Sunday Revelations: The day after Yom Kippur .. and the Schwartz Family Feud


The idea of a “new year” is new in the long scope of Jewish history.  The earliest record of the Hebrew calendar is from the 10th century BCE calendar.  The fragment was f9und in the Canaanite town of Gezer (midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv).                                                                                           The Gezer calendar seems to place the “start” of the new year in the fall.  By the time the Torah was redacted  four centuries later, the new year had moved to the spring. Today it’s celebrated in the fall again.

This is the 22nd post about Yom Kippur since The Ave began.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the last day of a period of eight days called the days of awe .. starting with the Jewish New Year .. Rosh Hoshana and end of eight days, a period where Jews are supposed to reflect on their sins and respond not by guilt but by teshuvah, a word that incorporates reconciliation and release from the bounds of past misdeeds.

My family has had many opportunities to seek teshuvah,  but like most religions Judaism is better at setting noble standards than fulfilling the,  While growing up I did not have the insight t see that the way my parents treated some others was horrid.  The worst victims were my mother’s sisters, my aunts.  My Dad and Mom looked down on aunts Faggy and Sooky.  I still do not understand why but I do have a very moving letter from one aunt talking about decades of mistreatment by my parents.  What I do remember is description at home .. denigrating descriptions of Sooky and Faggy and especially of their husbands, George and Harold that justified my parents’ disdain.   I cannot explain  all of this, but a big part was a matter of class.  Harold was an appliance repairman.  George was a pharmacist.  This class issue became an extreme form of condescension.

My own about life has taught me to distrust even my own stories of other people’s evil.  I have written about this because of my brother’s bizarre  effort to destroy my father’s legacy of pictures from the liberation of Buchenwald.   His justification for this behavior is hatred .. not just for me but for my stepsister.

Do I suffer from this disease as well?  I know I do.  My wife tells me that I like to feel superior to others.  I remember, for example, my pain once when a dear friend got angry with me for some things I had said about his being Catholic.  My friend’s anger was all too correct.  These days I try hard to use Teshuvah to think about my relations to others.

 Letter from my brother.. Hugh Schwartz:

The background of this letter has been told before on The-Ave.US.  Before his death, my father made my brother an executor because Hugh has had a business career.  The will was pretty simple .. some funds were set aside for my step mother, Betty, Dad’s wife of 27 years. What my father could not envision was the great hatred of my step sister Max by Hugh and our sister Stephanie.  They despised Max, despite the years she spent nursing Betty and Dad through their increasing infirmities.  A lot of this was very much like the way we had treated Sookie and Fagie.
This hatred led Hugh, as executor, to spend over $500,000 in legal fees to assure that nothing from the estate went to Max.  Hugh and my sister Stephanie wanted to block anything going to Betty,  even in the way of monies needed to support her, because some of that might be inherited by Max.  This escalated into what he called “psychological warfare” against Betty.  When I refused to join this behavior, Hugh refused to talk with me except through $500/hr attorneys he hired using estate money.  This cost my wife and  me a  very large amount of money in law suits that continue till today.
As executor, Hugh has also done other things my father would have hated, including improperly disposing of my father’s patients’ medical records rather than following the simple rules described under HIPAA.  Hugh’s excuse was that the presence of these records in the house would force my step mother and step sister to vacate the house so that we could sell it.   Sadly Betty and Max wanted to leave, but Hugh would not even agree to involve an elder care consultant so the family could determine how Betty could be supported financially.  Ultimately, after spending more than the $500,000, we got this into arbitration and Hugh traded  over $100,000 of estate money, not his own, so that  Betty would give him a collection of autographs that under the law were now hers.
Worst of all has his been demeaning treatment of Betty,  Before she died, my mother Millie  encouraged my Dad to marry Betty and he did.  My stepmother is an amazingly sweet and simple person who supported my father for 27 years.  Hugh has called her names, demeaned Betty’s daughter, and tried to force Betty out of the house my father left to Betty for her lifetime.  My father would be enraged.
The latest contest, referred to in Hugh’s bizarre letter , is over my discovery in that house  of a trove of pictures that prove that my father Robert Schwartz, was the first physician into Buchenwald, arriving before General Patton.   Because of his actions as executor, a large number of other materials have now been destroyed including most of the WWII correspondence between my parents during WWII.  Sadly, these letters were stored in my mother’s hope chest along with my wife’s wedding dress … now also gone.
Hugh wants the WWII materials to go to his alma mater, Brandeis.  Although Brandeis lacks many of the resources needed to see that this heritage becomes public, I would support Hugh in this and have been wiling to agree to the gift.  Hugh , however, has created obstructions, explicitly stating that he would rather see the pictures rot unless Brandeis gives him control over my access.

Let me leave it at this, the only reason that these materials have not gone to Brandeis is Hugh.

Letter from Hugh


Rosh Hashana is to supposed to mark a new beginning. It is supposed to be a time when things in the past are left in the past and the slate is wiped clean. I was truly hoping that this Rosh Hashana could be this for our family. Sadly it won’t be, because some (not all) among us refuse to work with one another to bring the past to a close.

 I want to thank the people who worked this year to try to bring us to a new beginning: Janet who has worked tirelessly to come up with a solution and who – along with Elena did not deserve the stress and anguish that this has caused: Marty for his tenacious efforts and being there when I needed him with his only reward being that he is doing what Dad asked him to do; Steph and Bill for trying on countless occasions  to reach out and open a line of communication; Havi for trying to take on the daunting task of getting family consensus so that Dad’s legacy could be preserved at Brandeis – only to run into a major roadblock; Hillel whose involvement has been little, but whose comments on the Deed of Gift were helpful and quite constructive;and  the attorneys (Leiha, Joe and Alex in particular)who found themselves in a situation that appears to be beyond their control.
This is supposed to be a holiday of hope and optimism. But as I stand here today, I am not optimistic about the future of this family: not when all family members don’t have free access to the family legacy (pictures and Dad’s documents); and not when we can’t even finalize an agreement to preserve dad’s legacy for others to see at Brandeis, because of selfish interests. So, unfortunately it would be hypocritical for me to wish La Shana Tova at this time.
From the side of the Schwartz/Linn family, we will hold our hope for a bright new year in other areas. Elena is entering Jr. High, and becoming a young woman. Although a lot to handle, I see her growing closer to her mom where they can discuss women’s issues (i.e. boys) and go shopping while the tomboy days of palling around with Dad become less. It is okay. Me kicking a soccer ball around is probably not a great idea anyway! I am blessed to have Janet by my side and we are blessed to have Elena.
I trust all of you also have shining lights to look forward to in the coming year. My advice is to enjoy them to the fullest and be happy and healthy.
Unfortunately, I cannot see how this can be a La Shana Tova for any of us, since we cannot all freely share our shining lights with each other (a dying wish of Dad), sit down together and go through the old family photos and reminisce about  our legacy, and most importantly preserve Dad’s legacy in a manner he would be proud and in a place where others can learn from it.
May you all have many shining lights in the next year and hope that somehow it turns out to be a La Shana Tova.


0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Roger Rabbit #

    Could you possibly get the name and phone number of your brother’s public relations consultant for me? I might want to call upon his services if I ever need a letter like that.

  2. theaveeditor #

    Sure .. I will email to you.

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