On Golden Pond

Dick (89) and Susan Rosenberg (86) From Chesterton, Indiana, to Haifa.

Rosenberg couple 521 (photo credit: Wendy Blumfield)
Rosenberg couple 521
(photo credit: Wendy Blumfield)
Meeting Susan and Dick Rosenberg, one is reminded of Ethel and Norman Thayer from On Golden Pond, but without all the neuroses. On the contrary, their lives revolve around an enormous extended family of four children, 17 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren (with one on the way). Susan with her serene smile keeps it all together, is a wizard with the computer and Skype and cares devotedly for Dick who, although confined to a wheelchair, leads an active academic, intellectual and social life. A caretaker for Dick has lightened their lives and they still live in their beautiful penthouse apartment with its stunning views over the sea and the Carmel.
Although the long process of aliya was completed in 1973, their first Israel experience was many years previously.
Dick had served as an officer on a destroyer in the US Navy and saw action in the North Atlantic, in the D-Day landings on Normandy and later in the Pacific where his ship was hit at Okinawa. In 1948, he was invited by the late Teddy Kollek then head of Rechesh, the clandestine recruitment service, to come here as a foreign expert to help launch the navy.
“They called it Chel Ambatya [the Bathtub Unit] before that,” he quips.
Susan who grew up in Philadelphia, was denied a Jewish education and knew nothing about Zionism.
“Just be a good American,” her father told her, “and that’s being a good Jew.” Susan and Dick married young, “a very romantic marriage,” as described by Dick. Looking at them interacting, it is obvious the romance has been sustained all these years.
“When Dick was invited to come to Israel, I was terrified,” admits Susan. “I agreed only because I felt that if I refused, it would come between us. I figured that we would come for a year, he`d get it out of his system and then we’d return and live happily ever after in Philadelphia.”
After two years in the navy, Dick was asked to manage the Alliance Tire Company in Hadera. The couple had come with two small children and by this time they were adjusted and loved their life and their friends in Haifa.
They returned to the US for Dick to train with Alliance’s parent company and came back a year later, with another addition to the family. In 1956, Dick finished his job at Alliance during which their fifth child was born, and then spent the next 17 years back in the US. Dick became vice president of Dayton Tyres and later chief executive officer of a large foundry..
Their aliya in 1973 was the fulfillment of a family dream for Dick. His grandfather had been a founder of the Cleveland Zionist society and the family were Zionists and observant Conservative Jews. “In 1976 we planted a grove of trees at Shoresh in the name of my grandfather and each of our children planted a tree there,” says Dick.
“We were motivated by the Six Day War,” adds Susan. “We had so many friends who were in danger here, how could we just sit there and watch and worry?” By the end of 1973 when they finally made aliya, one of their daughters was already living in Jerusalem.
One son was in the IDF and was wounded in the Yom Kippur War.
The Rosenbergs returned to Haifa where Dick was a doctoral candidate in the Technion Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. He received his doctorate in behavioral science.. He continued teaching and consultancy work there well beyond retirement age.
Susan confesses her moments of panic on the journey: “We traveled from Italy by ship and the night before we docked in Haifa I suddenly got scared, what had we done.” However arrival was homecoming and they were welcomed by their son and daughter and their many old friends.
“I was euphoric,” says Susan, whose son had warned her that the first year of aliya would be one of “manicdepression.”
The Rosenberg’s third child made aliya with them and the other two sons spent time here and in the US.
Tragically, their youngest son died in 2006 and is buried here where his children and grandchildren live.
A further tragic blow to the family came a year later when a grandson was killed in a traffic accident on his way to the airport to join the family for his father’s memorial. He is buried next to his father in Lehavim in the South, a sad pilgrimage for the family on their annual remembrance days.
Susan and Dick have become more Orthodox over the years even though Susan was discouraged by the Orthodox establishment. Their extended family ranges from haredi to totally secular. “We all keep in touch by telephone and e-mail and frequent visits,” says Susan.
Dick described his weekly Gemara lesson by telephone with his yeshiva teacher grandson in Brooklyn.
Susan is a gifted poet and actress. She started writing poetry in third grade and soon after aliya she joined Voices Israel Poetry in English Society and took over as secretary in the early 1980s. “At the first meeting I attended I was very overwhelmed by these talented poets,” says Susan, but since then she has won prizes in the Reuben Rose Memorial Competition and had poems published in the annual Voices anthology. She has had two books of poetry published.
Susan was also one of the founding members of Haifa English Theater. She had acted in the Indiana Community Theater and brought her thespian skills to many of the plays produced for HET.
Dick is a talented pianist and a beautiful Steinway grand graces their living room. “I attended a music conservatory when I was young,” he says, “but one day I came to the conclusion that I was reasonably good but not outstanding.” He enjoys playing and singing and was formerly in the Haifa Chamber Choir.
Dick’s physical disability has slowed down their social life and Susan reflects sadly that they have lost many old friends as the years go by; others have moved further away to retirement homes.
Dick spends his time preparing for his weekly Gemara lesson and teaches a Bible class to a small group of women.
“We have no regrets,” says Susan as she and Dick sit close together holding hands. “Israel is home and we would not want to live anywhere else in the world. We feel very strongly that this country’s destiny, our people’s destiny and ours is here.”