Sunday, July 24, 2016

DEATH | July 23, 1996–Ham Fish

Rep. Ham Fish, Jr.
On the 20th anniversary of his, the Poughkeepsie Journal posted the following tribute to Congressman Hamilton Fish. It was forwarded by his publisher son. (Fish's NY Times obit is here.)
Where have you gone, Ham Fish? 
Flamboyant? No.
Self-promoter? No.
Loud? No.
Public-service driven? Yes.
Consensus-builder? Yes.
Impeccable integrity? Yes
There was always a regal sense about Ham Fish, Jr. He was a congressman. A statesman. A true champion of the people he served for 26 years in the House of Representatives. 
He was from Millbrook, but also called Washington, D.C. his home. That was only appropriate given that his family’s roots in service to America dated to the Revolutionary War.
July 23 marked the 20th anniversary of Fish’s 1996 death from cancer. Too many folks today know Fish’s name only because the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge was renamed in his family’s honor. That’s appropriate because the enduring reputation of Hamilton Fish Jr. — the fourth Hamilton Fish — was of a public servant who connected others, who spanned differences, who showed a pathway. He was a Republican known as a moderate. He worked issues first, party notwithstanding. Cross that political aisle to get something done? Welcome them to your side? You bet.
And Fish, scion of one of New York state's most enduring political dynasties, did it without a shred of the bluster and grandstanding many politicians rely on today. He inspired confidence by doing his job and doing it well, not by telling you how well he did his job.
He’d call or stop in at the Poughkeepsie Journal on occasion, and unfailingly provided a distinguished presence. His voice was firm. His mannerisms confident. His earnestness clear.
That was the consensus about Fish’s work during Watergate, when he served on the House Judiciary Committee and cast a significant GOP vote to impeach President Richard Nixon in 1974. “Colleagues from both sides of the aisle said the moment epitomized Fish’s high ethics and demonstrated his commitment to the democratic process,” the Journal reported in the news story about his death.
Fish also was the chief Republican sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, mandating parity for those often denied it. He was key in getting laws passed to block discrimination against women and minorities; to fight hate crimes; to ensure fair housing tenets; and to fight apartheid. And that’s just the start of the list.
And those family roots? His great-great grandfather, Nicholas Fish, fought in the Revolutionary War with George Washington. Nicholas Fish’s son, Hamilton Fish, joined Congress in 1842 before becoming New York’s governor. Why name his son Hamilton? It was in honor of his good friend, Alexander Hamilton.
The second Hamilton Fish became a member of Congress in 1909. The third Hamilton Fish, who died in 1991, was in Congress from 1921 to 1945 and was a Republican foil of fellow Dutchess resident Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge naming honors contributions of every Hamilton Fish.
As a highly contentious presidential race revs up, those who remember Ham Fish wonder if civility — Hamilton Fish Jr.-style civility and accomplishment — can ever again rule the day."

DUTCH HISTORY | Johan and Jimmy Huizinga

Johan Huizinga was a founder of the field of cultural history. He
wrote critically about Fascism in the 1930s, was arrested in 1942
for speaking out against the Nazis, and died in prison in 1945.
July 24, 2016—Wally van Hall, who has been called the "Prime Minister of the Dutch Resistance," as a young man in 1929 went to New York to work with his brother Gijsbert (Gijs) van Hall. 

They met up with their Dutch friend Jimmy Huizinga and they had a great time, according to Aad van Hall (son of Wally van Hall).

I emailed Charles "Leidschendam" Boissevain (the middle name is to distinguish this Charles Boissevain from so many others) to ask whether Jimmy Huizinga was the son of the great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, and the answer came back overnight from him and Marleen van Hall Habraken (daughter of Gijs van Hall, who became Mayor of Amsterdam after the war):

