Grandpa Gideon’s Examples to All
Last week, we lost a very special person who had a profound impact on all of us. Gideon Losinski was not a famous person, and most of the people reading this blog have probobly never heard his name. For those however that knew Grandpa Gideon, there is no doubt that the love he had for his family and for everyone around him made him a shining light for all of us.
When I joined the family more than 20 years ago, Grandpa Gideon and I did not get off on the right foot. After dating for a relatively short period of time, I made the mistake of asking my now wife Debbie to marry me, without asking for permission from her father. In my defense, what did I know? I was a naive 24 year old, and I had certainly never asked someone to marry me. When we shared the good news with Debbie’s parents, her father was visibly displeased. At this point, I was really worried, as I was going to become this guy’s son in law. I did not want him to be upset at me for the rest of our lives. After a few minutes, Gideon asked me some questions about my job, my ambitions, and my future. Luckily, I seemed to have been able to provide satisfactory answers to all of his questions, and I was welcomed into the family by both him and by my mother in law with open arms. I quickly learned how special my new family was and how my soon to be new father in law would change both my life and the lives of countless others, for the better.
Gideon Losinski was born in Germany in 1938. After a stint in a work camp, his parents escaped Europe and headed to Bolivia, where Gideon lived until the age of 14. He did not have an easy childhood, but he and his parents managed to create a life for themselves. For those who knew my father in law, the next part of his story is quite famous. He always used to tell us how “with $20 in my pocket, I came to America.” Thanks to the Torah Vodaath yeshiva, Gideon embarked on the next chapter of his life, eventually earning enough money to bring his parents from Bolivia to the US. After serving in the US Army and receiving citizenship, Gideon worked his way up the corporate ladder and had a very successful career as a banker for one of the largest banks in the US. When we talk about living the “American Dream” this is the classic story. He was an immigrant who spoke almost no English and never went to college. Yet, due to his hard work, determination, and clear brilliance, was able to work his way up to be the vice president of a major financial institution. We all know that this kind of story cannot and would not happen in today’s times. Yet, Gideon defied the odds and created a strong foundation for himself and for his family.
As impressive as his professional accomplishments may have been, this is really not Grandpa Gideon’s legacy. Rather, he will truly be remembered for his generosity and for the love that he felt for his family and for all of Am Yisrael (the Jewish people). Despite his busy schedule and growing professional commitments, Grandpa Gideon always found time to spend with his family and to instill the important Jewish values that have become central to the lives of all of his children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. Through his own difficult experiences, Gideon understood that being Jewish may not have been easy but that it was a special privledge that must be remembered and followed for all time. Gideon and his wife Ruth worked extra hard to make sure that each of their three daughters received Jewish educations and had opportunities to study in Israel. In addition, Gideon and his wife were active leaders in their Jewish community and even served as part of the chevra kadisha (burial society). There was truly nothing that Gideon and Ruth would not do to help another human being. This is a value that Gideon and Ruth worked tirelessly to pass on to the next generations of their family.
When I joined the family, I instantly became the son of an incredible person. While my mother in law always made sure that her sons in law had their favorite foods, my father in law was always there to help in any ways he could. We relied on his financial wisdom many times, but more importantly, it was his example as a person that left a true mark. I remember that early in our marriage, my in-laws took my wife and I out to dinner. There was never a question as to who was paying for the meal, so after the first few times, I have to admit that I stopped offering because I could see the joy he got out of taking out his children. More amazingly though, I remember that one time, when the waiter brought the bill, he picked it up and started shaking his head. I thought to myself, “oh no, what did they do wrong?” I thought that maybe they charged us for something we did not order. Actually, my father in law was upset that the waiter had only included a 12% tip in the bill. My father in law wanted to give the waiter more, as he knew how hard he had to work, and did not want to settle for the amount that was already there. While that waiter did have to make a new receipt, I am sure he was thankful for Grandpa Gideon’s generosity. I could tell more stories but they all end in basically the same way. Gideon did not always have an easy life. He remembered what it was like to work hard and to appreciate even the smallest items in life. Gideon would always say “thank you” to anyone who did something for him. It did not matter who it was, or why the person was there. Everyone deserved thanks and respect for what they did.
Family always came first with Grandpa Gideon. All of his grandchildren can talk about their own memories and the time they spent with him both in Israel and in the US. My in-laws had a tradition that when one of their children had a new child, they would come and stay with the family for a month to help with all of the newly added challenges of raising a new baby. While my mother in law may have been the one changing the diapers, Grandpa was always there to make sure that everyone had what they needed. Best of all, it was always with a smile on his face. We all remember that smile! In the years that followed, when one of the kids or grandkids needed something, it didn’t matter what else was going on. Family always came first.
Spending time in Israel was also a special time for both Grandma and Grandpa. Gideon would never consider Aliyah as he always said he learned enough languages in his lifetime. The times he did spend here though, were always special to him. Up until about 4 years ago, Grandma and Grandpa came to Israel at least 2 times per year. They were so proud of their children who had moved to Israel and they always wanted to show their support and be part of the daily miracles. Gideon truly understood the line in the Israeli national anthem/Hatikva, “להיות עם חופשי” or “to be a free nation.” Throughout his life, he learned first hand what this truly meant. During our first 8 years living in Israel, Gideon and Ruth probobly visited the Kotel at least 12-15 times. Sometimes we would go with them with the kids in tow. Even after so many times there, Grandpa would always become emotional every time he stood at the Wall. He understood the significance, not only of the site itself, but what it meant to be able to stand in the city of Jerusalem, with his children and grandchildren as proud Jews.
Grandpa Gideon showed us the importance of family more times than I can count. He and Grandma Ruth were married for 55 years, and it was obvious to everyone that he loved and appreciated his wife every single day that they had together. His children were his pride and joy. He was there to support them through everything they did. When he finally got some sons (in-law), we were treated just like his own biological children. The same can be said for the next generations of grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. As my nephew Brad said at that funeral last week, “Grandpa may have died, but he will always be with us.”
Grandpa, clearly defied the odds. His life and legacy could have easily turned out differently. His examples of kindness, appreciation, and hard work will guide future generations for many years to come.