DR. SHMUEL ESHAGHPOUR – (1931 – 2014)
My dad was a quiet person who cared about helping people without any expectation of return. He wholeheartedly believed in the power of education, in all its forms, and that principle navigated his life through ups and downs geographically, socio-economically and spiritually. By means of life sacrifices until he drew his last breath, my dad demonstrated that making a difference in other people’s lives is the essence of humanity.
My family and myself were truly touch by the amazing outpour of love, compassion and support during the past few difficult months. Thank you to each one of you for calling, texting, emailing and inquiring about our father. We have been asked to share speeches from the memorial services and have attached some to this email for your reading and inspiration.
David & Romina
On behalf of Gillian, Emy and Katia
DR. SHMUEL ESHAGHPOUR
Dr. Shmuel Eshaghpour was born on March 21, 1931 in Tehran, Iran to Yehuda and Farang Eshaghpour, and brother to Khanom, Eshagh, Victoria and Yoosef. Growing up in Iran, my uncle found himself fascinated with academic exploration, and specifically the area of medicine. When his friends were playing soccer in the streets, he was reading books. His room was off limits to everyone. In fact, one day when he forgot to lock it, his mother found in his closet a real human skeleton that he was studying.
After graduating from Kourosh High School, he studied medicine for a year in the University of Tehran. When he was accepted into Sorbonne University School of Medicine, he left Iran with his cousin and best friend, Esagh Eshaghoff (son of Hagi Morad), to move to Paris. He was determined to excel and spent days and nights mastering his studies. He made a pact with Esagh that from the first day onward, they would only speak in French with one another. Considering that they knew no French at that time, you can imagine the type of exchanges they must have had in those early days. My uncle graduated from Sorbonne, in the top five percent of his class, with specialties in Psychology and Pediatrics. He believed that his calling was helping people, and specifically, children. In 1961, he found himself doing rotations in various hospitals in London. That’s where he met his true love, Gillian, to whom he proposed to and got married in 1963.
Immediately after their honeymoon, empowered by Zionistic aspirations, my uncle confessed to his new wife that his dream was to make Aliya to Israel and to help build a nation. And so, rather than returning home to Iran and his family, and without knowing any Hebrew, the young couple left the cultural giant of Europe and moved to Israel, a country surrounded by enemies that struggled for survival. The country at that time was very different from now. It was life under constant economic recession where basic domestic home goods were scarce and running hot water and electricity were considered a luxury.
Concentrating on child development and the need to attend to children with mental disabilities, my uncle founded “The Institute of Child Development”, in The Sheba Hospital in Tel Ha Shomer, which is the largest hospital in Israel, and in the entire Middle East. The Center aims to advance children with delay or disability to the maximum level of independence and social integration according to their personal potential as well as educate, support and teach acceptance to such children’s families.
In addition, in days where children with disabilities and mental challenges remained neglected and without proper care, he organized and conducted workshops throughout Israel tailored to kindergarten teachers, social workers and educators as to ways to deal with and properly care for children with severe disabilities.
During the same period, he had a pediatric clinic in Ramat Gan, caring for children from infancy to majority age. He quickly identified the great need for educating many new mothers how to care for their newborns. After all, he always argued, that while top universities throughout the world offer advance teachings as to becoming a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, there are no schools or classes for the most important and fundamental profession in our lives which is how to become a mother. Accordingly, he ran a weekly program called “A Drop of Milk”, where he would teach new mothers basic aspects of caring for their infants such as changing diapers, giving a bath or nursing.
He was well-renowned and respected throughout Israel, and sought out for his expertise, even by physicians from other countries. He treated generations of patients, always available to lend his specialty to anyone in need, especially visitors from his home country.
In the late 80s, he was asked to become the director of Israel’s central region for child development, further advancing Israel’s now world leading treatment of disabled and mentally challenged children.
As part of his military service, my uncle participated in two wars: the “Six Day War” and the “Yom Kippur War”, where he examined and treated wounded Israeli soldiers and Arab prisoners of war. And he annually volunteered his medical services to the Israeli Army. During the first Gulf War, his clinic was hit and completely destroyed by a scud missile sent by Saddam Houssein, whereby he had to operate a new clinic out of his house.
In 1999, after retirement, with his older children, Emy and David, already in America, my uncle and Gillian along with the youngest daughter, Katia, moved to San Francisco, to live alongside their children and grandchildren. Here, my uncle was able to pursue many cultural interests and discover new artistic talents. He was an avid fan of classical music, played the violin, wrote poetry in four languages and published two poetry books. He also painted in watercolors and ink and continued his passion for swimming, frequenting the pool on a daily basis for over 40 years. My uncle enjoyed studying and had a gift for languages. Already fluent in Farsi, English, French and Hebrew, he taught himself Russian, Arabic, Italian and Spanish.