Yes! Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) had two sons Leonhard (1906-1980), author of a humorous book and some articles, and Jacob "Jimmy" Herman (1908-1983), who was a good friend of Wally and Tilly van Hall and often stayed with them when they were living in Staten Island, New York. (Another son, Dirk, shows up on searches.) Marleen has pictures of Jimmy with Gijs, Wally and Emmie (Gijs' wife) in good spirits in their garden. Marleen reports as follows [translation by Charles]:
Jimmy wrote for the NRC (the NRC and Algemeen Handelsblad merged in 1970 into the present NRCHandelsblad). When Emmie went back to Holland he arranged for her to write about American literature, for quite a long time. They were also friends with Jimmy's older brother Leonard Huizinga, his wife and daughter (born in 1930). We have a picture of a summer house that our families rented in Noordwijk, a well-known village on the North Sea, 20 miles north of The Hague. I remember Leonard saying that children should be seen, not heard!
I am grateful to  Charles "Leidschendam" Boissevain, Marleen van Hall Habraken and Aad van Hall for the above information.

Postscript, August 2, 2020: I just heard from T. J. Rider McDowell, who said: "Jimmy Huizinga was my surrogate grandfather. Great guy." 

In his Erasmus Lectures at Harvard, Loe de Jong quotes Jimmy's father Johan Huizinga as saying: "History, like good sherry, should be dry." The following on Johan is from various Internet sources.

Johan Huizinga

Johan was the son of Gröningen Physiology Professor Dirk Huizinga and Jacoba Tonkens, who died two years after Johan was born. He was a student of Indo-Germanic languages, graduating in 1895. He then studied comparative linguistics, learning Sanskrit in the process. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the role of the jester in Indian drama in 1897.

In 1902 he started writing about medieval and Renaissance history, with his first writing a biography of Erasmus. He  became Professor of General and Dutch History at Gröningen in 1905. In 1915, he was appointed Professor of General History at Leiden University, a post he held until 1942, when the Nazis removed him. He opposed Fascism in the 1930s and in 1942 spoke critically of the Nazi occupiers. From then until his death in 1945 he was locked up by the Nazi regime. His body lies in the graveyard of the Reformed Church at 6 Haarlemmerstraatweg in Oegstgeest.

Huizinga, The Play Element of Culture.
Huizinga founded a whole field of study, cultural research. His knowledge of languages led him to examine the role of playing, of games, in the formation of culture. He believed that games preceded culture, that animals instinctively know how to play and that playing leads to culture. Huizinga attempts to classify the words used for play


παιδιά — pertaining to children's games
ἄθυρμα — associated with the idea of the trifling, the nugatory
ἀγών — for matches and contests

krīdati — denoting the play of animals, children, adults
divyati — gambling, dicing, joking, jesting, ...
vilāsa — shining, sudden appearance, playing and pursuing an occupation
līlayati — light, frivolous insignificant sides of playing

wan — is the most important word covering children's games and much much more  cheng — denoting anything to do with contests; corresponds exactly to the Greek ago. sai — organized contest for a prize

      asobu — is a single, very definite word, for the play function

Semitic languages
la’ab (a root, cognate with la’at) — play, laughing, mocking
la’iba (Arabic) — playing in general, making mock of, teasing[13]
la’ab (Aramaic) — laughing and mocking
sahaq (Hebrew) — laughing and playing
ludus — from ludere, covers the whole field of play

Huizinga's study of culture stood him in good stead in the 1930s when he started to research and write critically about the culture of Fascism. He studied it as a game. He said:
You can deny almost everything: the beauty, the truth, the spirit of God. You can deny seriousness. But you can never deny the game.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

MED BIZ | Gamma Knife Kills Neuroma (Updated May 1, 2017)

Note pressure of the
titanium frame on head.
You get used to it.
Selfie by JT Marlin.
I lost hearing in my left ear a decade ago. The ear doctor said there was a 5 percent chance it was an acoustic neuroma a.k.a. a vestibular Schwannoma. I had an MRI and sure enough, that is what it was. It was small, 4 mm., but in a bad place, the vestibular ear canal.

Having already lost most of my hearing in the left ear, I decided to wait before doing anything about the neuroma.

Executive Summary

Nurse feeds me water through a
titanium cage. Photos by Alice
Tepper Marlin.
The decision to go yesterday for the Gamma Knife op was based on deterioration in my sense of balance.

