The woman who was always at his side

Teddy regarded Tamar as his '50-50' partner.

By
January 3, 2007 01:56
3 minute read.

For almost 70 years, Tamar Kollek was at her husband's side, shunning the limelight, standing just beyond its radiance, but always close enough if Teddy needed her. A modest woman, who was so publicity shy that she gave her first ever interview to The Jerusalem Post's Judy Siegel in 1981 in honor of her husband's 70th birthday, Tamar remained remarkably unspoiled despite the fact that she rubbed shoulders, shook hands with and entertained some of the most famous people in the world. A descendant of the famous Pappenheim family, and the daughter of a renowned Viennese rabbi, she was born Tamar Schwarz in Vienna, and married Kollek in 1937. Over the years she has been involved in volunteer work with numerous organizations, among them Alyn, Ilan, the Katamon Home for the Aged, the Children's Theater, the East Jerusalem Women's Club, Naamat and Women for the IDF. She was the chairperson of the Jerusalem branch of Ilan and sat on the board of the Social Welfare Council. Long before there was a Teddy Stadium, there was a Beit Tamar, a family style home for severely handicapped children. In 1990, she opened the Austrian section of Yad Vashem's Valley of the Destroyed Communities. On that occasion it was Teddy who walked in her shadow. Although her husband frequently traveled abroad to raise funds, she rarely went with him: She had plenty to do in Jerusalem, and did not believe the mayor's wife should travel at the public's expense. She joined him more often after he was no longer mayor. Being Kollek's wife was more than a full-time job. Although they lived in a modest apartment, Tamar had to do a lot of entertaining - often with little or no warning of who was coming to dinner, or even breakfast. Their telephone number was always listed in the telephone directory and residents of Jerusalem who had a complaint didn't hesitate to call. But even early morning callers didn't rouse her from her slumbers. The Kolleks generally rose at 5.30, and spent a half hour talking to each other over breakfast before he went to the office. In an article he wrote for the Post in July, 1994, Kollek marked her 77th birthday with a recollection from their birthday celebration at a restaurant: "As I sat in the restaurant, eating the tasty food and watching my grandchildren play on the grass," wrote Kollek, "I thought of how much my wife, aside from raising the children, had contributed to my career. She shared in the responsibility, the difficult decisions and the hard work - but how little in the glory that sometimes came with it. And I suddenly wondered if it could have possibly been as good and rewarding a marriage for her as it has been for me. "Nowadays, marriages seem to break up over relatively little things," he went on. "It's a different generation that has grown up under different conditions, probably more confusing ones... "Of course, we too were very different from our own parents... When Tamar and I were married we had very little regard for the institute of holy matrimony. We were pioneers, young socialists in a kibbutz, and the bourgeois traditions of our parents and grandparents seemed irrelevant and unimportant. We had succumbed to marriage for the practical reason that it would enable Tamar to stay in Palestine when there were severe British immigration restrictions. Yet our marriage has endured. "In the kibbutz there was almost no difference between men and women. They shared the same chores. In Ein Gev, the commanders of some of the defense posts during the War of Independence were women. One of them was killed. Women were truly equal. I think that maybe Tamar and I managed to maintain that feeling long after we left the kibbutz. That was probably part of the secret of our successful marriage: it was a 50-50 split all the way. In some ways we were opposites, but we had common goals."


Related Content

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis
August 28, 2014
Grapevine: September significance

By GREER FAY CASHMAN