Funeral Monday for Israel Zamir, only son of Isaac Bashevis Singer

All they had in common beyond a bloodline was an interest in literature and a talent for writing.

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November 23, 2014 22:53
2 minute read.
ISRAEL ZAMIR

ISRAEL ZAMIR. (photo credit: REUVEN CASTRO)

 
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The funeral of journalist and writer Israel Zamir, the only son of Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, will take place on Monday at 2 p.m. in Kibbutz Beit Alfa where he spent most of his life. Zamir, 85, died on Saturday, a day after the 112th anniversary of his father’s birth.

In the summer of 2013, Zamir accompanied some of the members of his family to Bilgoraj, Poland, where his father spent part of his childhood with Zamir’s great-grandfather, who was the rabbi of Bilgoraj, a city that features in some of Singer’s early works. They were the guests of the mayor of Bilgoraj and the Singer Association in Bilgoraj.

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The gift for writing was apparently genetic. Singer’s older siblings Esther Kreitman and Israel Joshua Singer were well-known writers, and Esther’s son Maurice Carr was also a well-known journalist and author. Maurice’s daughter Hazel Karr is also a writer.

The Singer siblings spent their youth in Warsaw, where their father was a rabbi. They lived on Krochmalna Street, which also figures prominently in Singer’s writings and which during the war was part of the Warsaw Ghetto. All three siblings left Poland before the Second World War. Esther died in London in 1954, 10 years after the death of Israel Joshua Singer in New York. Bashevis Singer died in Florida in July 1991 at the age of 88.

Zamir was born in Warsaw.

Stories about his birth and early childhood vary. One version says he was born out of wedlock to one of Bashevis Singer’s many mistresses. Another says that his mother and Bashevis Singer divorced when Zamir was five years old, with the father heading for New York and the mother, a passionate communist, going first to the USSR and then to the Land of Israel. Yet another version says that Singer left for New York promising to send for his wife and child, but never did.

Father and son did not meet again until Zamir was 25 years old and went as a Hashomer Hatza’ir emissary to America.



In later years, giving interviews and writing about that meeting, he described it as cold and almost embarrassing. He could never bring himself to address his father as such. After all, there had never been a real father-son relationship such as that which Zamir enjoyed with his own four children.

Beyond writing, there was very little that they had in common.

Singer spoke and wrote in Yiddish.

Zamir, whose surname was a Hebrew translation of Singer, spoke Hebrew. Singer was a capitalist reactionary, and Zamir was a Marxist communist. Zamir, at the time, was a great admirer of Stalin, and Singer regarded Stalin as a murderer. Zamir rejected the Diaspora and Singer lived in the Diaspora. All they had in common beyond a bloodline was an interest in literature and a talent for writing. The strained relationship improved over the years, but was never really that of father and son. It became closer when Singer asked Zamir to translate some of his works into Hebrew.

Zamir wrote nine books, one of which was Journey to My Father, Isaac Bashevis Singer, which has been translated into English. He worked for many years as a writer and editor for the now defunct Al-Hamishmar, and when it ceased publication in 1995, he switched to Ma’ariv.

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