and checks out what’s trending within the Cause:Israel community. Based on these factors, it chooses three organizations to send you every month. Then you pick the one that receives your tax deductible contribution.

 

You can click to see more than the top three nonprofits for that month and pick a different organization that speaks to your heart. You can also go into your preferences and change the types of causes you care about and then the system will recalculate the best picks for you. If you aren’t able to find an organization that you want to support, you can contact support@causeisrael.org and recommend it.

 

 

Trusted Organizations and Taxes Made Easy

 

This is what makes this simple and effective: 100% of your donation is tax deductible. Cause:Israel does not take any fees and do not take any fees from donors. You will get a receipt after each donation is processed and one report and receipt at the end of the year for all your contributions, to receive your U.S. tax deduction. A small incentive for you, but a big impact for the causes in Israel you care about

It has been difficult to find out much about Israeli charities but now, there is one website that gives critical information and allows contributions at the same time. Finally, American Jews and non-Jews alike can donate to many vitally important charitable organizations, simply and easily.

 

Tikkun Olam was never as easy as it has become on the Internet and it’s even easier today because of www.causeisrael.org. So for anyone who deeply cares about the people of Israel and wants a simple way to support good Israeli charities, sign up today at Cause:Israel.

 

No matter how easy it is, it is still vitally important to keep trying to repair the world, one person, one donation, one gift of giving at a time.Cause Israel Diverse Hands