He is survived by his wife, Gillian, his children, Emy, David and Katia, and children-in-law, Farhad, Romina and Jonathan, and nine beautiful grandchildren, Ariel, Shlomi, Michal, Oliver, Eliana, Eden, Lexi, Claudia and Max.
My uncle was a most gentle and compassionate soul, with a beautiful giving heart. At no time during his lifetime was he driven by money or stature, although he was indeed a gentle giant. He dedicated his life to helping others. And that is what he was all about. He will greatly miss him.
Memorial Servicefor Dr. Shmuel Eshaghpour
January 19, 2014
18 Shevat 5774
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks brought the following teaching:
“There are those who see the world as it is and accept it. That is the stoic way.
There are those who see the world as it is and flee from it. That is the mystic, monastic way.
But there are those who see the world as it is and change it. That is the Jewish way.”
There’s much in the world that ought to be maintained as is, traditions that ought to be passed down because their wisdom is timeless.
And much of Judaism is dedicated to maintaining timeless traditions.
But from at least as far back as the time when God told Moses to tell Pharoah, ויעבדוני עמי את שלח sh’lach et ami veya’avduni – let My people go so that they may serve Me – the children of Israel have been encouraged to understand that certain situations should NOT remain status quo, and that, in such situations, positive change should be sought and implemented.
I’m honored that Dr. Shmuel Eshaghpour’s son, David, shared with me some of the highlights of his father’s life and accomplishments.
He seems to me to have been a man who was not afraid to make difficult changes in his own life. Born in Iran, he pursued studies in Europe and then made a change that many of us talk about and pray about but don’t actually do. He made aliya to Israel.
He also dedicated his professional life to helping other people make appropriate changes. With his background in psychology, for example, he taught generations of parents how to relate to their children more effectively.
To look at the world, not always the way it is, but the way it might be, and should be, and moreover to dedicate your personal and professional life to encouraging the transformation from the real to the ideal – is a very Jewish way of conducting oneself.
Judaism is about transmission, to be sure, but it’s also about transformation.
I offer Dr. Eshaghpour’s family and friends my deep condolences. I know that he has taught you many lessons throughout his life and in perhaps in particular as he faced serious physical limitations in recent years.
I humbly suggest that among the many lessons he taught you, you try to internalize and to understand that a Jew sees the world as it is and says, “What can I do to make it better?”
That question is the bedrock of our identity as a people and a major part of the glorious yerusha, the legacy, that Dr. Eshaghpour leaves behind.
יהי זכרו ברוך
May his name always be a source of blessing.
– Rabbi Howard Stecker
LEXI’S SPEECH FOR PAPA
There was a certain thing about my grandfather. He was always just so loving and caring and perfect. Papa had a certain magic about him, he always knew how to make everything right. Whenever any of us were sick, my mom would call Papa….even though he was far away.
When I was about five years old, almost every night before I went to sleep, I used to have a stomach ach or butterflies. After about the fifth or sixth time that it happened, my mom called Papa. Papa asked me a few questions and told me to get one of my softest and plushiest teddy bear, and put it under my shirt, on my tummy, the next night and just sleep like that for the rest of the night. That night I followed Papa’s instruction and my stomach was all better. From that night on, every time I had a stomach ach before going to sleep, I used the teddy bear to make it go away.
I am now ten years old and I still believe in the magic of the teddy bear and Papa. And so last week, when my parents went to California for the funeral, and my 5 year old brother Max had a stomach ach, I passed on my very special teddy to him. And guess what……it worked!
In the last 5 years or so, when Papa wasn’t allowed to come to New York to visit, every time my dad went to visit him and Mama, he chose one of us to come. Since Oliver, Claudia, Max and I would fight to go, we took turns. Each time I was the lucky one to go, I would cherish the time I spent with my Papa and wish for more. Now that he has passed, I regret not spending more time with him, but the moments we have spent with each other, will forever be in my heart.
I don’t think there is one second in my Papa’s life, that he would like to go back and change, because he had such a wonderful life and he was surrounded by the people he loved. Papa would never shout or scream. He was always very calm and gentle. It was as if he was whispering, when he spoke. I miss my Papa and always will. Goodbye Papa.
ROMINA’S SPEECH FOR PAPA
On the day after Thanksgiving, five years ago, as my father-in-law lay in the ICU, after his multiple strokes and all his doctors had given up hope on him, an angel came down from the heavens to take him to Gan Eden. Come with me, said the angel, it is time to go…your time on this earth has come to an end. But Dr. Shmuel pleaded, I am not ready to go now. I have not seen my youngest daughter get married. Please let me stay and walk her down the aisle. It is my ultimate wish to see that day. Please allow me to stay, and witness my grandchildren grow. And it has been only a few short weeks since the Brit Milla of my new grandson. I deserve the right to get to know him, and for him to remember me. I need more time on this earth.
