In June 1966, Dennis graduated Yeshiva of Flatbush and being the President of the senior class, he presented a gift to the school on behalf of his class at the commencement exercises. In May of 1965 and 1966, he was admitted to “Archon”, the honor society at the Yeshiva. Also, he received good grades in his Regents exams and was able to obtain a Regents Scholarship. Evidently, the advice I received from the Almighty paid off in dividends.
In his senior year, he applied to several colleges, including Columbia and one or two other Ivy League schools. His principal, whom I will not name, refused to forward his applications to any of the prestigious colleges. I was quite aware of the reason for this action since Yeshiva of Flatbush had an exemplary record of having its graduates accepted to these ivory towers. By refusing its students who did not have a high scholastic standing to apply to these colleges, it was able to retain this high record and used this as a vehicle to encourage elementary school graduates with high grades to enroll in Flatbush.
When Dennis informed me of the principal’s action, I saw red. I called the principal for an appointment to lodge my complaint. Incredibly, he refused to see me. I did tell him that if he continued to refuse to send my son’s application to whichever school Dennis wanted, I would be sure to disseminate his refusal to all newspapers in the city and his beloved Yeshiva would suffer the consequences..
I don’t remember whether he hung up on me; but I do recall that he did not reply. A few days later, Dennis told me that all his applications were forwarded. I knew quite well that because of his grades, other than the Regents grades he would not be successful in being accepted to any of the Ivy League colleges. However, no school official has the right to deny a student an opportunity to apply to any college he desires. Since, he was not accepted by these schools, he went to Brooklyn College.
On June 26, 1966, Zanny, of whom I wrote previously, married Eva Sojcher, a beautiful and very lovely young lady who lived in Los Angeles and who was attending Stern College in New York. What I am now going to relate, perhaps, gives credence to the Jewish belief that one’s future spouse is ordained – we call this a zivik and what has become more expressed as a basherte.
Zanny was given the name of a young lady from Los Angeles named Eva who was attending Stern College whom he should date. When he called the school and asked to speak to Eva from L.A., not knowing her surname, he was connected to the other “Eva”. Evidently, the wrong “Eva” was exactly what he desired as his wife and she too saw much in him that she was looking for; consequently, after a short courtship, they became man and wife.
Unfortunately, Zanny’s mother, Edith, of whom I also wrote previously, contracted lung cancer while in Brazil and, instead of continuing her therapy in New York, decided to return to Nailotex to prepare her lingerie line for the coming season. One will never know whether her decision was the reason for her demise or that she would leave her family regardless. At any rate, because of her severe illness and imminent death, the wedding date was pushed up so that she would enjoy her eldest child’s wedding. It was a wise decision since Edith went to the hereafter in July, a month after the wedding.
Although Hilda and I had met Eva’s parents, Yoli and Jake, at the engagement previously, we got to know them much better at the wedding. Whenever we visited Dennis in the following years in L.A., we would visit these two charming individuals at their home and at their Judaica shop on Fairfax Avenue. We became very close to Yoli over the years and our friendship has blossomed to this day. Because Jake, who had been suffering from Parkinsons, met his death a few years after the wedding, we, unfortunately, did not have the opportunity to enjoy his company for a much longer period.
Yoli is considered family, therefore, when we lived on 27th Street in Brooklyn and she lived on 13th Street and Avenue M, she would walk close to a mile to our home every Saturday to spend the afternoon and evening with us. After joining us in whatever activity we would engage in, I would drive her home at night.
In November of the same year, Hilda underwent gynecologic surgery at NYU University Hospital in mid-Manhattan. Since Hilda was the administrator of a nursing home, she was permitted to bring her round-the-clock nurses from the home. God must have had a hand in this wise decision as future events unfolded. What was supposed to be a 7-10 day stay at the hospital, resulted in her being there for 3 weeks. It seems that her position during the surgery aggravated her slipped disk which necessitated the longer stay.
About a week after her surgery, Jessie Davis, a R.N. from the nursing home informed me that Hilda, who was suffering from a hyper thyroid condition for many years, was being treated by the internist with drugs usually administered to hypo thyroid patients and possibly resulting in her death. When she went into a coma for 6 hours, I immediately called her gynecologist and informed him of this very serious situation. His answer was that he had a full waiting room of patients in his Park Ave. office and could not see her until later in the evening.