The neuroma had grown to 8 mm. The vestibular ear canal controls balance. As a doctor told me: "When you hear the sound of hoofs outside the window in the USA, do you assume a zebra or a horse?" The horse is this case would be the neuroma's interfering with my balance. Anything to do with my balance should be assumed to relate to the neuroma.

So yesterday morning I had the Gamma Knife procedure. I am informed it successfully killed the neuroma (although the process of its dying may take weeks or months), so unless you want to know more, that is the end of the story. My balance sense is improved.

More Detail

A neuroma or schwannoma (also known as a "Schwann cell tumor" or a "neurinoma,"or "neurolemoma") is a benign nerve sheath tumor composed of Schwann cells, which normally produce the insulating myelin sheath covering peripheral nerves. The tumor cells can be thought of as feeding on a nerve, but they stay outside the nerve. The tumor causes trouble by pushing the nerve aside and/or up against a bony structure. Schwannomas are relatively slow-growing and are almost always benign, so they don't spread.

Dr. Wang sets up the Perfexion machine. 
A neuroma can be removed via microsurgery as well as radiation. Microsurgery requires cutting a hole in the scalp and (I understand) feeding a tiny pair of scissors up through the ear canal. I didn't like the risk associated with that, especially when the seventh and eighth nerves are intertwined and a frequent enough byproduct of the surgery is some loss of control over facial nerves on that side of the face. Think Phantom of the Opera.

The "Gamma Knife" radiation procedure  avoids having to cut through the skull or physically cut out the tumor. Instead, it bombards the neuroma with gamma rays from dozens of different directions. After enough of this the neuroma cries "Uncle" and goes into a funk that ends with its death.

"The neuroma is a weakling among tumors and is ready to give up the ghost with a little bombardment," is how I remember Dr. Michael Sisti summing up the situation.  The downside is less worrisome than the hole-in-the-scalp and mini-scissors strategy for the surgery.

The Gamma Knife is an advanced radiation treatment for adults and children with small to medium-sized brain tumors and diseases such as abnormal blood vessel formations called arteriovenous malformations, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia (a nerve condition that causes chronic pain) and other neurological conditions.

That takes care of what I know of the medical science. You can stop here or review what happened during the 9-10 hours that were occupied by the surgery.

The Surgery Narrative

Getting ready to open the machine.
For those contemplating or just curious about the Gamma Knife procedure, here's how my day went  yesterday:

4:30 a.m. Shower and dress in clothing with no metal anywhere (even metallic snaps are verboten). I wore a polo shirt and jogging pants.

5:30 a.m. Taxi with Alice to the basement of the New York Presbyterian Hospital Children's Hospital, where the Gamma Knife center is located. That Hospital is where my eldest sister, Olga E. Marlin, was born in 1934. Fortunately all six of us siblings are still living, aged 71-81.

Dr. Wang watches the Perfexion machine,
with data at his left. 
6:30 a.m. I am checked in. Alice gets a visitor's pass, I get two bracelets, one indicating my name and doctor and various numeric IDs, and the other listing allergies. I also get a hospital bathrobe. We are introduced to half a dozen people who have different responsibilities during the procedure.

The first task was to put the
titanium frame on me. The metal is unusual because it isn't affected by the magnets in the MRI machine. This is one of the two most unpleasant parts of the procedure because it must be absolutely, positively tight on my head.

7:30 a.m. I was given 0.5 mg. of valium to help face the placement of the helmet and the tight MRI that followed. The frame was tightened in four places on my head and they all bled. Discomfort occurred during this difficult process, involving three or four people – one of whom was injecting a numbing fluid, something like Novocaine (generic name procaine). Alice said that a woman in the next treatment room had been in tears briefly during this step (I couldn't hear it).  Alice had to stay outside while this was done and was concerned, but she said she heard me cracking jokes after a while and all the attendants were laughing, so she was relieved. After five minutes I got used to the frame and the three of us who were waiting for the procedure paraded, or were wheeled, around like aliens from Star Trek or The Empire Strikes Back.

Nurse puts on ice to reduce
swelling at pressure points.

