The Eulogizer: Former Knesset speaker, Bernard Madoff’s son, a young mother, classic sportswriters



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. Write to the Eulogizer at

Shoah survivor, Irgun activist, former Knesset speaker
Dov Shilansky landed in Israel on the Altalena in 1948 after a horrific World War II experience in Dachau, was imprisoned four years later for a planned political bombing and went on to become the Knesset speaker. When Shilansky died on Dec. 9 at 86, he was a respected elder stateman and lawyer whose death drew an almost immediate statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "The People of Israel have lost one of its most dedicated and exemplary leaders. Shilansky was among the founders of the national movement who survived the Holocaust. He dedicated his life to ensuring the revival of the Jewish People on its Land. … The story of his life is the story of our people."

Shilansky, a native of Siauliai, Lithuania, was a survivor of the Dachau Death March at the end of World War II, where his life was saved by an American soldier of Japanese descent. After the war he worked for the Irgun in Europe, eventually arriving in Israel on the Altalena in June 1948.

In 1952 Shilansky was arrested while carrying a pack of dynamite near the Foreign Ministry one month after Israel signed its war reparations agreement with West Germany and spent 21 months in prison, but eventually he was rehabilitated. He was one of many Likud Party members swept into the Knesset in 1977 when Menachem Begin became prime minister. Shilansky later worked for Begin and Yitzhak Shamir while each was prime minister, and was named Knesset speaker in 1988. He wrote a memoir of his early life, "Musulman," and also an account of his time in prison, "In a Jewish Jail: From the Diary of a Political Prisoner," both of which seem, unfortunately, to be out of print.

Shilansky, who lost his son, Yossi, in the Yom Kippur War, was buried alongside his son and wife, who died two years ago, in a special section of a Tel Aviv cemetery for bereaved parents of fallen soldiers. 

Son of Bernard Madoff in suicide
Mark Madoff, the elder son of Bernard Madoff, was found dead of a suicide on Dec. 11, the second anniversary of his father’s arrest and just days after again being named a defendant in one of many civil suits seeking reimbursement for victims of a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that rocked the worlds of finance and Jewish philanthropy.

The body of Madoff, 46, was found "hanging from a black dog leash attached to a pipe on the living room ceiling" as his 2-year-old son slept in a nearby bedroom, police said. Madoff’s father-in-law found the body after being alerted by Madoff’s wife, Stephanie, who had received e-mails from Madoff earlier that said, according to police, "Please send someone to take care of Nick" and "I love you." Police said Madoff also sent an e-mail to his attorney, Martin Flumenbaum, which said that "Nobody wants to believe the truth. Please take care of my family."

Madoff’s death is a tragic end to a life that had reached the highest of highs before the massive collapse in the wake of his father’s arrest, conviction and ongoing thicket of lawsuits and allegations.

He owned a $6.5 million, 3.3 acre retreat in Nantucket (now up for sale) and a farmhouse in Greenwich, Conn., and was married to "a stunning blonde who was a rising star in the fashion industry." During one three-month period in 2008, Madoff spent more than $77,000 on private jet charters. Just as the scandal broke two years ago, Madoff and his brother, Andy, received estate-quality watches — "a vintage Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, a Piaget, and a Cartier Tank" — as Chanukah presents from their father.

Though some of his friends lost millions of dollars in the affair, Madoff retained old friendships, including that of Long Island high school buddy Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer of the New York Mets, and he was invited to the 2009 Passover seder of New York developer Edward Blumenfeld, who also lost a fortune in the scandal.

"I remember him as our class’ golden boy — very handsome, very sweet, very popular. Just always a nice kid," said Beth Esbin, who attended Long Island’s Roslyn High School with Madoff.

Madoff failed to find work after the affair broke, and then turned to working to develop new applications for iPads, according to one report.

Despite Madoff’s death, the affair will continue to haunt his immediate family, not to mention thousands of others seeking lost funds and many prominent individuals in the Jewish community entangled with the senior Madoff. Berndard Madoff reportedly was upset that the trustee seeking assets for victims had named his children (Madoff had four) as defendants in a lawsuit.

A mother’s joy and tragedy, two classic sportswriters
The Eulogizer would like to point you to two stories from the last week that told of remarkable lives. The first, "A Facebook story: A mother’s joy and a family’s sorrow," tells via an edited compilation of her Facebook posts the tragic story of Shana Greatman Swers, 35, who died Oct. 31 after complications from childbirth.

The second item will likely bring a smile, at least to past and present New Yorkers of a certain age, rather than the tears of Shana Swers’ story. "Mensches and Mentors in the Press Box," by veteran sportswriter Harvey Araton, remembers two legendary New York sportswriters, Vic Ziegel and Maury Allen, "heavyweights of a vanished age," both of whom died in 2010.


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