This is a very unorthodox request, noted the angel. You are a doctor yourself, Shmuel. You understand fully that there is no hope left. Yet the angel considered this request. The following week, as Dr. Shmuel lay between worlds in the ICU, the angel reappeared. You have sacrificed much on this earth, said the angel, giving up all that was important and loved by you, to make Aliya to Israel, because you believed that your calling as a Zionist was to help establish a Jewish state….and to help children who were less fortunate. You saved the lives of many children in Israel, when others had, but given up hope on them. For this, amongst other reasons, I shall grant your wish…but….. for a short time.
I will give you five years….almost exactly to the date from today. If you leave now, you will not suffer at all. However, if you should stay for these five years, life will be extremely hard for you. I will allow your mind to work fully, yet all the things that you earthly beings take for granted…I cannot give you. Your power of speech and communication would be taken away from you. You will not be able to walk again. You will not be able to eat or drink the way you did. Life will be very difficult, and you will get… but, five years from this day. When that time expires….you must then walk this path with me.
In what appeared a miraculous set of circumstances, my father-in-law was released from the ICU shortly thereafter, and was admitted to a rehabilitating center, where he began a long and difficult path of accepting the new life he was given. In that time, he persevered against all odds to live a meaningful life, where he taught himself how to write with his left hand, occupy himself by teaching himself Italian and Spanish, and immersed himself with reading and drawing. Throughout those days, he never abandoned his faith, praying three times a day, with gratitude to Hashem for giving him a second chance.
In these five years, he got his ultimate wish….and that is, to see his daughter Katia get married to a wonderful man. With the help of many, he walked her down the aisle. It was indeed a beautiful site for all of us to witness and remember. He saw Ariel and Shlomi graduate from high school and enter college. He attended Michal’s Bat Mitzvah and was able to closely see Eliana, Eden, Lexi and Claudia grow. He took much joy in getting to know Max. Lastly, two months ago, the day before he went to the hospital, he held Oliver’s hand, as he proudly chanted his Haftora. How happy we were that he was a part of that day.
In these five years, although life was not easy for my father-in-law, we were given a gift, and that is to have him as a part of our lives for just a bit longer. In these past five years, he taught us all…that life….and all that we do, on a daily basis, like walking or talking or even having a cup of coffee, should not be taken for granted. He taught us about the will of a man….that against all odds, no matter what obstacles stand before us, we are all fighters inside. We could all persevere. He taught us to never give up on our faith….that all will be o.k., and that life is good. Even in the end, he was a fighter….as he fought to remain alive, with no food or water for the last seven weeks. We were and will always remain in awe, of his sheer will to live.
Dr. Shmuel was….what is all that is good and pure on this earth. I truly loved this beautiful man, with all my heart, as he was much more that a father-in- law to me….someone, who built a home in my heart and will live on forever there. He would call me every week before his stroke, several times, to simply see how I was doing, and how our kids were getting along. I loved his visits here, and never wanted him to leave. We would simply sit together, and talk for hours about life, his and mine.
It has been a honor for me to be Dr. Shmuel’s daughter-in-law. I could not ask for more. It is my hope and wish that he has left, but a little of himself in all my children and all his grandchildren…..for them to carry on his legacy….of simply being a good and kindhearted person on this earth. I believe he has.
The past five years would not have been possible, but for the compassionate love and help of many who are here tonight, and many who could not make the trip to New York to be here….who stood by him and helped him live these meaningful years. But there is one specific person in this room, that I would like to single out tonight….and that is, my sister-in-law, Emy. Whatever I say tonight about her and what she did for her dad, to keep him alive….I have not said enough. She sacrificed much in her life, all to give him life. She went to the moon and back for him, with her unwavering commitment and love. She is an angel on this earth….that I know, and we are so very thankful to her for all that she did in giving of herself, to her father.
And so to my dear Dr. Shmuel….I bid you a farewell. We love you now and forever. We will remember you to the end of time, for all your quiet and gentle ways, for all your wisdom, for all the sacrifices, and the good you did for us and others.
I will leave you all with a poem, as I believe he would like for me to read it for you. It is called “Miss Me”:
When I come to the end of the road… and the sun has set for me,
I want no rite in a gloom filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little…but not too long, not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared.
Miss me, but let me go.
This is a journey we all must take, and each must go alone.
When you are lonely and sick of heart, go to the friends we know
and bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me….but let me go.