8:00 a.m. A clear-plastic thing that looks like a transparent hair dryer and was mysteriously called a "halo" was put on me. Dr. Tony Wang used it to take measurements of my skull. This information was presumably fed into the computer to help it decide where to target the gamma rays.

10:00 a.m. I went in for the brain MRI of the brain, with the titanium frame on. This was the second step that the valium helped me deal with. The MRI ensures that the location of the neuroma would be entirely up to date. I have always used the Dove Open MRI, because it doesn't make me feel like I am being buried in the catacombs. The hospitals don't like the Open MRI so much because the more-open machines sacrifice some detail.  For Gamma Knife purposes, it has to be the closed MRI, so I felt as though I was stuffed into the capsule space like a sausage (the photo is of the Perfexion machine, which provides a lot more space than the MRI). Luckily, the small amount of valium was enough to prevent any panic. I was given ear plugs, which was a good thing, because the noise seemed to be considerably louder than in the Dove machine.

12:00 noon. After Dr. Sisti and Dr. Wang conferred on a strategy, I was brought in to the "Perfexion" Gamma Knife machine and by this time it was programmed with measurements and the irradiation plan. It was almost an anti-climax. The zapping of the brain is quiet. No noise, just an occasional hello from Dr. Wang and Alice. And then I was out of there.
Data from Perfexion machine.

1:00 p.m. Dr. Sisti says they got all of it but it might take six months before the neuroma was completely dead. Meanwhile, he said, "play tennis". Apparently it helps with the sense of balance.

1:30 p.m. Headed home with a bandage on my head.

I am grateful to Drs. Sisti and Wang, to all the attendants, to Alice for accompanying me, to all those who said they prayed for me, and to the divine being(s) who respond to prayer. And now... back to work.

Update, May 1, 2017

Today I brought in the MRI taken after six months. Dr. Sisti was happy with the outcome and said that, unusually, the Gamma Knife had cut a hole in the neuroma so that it now had a doughnut-like shape. I am to come back after another brain scan in July 2018, and then he expects to be able to say with some finality that the neuroma is dead.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

KENYA | Olga Marlin: A Dream that Made History

Prof. John Odhiambo, Vice-Chancellor of Strathmore University and
 Olga E. Marlin, on the award to her of the D.Litt. degree, 2011, the
first woman to be so honored. Photo by John Tepper Marlin.
She left the comfort of Europe to empower African women. The impact is continental, writes Lilian Aluanga, Sunday Standard, Nairobi, Oct. 22, 2005.

(The full story of Olga Marlin's life is in her memoir, To Africa with a Dream, first published by Scepter in 2002 and then in a new edition in 2011 with photos, by Boissevain Books, New York, N.Y.)

