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The Eulogizer: Father of neutron bomb, restaurateur to the famous and Holocaust survivor who spoke

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer.

Neutron bomb developer and caustic nuclear critic
Samuel T. Cohen, 89, “father” of the neutron bomb, as well as an iconoclastic figure in the defense and scientific establishments for decades, died Nov. 28 in Los Angeles. Cohen designed the controversial battlefield weapon with “pencil, paper and a slide rule given to him by his father for his 15th birthday.”

Cohen repeatedly said that the neutron bomb was a sane and moral weapon. See him make that case in this video.

If you want to make your own judgment, click here for a clear and succinct description of how the neutron bomb, designed for battlefield use, differs from ballistic and large-scale nuclear weapons. The same article also features a  photo of Cohen holding a “peace medal” he received from Pope John Paul I in 1999.

Cohen said in a lengthy 2005 interview that he believed Israel and China, at least, have built neutron bombs, “probably using information that was leaked to them in an attempt to stabilize their situation by assuring their defense. If this is the case, those nations now are equipped with weapons superior to anything we have."

Cohen’s counter-intuitive thinking was on full display in a 2009 article he wrote in which he didn’t seem worried about Iran having a bomb.

“Perhaps we should stop fretting over the matter and let Iran alone do its own nuclear thing and try to get along with them better," he wrote. "After all, they are a sovereign nation and under no non-nuclear proliferation restrictions to do their own thing for their own reasons. Who are we to decide for them, even to the point of going to war with them? Haven’t we already had enough with our Mid-East meddling? Will we ever learn to respect the advice of our Founding Fathers?”

Cohen detailed the eccentric and even abusive upbringing he received at his parents’ hands, Austrian Jewish immigrants, in Brooklyn, in his 2000 self-published autobiography “Shame.” 

New York restaurateur to the famous
Elaine Kaufman, 81, whose eponymous restaurant on New York City’s Upper East Side fed celebrities, mediacrats and politicians, as well as the hoi polloi (who often got seated in “Siberia”), died Dec. 3. Click here for an in-depth celebration of Kaufman, a New York City native, that includes comments from celebrity customers, a slide show of Kaufman and the restaurant over the years, and a lovely “appreciation”: “The true nature of the woman was to encourage a sort of creative community where one person’s strength feeds another’s; where generations commingle; where the music is generally soft enough that you can actually hold a thing called a conversation; and where, once the talk dies down at one table, you’re welcome at the next.”

Click here for an excerpt from A.E. Hotchner’s 2004 book, “Everyone Comes to Elaine’s." Daily Beast columnist Lloyd Grove offered his own tribute: “Moving slowly from table to table, draped in one of her caftans and wearing big round glasses under unlikely brown tresses, she plopped herself down without an invitation and sometimes picked at your plate. This was a great honor. She was a woman of huge appetites — not just for food, which at Elaine’s is legendarily undistinguished and expensive — but for information, gossip, and camaraderie. Mainly camaraderie.”

Holocaust survivor who spoke to groups
It’s a story that has been repeated many times in recent months, but that may make it only more poignant: an aging Holocaust survivor who began speaking late in life about his experiences to groups in his or her community has died.

Erwin Deutsch of Madison, Wisc., died at age 94 on Dec. 4. He started talking publicly about the Holocaust only when he was 80, his hometown newspaper reported: “His experiences haunt others, and many people who had ‘never met a Jew’ gave tearful embraces to a modest, small man dedicated to interpreting one of the great evils of the 20th century.”

Deutsch entered Buchenwald the day following Kristallnacht to find and rescue his father. They were released a month later, and then he escaped from Germany using tricks including “phony names entered at a home for the elderly, transport arranged and canceled, bribes, lies, tricks, and broken promises.”

He worked in the United States as a bricklayer before starting a construction company.

(Click here to read previous posts from The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. On a personal note, today is the 30th yahrzeit of my father, Michael Abbey, who, only coincidentally, died the same day as John Lennon.)
 

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