It took nearly thirty years for me to write the book, GABRIEL AND ESTHER, that was launched in July, 2022. And although ades have passed since I began to write this book, I was not writing the work continuously. I wrote other things. And life inevitably got in the way.

There was the terminal illness and death of my Dad. I watched this lion of a man who had always been the Man In My Life, no matter our issues, wither into physical ‘tininess’ from the ravages of cancer. We tried everything. Chemo and radiation. Alternative treatments that required us to go to Philly twice a week for infusions of … I have no idea what. His lungs were tapped several times. He was in and out of hospitals.

Dad was hypochondriacal. But something emerged in him during this process of hideous decay. Stoicism. He became the fiercest of jungle lions, always ready to pounce on the diseased prey. This new aspect of Dad looked remarkably like heroism and was a surprise to those of us who knew him best and loved him most. He didn’t whine or whimper, complain or ask “Why me?” He longed to taste every drop of life he could. He wanted to extend his stay for much longer than the doctors’ projected.

That ten-year-old boy, who marched his family from Russia to France to catch a ship headed for Ellis Island, and then conquered the American dream …. re-emerged. That young Russian boy, that take-charge leader, re-appeared in a new and almost Four-Star General way. All leanings toward melancholy, negativity and hopelessness waned. He studied the accumulated research. He listened attentively to every medical person’s position, then all of us digested the info, and from our legal pads crammed with notes, we crystallized a plan. This physically small man became a giant and never for a moment lost his position as …


Family from all over the world visited. He luxuriated in the attention and was humbled by the number of people who really cared. I was never prouder of him. Although I didn’t actually buy a home in our hometown and move back, I did move my computer, books, Bibles and clothes back home and lived with my parents for seven months.

I was so scared. All the love I ever had for him quantum leaped into full-blown admiration. We worked through the nonsense of our shared past and let it go. We took the time and put effort and energy into tabling our issues and talking them through until there was nothing left to talk about.

He was earnestly apologetic. Most of the examples of our troubled relationship surprised him. He kept repeating, “I did that?” Mom would confirm that yes, indeed, he had. He hugged me and apologized. I thought I was dreaming. But instead, it was just me melting into gooey caramel and soft, sweet chocolate.

* * * * * * *

The Passover Holiday was a huge event for our family, as it is for most Jewish people around the globe. The Passover Seder is the happiest of all family Holiday festivals because it represents our flight from Egypt and ultimate freedom. For multiple decades, Mom prepared food weeks in advance. Dad poured over scholarly material and Haggadas (the official Holiday handbook of stories, songs and history). All the kids looked forward to the four cups of icky sweet Mogan David wine we would be permitted to sip. Excitement heightened as the night approached.

On this particular Passover year of 2000, since Dad was in the hospital, we decided to have our Seder at a lovely hotel. It was a kosher hotel that was accustomed to serving Passover meals to Jewish families.

Dad was in a hospital in Philly, and while at home, when Mom and I were dressing to leave for the hotel, we heard an ambulance siren so close, it had to be in our driveway. It was. Two huge dudes carried Dad, by stretcher, into our home and deposited him on the sofa. Dad decided he was not going to miss his last Seder, so he insisted the doctors release him without their medical sanction.

We carefully dressed him, placed him in the car with a wheelchair, a briefcase bulging with his books, 3″ x 5″ cards of notes and years of accumulated research. As we wheeled him into the room that had been set up for our family of about seventeen people, everyone cheered, applauded, cried and ran up to him with love-filled arms to embrace him and to place kisses on every part of him they could reach. IT WAS GLORIOUS and Mom and I were overwhelmed with joy and with a sadness and finality we had never known. (My sister and her family were in Europe watching Adam play soccer, that’s why there is no mention of that little clan.)

Dad’s voice was weak, but his words were stunning and academic; they flowed from him in an easy cadence threaded with authority and command. I was awed. I was struck almost numb with some of the deepest emotions of my life.

It was a celebration, and it was the end of an era. Never again would my Dad lead us in the story of our people’s flight from Egypt.

 I captured all of it on film and created little albums for everyone who attended that Seder. I handed them out at Dad’s funeral just ten days later.

 It is now twenty years since he passed out of this world. It seems like forever ago; it seems like the week before last. I miss him more than I ever would have dared believe possible. He had so radically changed during his walk toward death, that by the time he was truly gone, he was the Dad I had yearned for all my life.

He was kind and gentle with me. He touched my hair to push strands from my face. He looked directly into my eyes that reflected pride and unfailing love. He was broken, and all the anger and aggression were gone. He saw me clearly and both loved and admired what he saw.

It was late, but it was not too late. It changed the trajectory of my life and allowed me to slowly grow into a woman of strength and determination, knowing that I had my Dad’s approval. This knowledge permitted me to soar into my own destiny and give the world the gifts G-D has given me. I was released to fly with eagles. I was released into the kind of freedom that breaks metal chains and pierces rigid armor. I was released to be all that G-D had planned for His TONI LISA, a herald, a harbinger to the nations.

There is a P.S. about Dad and me that is worth reporting because of its utter preciousness and absurdity. He was nearing his end and Mom and he and I were in our kitchen. Dad asked me, “Toni Lisa, what’s the thing you regret most about your life?” The answer slid easily from me like beads of water flowing down a windowpane.

“Not having kids.”

“Well, that’s not an unfixable problem. How about I just buy you one?”

Mom instantly stopped whatever she was doing at the sink, sat down between Dad and me, and said, “SOLOMON, DO NOT BUY HER A KID!! (I cracked up.)

Mom continued, “Toni Lisa is fifty-three years old, Sol. She has a life. It may not be the life she dreamed of when she was fifteen, but I know Toni as well as I know you, and parenting is not something she needs to start NOW! We don’t get everything we want in life. And a child is not something our daughter is going to have. She’s got a life, children or no children, and she is not prepared to start that kind of journey when she’s middle-aged and single. DO NOT BUY HER A CHILD! PROMISE ME! (By now I’m nearly rolling on the floor.)

Poor Dad looked at me and said, “What’s so funny? I thought I was just going to fix your life with a simple purchase before I die.”

For a brilliant man, Dad could be just so so … what? Ludicrous is all I can come up with. But ya gotta love the guy. I just stood up behind him, hugged his neck, gave him a kiss   on his cheek and said, “That is so sweet of you, Dad. Thank you so much for wanting me to have what I don’t have and what I most regret about my life. You’re the best.”