She enjoys eating nyama choma and ugali, knows Kenya better than many post-Uhuru citizens and has witnessed the country’s transition from colonialism to Independence under Jomo Kenyatta, to Daniel Moi and on to Mwai Kibaki.
Most importantly though, she has made her contribution — though quietly away from the media glare — to the making of modern Kenya.
At 27, an age when many women in her birthplace would be thinking of starting families and living in dainty cottages with picket fences, she chose to give up the comfort of Europe and accompanied a group of eight women who were coming to live in Africa.
She landed in Kenya. The country changed her. She embraced it as home, became a citizen, and set out to do her best to make her new home, then trapped in racial discrimination, a better place.
Meet Olga Marlin, a founder member of the Kianda Foundation — the pioneer in setting up a multi-racial secretarial school at the height of the liberation struggle in Kenya.
Olga made the journey from Ireland in 1960 not out of a sense of adventure, but because of a deep conviction that God wanted her to do something for Him with her life.
Now in her 70’s — and still every inch as elegant, charming and poised as she was in her late 20’s — Olga remains modest, though happy, about her role in helping lay a foundation for thousands of African women who are now top executives in various organisations both locally and internationally.
To Olga, the eldest child in a family of six, African women were in a vicious circle those days: "They needed education for freedom and freedom to be educated."
And her efforts paid off, judging from the list of some of Kianda’s former students. From Health Minister Charity Ngilu to Evelyn Mungai-Eldon, founder of the Evelyn College of Design; from Pamela Mboya, the late Tom Mboya’s wife, to Honourable Victoria Sebagarika, an MP in Uganda; from Christina Kenyatta-Pratt to Gaone Masire-Moyo, the successful daughter of Botswana’s ex-president Ketumile Masire; from Zipporah Mayanja, a top Ugandan diplomat in Belgium to Hannah Rubia, the wife of Saba Saba hero Charles Rubia. It is a long list of strong African women, who no matter the direction they took, they excelled.
Olga (far right) and other members of staff show President Jomo Kenyatta a photo album of the college when the late leader visited the college in 1970Olga (far right) and other members of staff show President Jomo Kenyatta a photo album of the college when the late leader visited the college in 1970. 
To date, Kianda, a household name in secretarial studies, has seen hundreds of thousands of girls pass through its doors, a far cry from its humble beginnings in a tiny cottage along Nairobi’s Waiyaki Way with only 17 students.
Born in New York City 1934 to Ervin Ross Marlin and Hilda Gerarda van Stockum, Olga remembers travelling a lot as a child thanks to her father’s status as an employee of the United Nations.
She attended primary school in Washington, before the family moved to Montreal Canada in 1947, where she completed her secondary school before joining the Trinity College in Dublin for a Masters in Modern Languages.
"My father had always wanted me to go to Trinity College because that was where he studied and also met my mum," she says. Although the family moved back to Canada, Marlin chose to stay on in Ireland, where her life would forever be changed when she met members of Opus Dei (Work of God), a personal prelature of the Catholic Church.
"Never in my whole life did I think I would meet a saint," she says in reference to the founder of Opus Dei, Saint Josemaria Escriva. Olga laughs as she continues, "When I was 10 years old, I used to tell people that I would like to get married and have 10 children.
"My attitude towards life was totally changed and I felt that God wanted me to serve him in some way," she says.
Therefore, when Olga was selected as part of a group of eight women whom St Josemaria chose to send to Kenya, she was only too happy to comply even though she knew it wouldn’t be easy.
But nothing had quite prepared her for the shocking reality on the ground. She arrived in Kenya when residential areas were segregated, as were clubs, schools, restaurants, and even the public transport system.
Social interactions between the races was taboo, and Olga and her group soon realised that they would have a difficult time selling the idea of a multi-racial school that would see white students learning side by side with their Asian and African peers.
Initially the idea was to set up a finishing school which would give African women a chance to acquire secretarial skills in courses that would help them get better jobs and uplift their living standards. At the time, Olga says, people thought they were mad to even come up with such an idea, but a female member of the Kenyatta family whom the group met soon after their arrival, gave them the courage to move on.
Retired President Moi is introduced to a member of staff at the college in 1981Retired President Moi is introduced to a member of staff at the college in 1981
"You have arrived at a very good time to open a school for girls. Our women need education to become self-reliant, respect themselves and make themselves respected. This can only happen when they are financially independent. Your school should provide them with the necessary skills," the Kenyatta family member said.
After a brief teaching stint at Kenya High School, then a whites-only school, Olga moved on to carry out their vision. 
By 1961, after months of giving music lessons and coaching students in various subjects to raise money, the group was ready to start.
But there was a problem. One of the students was Goan and the city council would hear nothing of registering Kianda, first located in Valley Arcade — a white residential area — and two with a non-European student on board.
