Veterans: From New York to Kfar Saba, 1979

Fay Eisenstadt feels a compelling need to tell her story and is even having a book written about her long and interesting life.

fay eisentstadt 88 224 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
fay eisentstadt 88 224
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
A few days after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Arabs at prayer in Hebron on February 25, 1994, 79-year-old Morris Eisenstadt was axed to death by an Arab in a revenge attack near his home in Kfar Saba. His widow, Fay, today living in a retirement home in Ra'anana, remembers the horrible murder which was to leave her alone with her vivid memories of their long life together. "It was Friday at about noon and I'd been to a morning concert in Tel Aviv with a friend. I got back to Kfar Saba and began making lunch. I wasn't worried about Morris, as I knew he liked to sit on a bench and read the Friday paper. Someone came and told me he was in the hospital, and I thought he must have had a heart attack. They kept me outside the emergency room and I had no idea what had happened. Then the doctor came and told me. He was still alive when the ambulance was called to take him to the hospital, but they couldn't save him. When I got home there were journalists milling around the apartment." Morris and Fay Eisenstadt were well-known faces in Kfar Saba. He was known as "the American mayor of Kfar Saba" and together they would volunteer at Meir Hospital, doing whatever was needed to ease life for staff and patients. "He was very fit and always took care of himself," says Eisenstadt. "Even at 79 he was still doing push-ups and was very health conscious. At first I was in complete denial about what had happened, but gradually I had to face up to the fact that I was alone and he'd gone in this incredibly cruel and brutal way." Today Eisenstadt feels a compelling need to tell her story and is even having a book written about her long and interesting life. She was born in August 1915 and she and Morris were childhood sweethearts. They married during the Depression and in the early 1930s opened a candy store together. Even that was fraught with unexpected obstacles. "LaGuardia was the mayor and he was strict about cleaning up the town," she recalls. "We used to have a gum-ball machine outside the shop and for two cents you could get a candy. If you were lucky and got one with a lot of dots, you could come in the shop and get a prize. The authorities decided this was gambling and we got a summons to appear in court." While their two daughters were small, Fay stayed at home but later began to work in a grocery store, first as a packer and graduating to a one-woman office doing all the bookkeeping and salaries for the company. Morris, who had been in the navy during the war, always worked in security. After the war, he worked for a detective agency patrolling construction areas, often at night and always with a dog. He carried on once they settled here volunteering on a regular basis for the Civil Guard. He always carried a gun, which, sadly, did not save his life. In 1979, both having retired, they followed their daughters here. PREPARATION Since they had always rented their apartment in the Bronx, they had nothing to sell so leaving was easy. They packed the belongings they wanted to keep and arrived in March 1979. SETTLING IN They were sent to the Kfar Saba Absorption Center and settled down to learn Hebrew. "They gave us a small apartment and I enjoyed the studying," says Eisenstadt, who was 63 at the time. "I knew Hebrew from my childhood, but not this kind of Hebrew." They found an apartment they liked in the town and moved in. It was near the hospital where they were going to be volunteering. The Jewish Agency provided some basic furniture and pots and pans until their own stuff arrived from New York. "I bought my own refrigerator and stove and it was a wonderful feeling when we moved to our own place." DAILY LIFE Eisenstadt lost no time in joining the English-speaking WIZO group and became very active with fund-raising and the like; she was even chairwoman a few times. Life was no different than it had been in New York. "We used to go shopping together with our cart and until the intifada, we'd even go over to Kalkilya to shop," she remembers. For leisure activities, they joined the Kfar Saba senior club. Occasionally they would babysit for the grandchildren. Eisenstadt has always been into arts and crafts; she paints and embroiders and when we met was busy knitting for a new great-grandson. In her small apartment in the retirement home, the walls are covered in paintings and cross-stitch pictures. "Everything on the walls is mine," she says. OBSTACLES "Nothing. I loved it here. We were in full health and vigor, and we used to walk around every part of the town just reveling in being in our own country." LANGUAGE "We managed fine with our Hebrew and of course I could often use my Yiddish." BEST THING ABOUT ISRAEL "It's hard to say what the best thing is because there are so many wonderful things that go on here. I think we have even gone beyond the United States in our advanced technology and medical research. I think education could be improved. Before people come, they think Israel is a desert and then you see how green it is and how beautiful nature is here and you realize you really didn't know anything about the country." ADVICE TO NEW IMMIGRANTS "Take it all with a smile, even the bureaucracy. Get involved with people and interested in what they are doing. And if at all possible, learn the language. To be able to read and write Hebrew is a great blessing." To propose an immigrant for a 'Veterans' profile, please send a one-paragraph e-mail to: [email protected]