The Eulogizer: Screenwriter David Rayfiel, ‘Sugihara’ Jew Samuil Manski


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 Read previous columns here.

David Rayfiel, 87, screenwriter

Screenwriter David Rayfiel, whose work with director Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford included “Three Days of the Condor” and “The Way We Were,” died June 22 at 87.

Rayfiel “excelled at bringing an amorphous role into focus with a sharp bit of dialogue or a restructured scene that illuminated a character’s inner life.” He was an uncredited “script doctor” on many Pollack-Redford films, including “Out of Africa,” which won Oscars for best picture and screenplay. Redford once said he “considered Rayfiel the unsung hero of almost every picture Sydney Pollack and I have made together.”

Barbra Streisand, who had help from Rayfiel on "Yentl," said in 1986 that “Rayfiel could show friction in a relationship by having a couple talk about pits in their orange juice when they’re really saying the marriage is over. That’s what David is so good at."

One line of Rayfiel’s dialogue — "You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth" — was so well liked by both he and Pollack that they used it in four films. Rayfiel’s daughter, actress Eliza Roberts, said her father "was never the same” after Pollack died in 2008.

Other Rayfiel films of note included “The Firm,” the 1995 remake of “Sabrina,” and “Round Midnight.” IMDB has a complete filmography of the writer, whose career began in 1950s TV, which led him to off-Broadway and then Hollywood productions beginning in the early 1960s. He collaborated with Pollack on his first film, "The Slender Thread," which starred Sidney Poitier, Anne Bancroft and Telly Savalas.

Rayfiel was born in New York City. His father, Leo, was a New York state assemblyman, U.S. congressman and then a federal judge. He graduated from Brooklyn College after serving in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, and earned a master’s degree in playwriting from Yale University.

He was married three times, one of them to actress Maureen Stapleton.The home Rayfiel and Stapleton built in upstate New York was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Samuil Manski, 90, Shoah survivor saved by Sugihara

Samuil Manski, a Shoah survivor saved by a transit visa from Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, and who in recent years spearheaded efforts to honor the diplomat, died in Massachusetts on June 19 at 90.

Manski spoke at schools about Sugihara, named a Righteous Gentile by Israel’s Yad Vashem. He was prompted to raise funds to build a memorial for Sugihara after being interviewed about the diplomat, whom he never met. The memorial at Temple Emeth near Boston was unveiled in 2000. Manski received a certificate of appreciation from Japan’s consul general in Boston in 2010.

"Mr. Manski takes it as his role to relay the Sugihara story to the next generation," said Masaru Tsuji, a former Boston consul general for Japan.

Manski was born in Lida, then part of eastern Poland, and fled to Lithuania after the Nazis invaded in 1939. False papers protected him in the Lithuanian town of Ejszyski, but with the Soviets advancing, his mother applied for a visa from Sugihara.

"To this day, I am not certain why the Japanese took the trouble to issue visas to us Jewish refugees," Manski wrote in a self-published memoir in 1990. (Click here for a free download of the book.) "Whatever the reason, again God was with us."

The family traveled on the Trans-Siberian Railway in winter to Vladivostok, and then took a small ship to Japan after leaving behind Manski’s 82-year-old grandmother. Manski arrived in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

"My first impression was of a fairyland, with small houses, flowers, clean streets and very polite people," Manski wrote. A fuller account of Manski’s flight to the U.S. can be found here.

Manski arrived in Seattle in 1941, started a family and became a hosiery salesman in Boston. He was married to his wife, Estelle, for more than 60 years before she died in March.

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