My response was that he must allow me to bring in my own internist, Dr. Kabakow, who did not have visiting privileges at University Hospital. I stated that unless he granted my request immediately, I would call the Daily News to have a reporter present the following morning when I would take Hilda out of the hospital and transfer her to Beth Israel Hospital in which Dr. Kabakow was affiliated.
The threat worked because, within one hour, Dr. Jenkins, her gynecologist showed up and apologized for the extremely serious error that was perpetrated by his chosen internist and advised me that I could bring in any doctor that I chose. Miss Davis informed me, a day later, that the hospital nurses on the floor asked her “Who is this Mr. Prager that he has the power to bring in his own nurses and his own internist?” What this incident demonstrates is that people are very reluctant to question their physician’s decisions.
Kenny, who was home from Harvard for the Thanksgiving holiday, Dennis and I reserved 2 rooms at a hotel near the hospital and we celebrated the Sabbath in her room, bringing kosher meals and singing zmiros (Sabbath songs)
On Thanksgiving in the afternoon, we received a call in the hospital room from Kenny wishing to see us as he had something very important to convey to us. Hilda’s immediate reaction was that he was going to announce to us his engagement to Jeannie Gronich.
On my birthday, July 18, in the year 1965, Kenny while attending Harvard met his future wife for the first time. Perhaps, it was a coincidence that Kenny met his zivik on the date of my birth; who knows. Jeannie was a student at Radcliff College in Cambridge at the time.
Jeannie’s friend, Margie was going with Mark Peppercorn, a friend of Kenny who suggested that Kenny call Jeannie for a date, which he did. They, evidently, hit it off since a month later he brought her to Camp Massad in the Poconos where Dennis was a counselor. Hilda and I met her for the first time and we liked what we saw.
We invited her to spend the following Shabbos at our home. She still relates to us and others that she couldn’t quite get over the fact that at our Sabbath table there was so much talking and singing, both in a high decibel. Evidently, this did not dissuade her from continuing to see our son.
Jeannie told me recently a fact that I didn’t know. It seems that Kenny inherited a Prager syndrome which prevented our males from leading a girl into a false illusion that we are serious in the relationship when we are not ready to make a commitment. Thus, Kenny made it clear to Jeannie that, although he liked her, he was still a medical student and marriage was not yet in the cards.
Consequently, they stopped seeing each other for a few months and Jeannie resumed dating other young men. However, Kenny, being Mac’s son, repeated his father’s dilemma when I was courting his mother. I told Hilda that I didn’t wish to see her as I related previously and after a period of only one weekend I realized how much I loved her and resumed our relationship. Similarly, Kenny, who was hesitant in committing himself, discovered that he was in love with Jeannie and called her for a date. From that moment on, neither one dated others.
When Kenny came up to Hilda’s room and announced his engagement, we told him to bring up Jeannie who was waiting downstairs. We hugged and kissed both. Kenny said that they would like to get married in June1968 when Kenny graduates from medical school. Hilda stated that they shouldn’t wait and get married the following June and both agreed.
On the week end of June 10, 1967, Hilda and I were honored by Yeshiva Rambam at the Pioneer Country Club in the Catskills. Since on the previous Monday hostilities erupted between Israel and several Arab nations, I was not in the mood to be honored by any organization. When I mentioned my thoughts to the dinner committee, I was overruled and told that there would be no cancellation. The committee was correct since the number of participants and the amount of money raised set a record in the annals of the Yeshiva. The following is my address to the guests:
My dear friends,
Up until 10 days ago, I had no intention of addressing you this evening other than to express my gratitude to all of you for your wonderful response. However, the events that unfolded on the world scene and especially on the Jewish horizon, made it necessary to speak before you. As recently as last Monday, when hostilities erupted between the tiny State of Israel and her Arab enemies, while in a mood of despondency I mentioned to Hilda, that I would have much preferred that this week-end’s festivities be cancelled. Whether it is a result of our heritage or perhaps a unique sameness of gene composition, whenever a single Jew is being threatened it is traumatically and vicariously felt by his fellow Jews. However due to the incredible courage, indomitable spirit and brilliant military efficiency, all our moods today have changed; and while I am extolling the well deserved praises of our glorious Israeli brethren, I must say that even the atheist, the agnostic, or even the believer who is skeptical in regard to miracles, have begun at least to question perhaps the hand of God can be seen in this unprecedented and magnificent victory.
