With all my recent back and forth flights from Israel I’ve had a long time to think about this moment and originally had pages and pages of incredible stories, describing all of Dad’s amazing attributes and accomplishments. The hardest part was narrowing my remarks and at the same time trying to do justice to my father, my best friend.
My father, Michael (Meir Yitzchak) Weisz, was born in the shadow of the Holocaust. My Dad was named after both of his grandfathers, his paternal grandfather was Meir Weisz and maternal grandfather was Meir Yitzchak Moskowitz. Like so many of his friends who were born a decade after the Holocaust, Dad didn’t know any of his grandparents, except that he carried their name and their legacy.
My grandfather, George Weisz would walk to synagogue every Sabbath holding my dad and aunt’s hand and make them promise that they would always remain Sabbath-observant Jews, loyal to God’s commandments. That was the kind of home my grandparents worked so hard to recreate after the Holocaust, rebuilding a new life from scratch in the United States, and that was the home my father grew up in.
During High School, my Dad got involved with outreach efforts to unaffiliated Jewish teenagers. This was the early 1970’s and once when my grandmother picked him up from an event and saw all the public school kids with long hair or whatever, she said, “Michael – you don’t belong with these kids, why are you hanging around kids like that?” His answer as a high school student, was: “Because they need me.”
High School was particularly worthwhile for my Dad, since that’s when he met my Mom. It was love at first sight when they were 14 and 15 years old. My Dad thought the freshman girl from Columbus was the most beautiful he had ever seen.
When watching TV with his sister Linda, he would say, don’t you think Chanita is prettier than anyone on the show they were watching. My Mom was most impressed with how Dad took care of her. If they made up to meet at a certain time, he’d arrive a few minutes early. Whatever she needed, he provided. And that’s how its been ever since and they have been inseparable ever since.
Mom and Dad dated throughout their years together at Yeshiva University and got married in 1979 before my Dad started Capital Law School in Columbus.
While in law school, I was born and Mom and Dad became very young parents at the age of 21 and 22. In high school, college, law school and in his first job at a big law firm, my Dad always found mentors and he absorbed their wisdom. He would frequently quote from a law professor or tell me what he learned from a partner in the law firm. However, of all his mentors, it’s clear that he had one who stood head and shoulders above everyone else and that was his father in law, Rabbi David Stavsky.
After my sister Leah was born, my parents bought a home 3 doors down from my Mom’s parents. I believe that is when my father became especially close with my grandfather, Rabbi Stavsky.
Our family continued to grow as my sister Ariella was born and then a few years later Mina, and then Mom and Dad started thinking that perhaps they had outgrown Columbus and needed to move to a larger Jewish community. After all, there was no Jewish High School here and so my parents started thinking very seriously about moving to Cleveland and were even looking at houses there.
However, like when my Dad was in High School, he looked around at the community here, which he and my mom loved so much, and said to himself, “They need me here.” Rather than do what was easier, Dad joined a group of other community leaders and began working tirelessly on creating a high school. He was always proud to have served as the first President of the new Columbus Torah Academy High School when it opened in 1991.
My Dad was at the height of this successful career as a lawyer and real estate developer, had married off his 4 kids and was enjoying the little grandchildren who he was just starting to bond with as “Zeide Mike”, when his stomach started to bother him and his eyes started to show some hints of jaundice. It was a terrible Friday afternoon that my parents got the devastating diagnosis: Pancreatic Cancer. A silent and rapid form of cancer that kills 95% in the first 5 years.
We had known the deadly effects of this terrifying disease, and my Mom was particularly traumatized having seen her father, Rabbi Stavsky, suffer so much just a few years earlier. After the initial shock wore off, my parents went for a consult at OSU. “I am sorry there’s nothing we can do” the top surgeon at Ohio State said. Undeterred, my parents courageously went for a second opinion at Johns Hopkins and Baltimore and got the same disappointing news. They went for a 3rd opinion at Sloan Kettering and got the same bad news. With my Mom behind him 100%, once again my Dad said to himself, “They need me. My parents need me. My kids need me. My community needs me.” and they went for a 4th opinion and found Dr. John Chabot at Columbia Hospital in NY who was cautiously optimistic, and gave my Dad the one thing we all needed more than anything else: Hope.
My Dad prepared for the surgery with Chemo and Radiation and most importantly, spiritual fortitude. He met with a leading rabbi in Brooklyn who, the day before the surgery, told him what he needed to hear most: Hashem can even remove Pancreatic Cancer and you are going to serve as a “living Kiddush Hashem”, an inspiration to other people of the power of Hashem’s kindness, so don’t be afraid for tomorrow isn’t a scary day, tomorrow is a joyous day. You’re putting yourself in Hashem’s hands and Hashem has more great plans for you.
We arrived at the crack of dawn and before going into the surgery Dad blessed his 4 children with the Priestly Blessing. We prayed our hearts out and after 13 hours, Dr. Chabot emerged and told us he got out the entire tumor.
That was 7 years ago. Since then, Dad’s role changed. He took his role as a “living Kiddush Hashem” seriously and began inspiring and encouraging others that miracles really do happen. Every few weeks someone just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer would get in touch with Mom and Dad and they’d offer advice and words of encouragement.
Despite the radiation, the ongoing chemo month after month after month for years, despite all kinds of side effects, he never ever complained. Just last week he told me that at times the pain could be unbearable, I was surprised to hear that since he never complained about being in pain.
He used his precious time as best as he could, knowing that he was given an extra lease on life by Hashem, but also knowing that according to statistics, the cancer could return with a vengeance any second. More than any physical pain, the emotional challenge of living with such pressure was agonizing, yet during the past 7 years my Dad, who always took care of everything for us, continued to do so, because we still needed him.
I just want to conclude and say, on behalf of Abby and myself, on behalf of Leah and Uriel, Ariella and Jonathan, and Mina and Steven. Thank you Dad. Thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for teaching us so much about what it means to be a father, a husband, a son and son in law, a brother, a community leader, a business partner and a friend. We didn’t learn everything, but we learned a lot from you, more than we could have learned from anyone else and there’s no one else we would have been prouder to call our father.
When I was a kid, the only time I remember seeing my father get emotional was at a family get together and he would always end his remarks thanking Hashem that his parents were there and bless them that they would see more family occasions. He would always tear up when blessing his Holocaust survivor parents with long life.
With so many more happy occasions ahead of us, we are so devastated that we won’t be able to have you with us. But we will carry you in our hearts. We will tell all our kids “Zeide Mike” stories. We will follow in your giant footsteps. We will take care of each other and take care of Mom and Mama Pepi in this world and hope that you take care of us from heaven.
You’ve been through so much on our behalf, you have fought so hard and so courageously for us – and now you can rest. As Mom has said over and over the past few terrible days, we accept whatever Hashem does, and we accept this. May your soul be bound in eternal life.
Michael Weisz loved Israel365 and especially “The Israel Bible” which he gave generous support to and was proud that it helped so many learn about the deeper significance of Israel. The Michael Weisz Memorial Fund will support his legacy long into the future.