Veterans: The Right man

After a successful career in business, Jack Carlin is now retired, but no less busy.

carlin 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
carlin 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
Jack Carlin’s earliest memory is lying on the kitchen floor of his Brooklyn home, coloring pictures and playing with a puppy as his American-born parents spoke Yiddish with his paternal grandparents.
He was nearly five when the Great Depression and the demise of vaudeville took their toll on his father’s ability to earn an income as a performing percussionist, and even cost the family its house. His mother took a job as a factory seamstress, and the family moved several times. During World War II, he helped his father patrol the neighborhood as an air-raid warden.
Having earned a draft deferment, Carlin graduated with a degree in physics from City College of New York. While working in a laboratory in New York City, he attended a Zionist Organization of America dance where he met Helen Klenetsky. Helen thought Jack would be a great match for her twin sister, Rhoda, and apparently she was right. The two recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary with a party at the Jerusalem headquarters of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI).
“Shortly after we were married in 1947, we were listening on the radio to the UN vote on partitioning Palestine with intense interest,” Carlin recalls. “When the country was founded, something changed in my blood. And Rhoda felt the same way.”
INSTANT CHEMISTRY Carlin had a series of jobs that often took him out of town, but eventually he was established enough to move his family, which grew to include four boys, to the New York City suburbs of Long Island. The story could have ended there in the professionally decorated dream house they acquired in Woodmere.
But in 1959, Jack visited Israel on the tail end of a European business trip on behalf of his nuclear instrumentation company.
“That first encounter with Israel had a powerful impact on me,” he wrote in a still-unfinished memoir. “It was instant chemistry. It was love at first sight with the country and its people. In fact, I experienced a new and astonishing flush of pride in my heritage and in myself.”
His wife joined him for another trip in 1960.
Their oldest son, Ira, came the following year with a group of bar-mitzva-age boys.
Four years later, as sales manager for Miles Laboratories’ new line of nuclear medicine equipment, he came to Haifa to assess the multinational company’s as-yet unsuccessful spinoff manufacturing citric acid for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Given the chance to relocate to oversee the plant, he and Rhoda did not hesitate.
“The government of Israel itself was anxious for Miles Chemicals Israel to survive and succeed since it was the very first major US corporate investment in the new State of Israel,” according to Jack. “Failure would discourage other international industrial entities from investing in the new state.”
Jack Carlin was the right man for the job, and the family prospered along with the business in Haifa. He even got Miles involved with joint technology-transfer projects at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ironically, his success in Israel led to a senior position at corporate headquarters in Indiana, so the Carlins packed up and moved in August 1966.
“In addition to my work and other responsibilities at Miles, I became a sort of unofficial volunteer Israeli ambassador to communities in and around northern Indiana, both Jewish and non-Jewish. I was often invited to lecture on Israel and Israeli-related topics to various clubs, business associations, service organizations and even church groups in this Midwest section of the so-called Bible belt,” he recalls.
A MIRACLE IN JERUSALEM Yet the couple missed Israel and felt it was a better place for their children. So when Carlin was presented with a proposal to create a new vehicle to identify and commercialize promising research at the Hebrew University, he resigned as president of an international division of Miles and moved his family into Jerusalem’s then-new Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.
Unfortunately, after two years it was clear that this venture wasn’t panning out. But Jack had been well schooled in the ups and downs of the business world.
“I picked myself up in 1973 and set up a new laboratory equipment company called Carmira. The ‘Car’ part was for ‘Carlin’; the ‘mira’ part for ‘miracle.’ I felt if we succeeded in Israel it would be a miracle.
And it was a miracle, because Carmira succeeded very well.”
With Rhoda as corporate secretary and sons David and Joe joining the business, Carlin developed and marketed the tools all over Israel, including to Arab hospitals and labs in the West Bank and Gaza.
“In 1989 we sold the company and I retired,” he says. “All my life was spent in the physical sciences so now I was anxious to go back to university and study history and anthropology.”
Rhoda, always at his side, accompanied her husband to classes and also to meetings at AACI, where Jack accepted the volunteer position of the senior division’s national director.
Not content merely to arrange programming, he began a successful campaign to advocate for senior discounts and benefits countrywide. This work brought him to the attention of a national organization for pensioners within the Histadrut, and he was poised to get out the immigrant vote for the newly formed Pensioners Party in 1996 when he was hospitalized for cardiac bypass surgery.
A GLOBAL FAMILY But that was only a temporary lull in his retirement activities. The Carlins moved to an apartment in French Hill, where Jack spends hours every day reading through news websites.
He regularly lectures on current events at AACI, and draws on his nuclear background to comment on what’s happening in Iran – a country he visited in 1970 on a business trip.
An Iranian colleague with the same surname as his paternal grandmother inspired Carlin to initiate a family genealogy search through National Geographic, which collected DNA samples and provided “a fascinating report with migration maps of our ancestry.”
Another of the Carlins’ adventures took place during the 1982 Lebanon War, in which their son Daniel, now a physician, did combat duty. Toward the end of the conflict, friends who were close to then-prime minister Menachem Begin arranged for Rhoda, Jack and son David to go on a VIP tour of Lebanon.
“We flew from Atarot in n o r t h e r n Jerusalem to a small airfield near Metulla, and then took two buses, each accompanied by an armed Israeli soldier.
When the Lebanese saw our buses with Hebrew markings, they came on board bringing us cherries, thanking us for ridding them of the PLO.”
“Now we are fully retired, enjoying life as senior citizens in this country and watching our family grow,” Carlin says. “We have 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, many living here and others on both coasts of the United States, in South Africa, Australia and, up until recently, in Japan. We’re a global family.”