It would have been certainly cause enough for joy had this been just a military achievement, but in my mind this is only one resulting factor that has emerged from this great Israeli accomplishment. However, to the Jews of the world something even more important has been added. The word Jew has taken on a new dimension from one end of the world to the other. The age old accusation that the Jewish people were cowardly, meek, timid and incapable of self defense has been for time immemorial completely refuted. Not since the days of King Solomon has the Jew of the world been able to hold his head as high as he can today.
The tribute that is being accorded to my wife and me this week-end pales in significance when compared to the valorous, courageous acts that have been and are being performed by our glorious sons and daughters of Israel. This tribute, although accepted by Hilda and me with deep humility and gratitude, seems almost undeserved when placed alongside the spirit that is evinced by the civilian population of this besieged nation. The tremendous optimism and courage that many of these people displayed in the face of fire and threats have been a source of great admiration by our gentile neighbors throughout the entire world; and I might add, in some cases, even grudgingly so.
Also, tribute should be paid this week-end to Yeshiva Rambam and all the yeshivas of the entire United States for producing boys and girls as I saw on Monday picketing the U.N. in an orderly, proper fashion with songs on their lips. What fascinated me when I saw them was the fact that not one boy was without a yarmulka on his head. The oft-repeated accusation by our own American Jews that children of the Torah are either devoid of courage or anxious to avoid combat is completely repudiated when photographs in the N.Y. Times and other newspapers displayed young boys wearing yarmulkes leaving Kennedy airport for Israel to aid their beleaguered brethren.
I asked myself, where are the young American Jews who frequent the street corners of Kings Highway? Where are the young Jewish children from the haunts of Greenwich Village? We have seen them in the past support and demonstrate vociferously for the cause of civil rights. They are in the forefront of all liberal causes and understandably so. I have seen them protest for sex freedom in the colleges and universities, perhaps, not understandably so. But any rate, I have not seen them in the numbers or in the loud protestations that were evident in the past. Perhaps, the learning of Torah does instill in our young men and women a spark of Judaism that can never be extinguished.
Of course, although these tributes to man should be great, our homage to the Almighty must be of even greater proportion. He has demonstrated to the nations of the world that the God of Israel is not dead. Contrary to the statements that have been made recently by the theologians of all the other religions, He has demonstrated once again the uniqueness of his children, and that whoever and whatever nation desires their extermination will be themselves destroyed. May He continue to guard this small nation and all Jewry against the oppressors and our enemies who continuously find our presence on the face of the earth to be a bone in their collective throats. May this day be a prelude to a permanent peace in the Middle East, so that the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may be able to lead that entire area to fruitful prosperity and towards the elimination of disease for the glorification of God.
In conclusion, Hilda and I wish to express to all you gathered here this evening our heartfelt thanks for your unprecedented support to Yeshiva Rambam and for the honor you have bestowed upon us by your presence here this week-end. We would like to express our gratitude to Isaac Moinester, Ben Zweiter, Joe Greenberg and to their committees for their successful accomplishments both in producing a record-breaking journal and for this wonderful week-end that is being enjoyed by us all. Also, our thanks go to Isadore Lefkowitz, Rabbi Harczstak, Ethel Baff and Rose Stabin for their diligent and laborious efforts in their administrative accomplishments.
May the Almighty bless you all and may we all continue to retain the immense pride that fills our hearts today as children of Israel.
The following is the invocation given by Rabbi Appel, the principal of secular studies.
Once again we are gathered at the Pioneer
To honor an officer we love so dear.
A Rambamite whose professional chores
Have ensured our ledger’s conformance with the laws.
His accounting firm is at our beck and call
He’s constantly ready to give us all.
Personal labor and services without a fee
When needed for Rambam, he’s available for free.
But it is not only his lucid, periodic audits
Which inspire us to lavish our annual plaudits,
Rambam’s books show another double entry
His two sons were enrolled and graduated, you see.
I can remember this month eleven years ago,
When Kenneth, an officer of our student G.O.,
Inspired our audience on the eve of graduation
With a soul-stirring, moving valedictory oration.
It was a great night for parents and teachers alike
As Kenneth took his position in front of the “mike”.
This “simcha” was followed some six years later
By the graduation of Dennis – another great debater.
The Yeshiva was proud of each Prager offspring
Who knew how to make each class debate ring.
They’re both fine examples of intelligence applied
And to both their parents may they always bring pride.
Many parents forget Rambam, as a rule,
When their children are graduated from our school.
But the officers of the Yeshiva proudly report
That the Pragers have continued their ardent support.
And so tonight to honor Hilda and Max,
Many a couple paid their $200 tax.
They rose to the occasion and brought in their ads
A tribute to the Pragers from Rambam mothers and dads.
Heavenly Father, these are very turbulent times.
Perhaps they should not be spoken in rhymes.
But the friends of Torah who are assembled here
Are mindful of Israel and what’s transpiring there.
If by this banquet we trespass in any way,
If during this week-end we seem too gay,
In Thy infinite wisdom, will you please understand
That we have not forgotten our Holy Land.
To our guest of honor and his lovely wife,
We invoke Thy blessings for long years of life.
May You see fit to have peace restored,
For a true “Shalom”, we beseech Thee, Oh L-rd.
In the same year, 1967, my accounting firm was engaged by another nursing home. The Farragut Nursing Home was owned by Esther Ostreicher, a niece of my other client, Aaron Maged. This was now our fourth health care facility. The home was located on Farragut Avenue in Brooklyn. We retained this client till 1976 when the home was sold.
On January 21, 1968, Papa Friedfeld, who had suffered 4 previous heart attacks, succumbed to heart failure at the age of 85. He and my mother-in-law had been living with Chippy and Al in Florida for several years. Al and I performed the tahara (washing of the deceased as required by the tenets of Judaism) with the help of a member of the chevra kadisha (a group of men and women who sit with the departed until burial and who also perform the tahara and dress the body in a plain white gown).
The body was flown to Brooklyn for the funeral and the burial was in Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, L.I.; the same burial grounds where Irene and my parents were buried.
Kenny graduated from Harvard Medical School in June 1968. Of course, Hilda and I flew up to Boston to attend the ceremonies which were held on a Saturday morning; we now had a doctor in the family in addition to an accountant. What was missing was a lawyer to put credence to the age-old statement that “a Jewish family had to have all three professions to complete a perfect family”. He applied to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan for his internship and was accepted.
Jeannie and Kenny rented an apartment on Haven Avenue, one block from the hospital. After being separated from our son for 4 years, we were delighted to be able to visit Kenny and our daughter-in-law. We were invited to celebrate the Sabbath with them several times and we were in seventh heaven.
While Dennis was in his sophomore year at Brooklyn College, Marvin Kratter, a real estate developer who built apartment houses at the site of the old Ebbets Field, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, created an annual scholarship for ONE student of the sophomore class at Brooklyn College called the Gideonse Foreign Study Scholarship. Harry D. Gideonse was the chancellor of the New School for Social Research and was the past president of Brooklyn College and Kratter wanted to honor him.
In addition to having good grades, and being held in high esteem of some of the teachers, students had to be interviewed by a panel of professors. Dennis, always having charisma and eloquence, was chosen to receive the $2,000 scholarship which covered sea transportation to and from any college in the world, tuition, and room and board.
Since Dennis was interested in political science and the University of Leeds in England had a high reputation in that field of study, he chose this school. Little did he know that the climate in Leeds was horrible, especially for those suffering from asthma. The sun appeared periodically and rain and fog was the order of the day, almost every day. In addition, he was not very enamored with the school as well. But, Dennis being extremely adaptable, made the best of it and never complained.
One day in December, I received a phone call in my office from Dennis. He advised me, that since he had a fairly good knowledge of the Russian language, Israel had contacted him and wanted him to bring in to Russia certain items and to bring out some items on his departure from the Soviet Union. He was to be accompanied by an Orthodox Jewish girl who lived in England and she was to be his “cousin” throughout the trip.
When he asked for my opinion, I told him that it was a coincidence that the portion of the Torah to be read that week related the story of Moses slaying an Egyptian who was beating a Jewish slave. Moses, being a prince in the house of Pharaoh, was willing to relinquish a safe, wealthy, comfortable life and go into exile in order to protect his fellow Jews. I said: “You, Dennis, now have the choice to do likewise. You may never have this opportunity again.”