They would first have to seek the approval of the residents, the council said. 
Her proposal to the residents was flatly rejected and Marlin was crushed. "It was simply one of the worst moments of my life," she says.
She then knew that they would have to move out of the area if their mission to give African girls a chance to study was to be fulfilled.
One of her students offered to help. Her father, Paddy Rouche, owned an estate agency in Nairobi’s Westlands and had just identified a parcel of land along Waiyaki Way (Kianda School’s present location), which was on the border of a reserve on which the Japanese embassy also stood.
At this time, the government also decided to declare some plots in the area multi-racial and Kianda (Kikuyu for valley) finally found a home which would be led by Olga until 1980.
It would be the first of several educational institutions put up by the Kianda Foundation in its quest to uplift the educational standards and general welfare of women in Kenya.
Registered in 1961 in Nairobi, its development has over the years given rise to a primary and secondary schools as well as the Kibondeni Catering School and the Kimlea Girls Technical Training College in Kiambu. 
Mama Ngina Kenyatta is shown around the college on a visit in the 70sMama Ngina Kenyatta is shown around the college on a visit in the 70s
The latter has saved hundreds of girls from the degrading and exploitative child labour rampant on the coffee plantations in the district.
Although Marlin now had a place to put up the classrooms, a more difficult task awaited her — convincing African parents to allow their daughters to enrol for secretarial courses at the college.
"Most of them were hesitant to allow their daughters to be trained as secretaries and feared that they would become wayward and get lost in Nairobi," she says.
Eventually, they got their first African student — Evelyn Mungai-Eldon — who set the pace for her peers and was an articulate, hardworking student able to hold her own even though she was obviously different.
Says Olga, "She used to walk to school everyday and was bright and very competitive in class." 
Evelyn did well in her studies and landed a job with the East African Community on completion of her one-year training.
Kianda increasingly became popular, especially with large organisations in the region due its high quality training. It attracted students and teachers from as far as Greece, Mexico, Spain, US, Ireland, France, Egypt, Ethiopia, Botswana, Uganda, and Tanzania.
At Independence, the school lost some of its white students, who in fear of reprisals from Africans, chose to go back home. But the numbers picked up again as the demand for secretaries grew in a newly independent Kenya and the wider east African region.
So impressed with Kianda College were companies that they proposed the start of a bonding programme with the college. Under this programme, the organisations agreed to pay a year’s fees for the girls, inclusive of boarding and pocket money, so long as the girls signed an agreement to work with the companies upon graduation. Bursaries were sourced for girls from poor backgrounds without corporate sponsorship. 
Long before the country gained independence, Olga had forged deep friendships with the wives to some of the men who were later to hold high positions in government. Most of them had gone through Kianda and Olga made up her mind to ask them for help.
Tom and Pamela Mboya (right) on a visit to the college in an undated pictureTom and Pamela Mboya (right) on a visit to the college in an undated picture
While some of her colleague went overseas to raise funds from well-wishers, Olga sought out her old students. One of them was Pamela, who married Tom Mboya. Another was Hannah, the wife of Nairobi’s first African Mayor, Charles Rubia.
She recalls a visit to Rubia’s office at the time: "He was very gracious and understood my dilemma and the need to empower these girls. I will never forget what he said to me: ‘Olga, we knew each other when you were nobody and we were nowhere. I will help you’."
She remembers Tom Mboya as a robust trade unionist whom she was humbled to meet. 
"I was introduced to Tom by Jemima Gecaga (a sister to Dr Njoroge Mungai)." Her ties to the Mboya’s would later see him sponsor several students to Kianda before his tragic death through an assassin’s bullet.
Just before he died in 1969, Mboya sent the current Kisumu Mayor Prisca Ouma to meet Olga.
She was the last student he was to send to the college.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

R.I.P. | June 27–Silvia Tennenbaum

Silvia Tennenbaum (1928-2016).
Silvia Pfeiffer Tennenbaum died at 88 on June 27, 2016 in Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr, Pa. 

She was born in Frankfurt, Germany, the daughter of Lotti Clara Stern and Erich Pfeiffer-Belli.

Her parents divorced in 1930 and in 1934, her mother married William Steinberg, a conductor. The Steinbergs fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and Silvia was sent for the next two years live in Basel, Switzerland with her aunt Gertrude Ritz-Stern. Her parents went to Tel Aviv, where Silvia's stepfather helped establish the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.

The Steinbergs came to America in 1938 after William Steinberg  was hired to assist Arturo Toscanini of the NBC Symphony. Silvia graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1946 and attended Barnard, graduating with honors in Art History in 1950.

She was a tomboy who loved movies and baseball. A fan first of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field in Flatbush, she later came to love the underdog New York Mets and became a longtime season ticket holder at Shea Stadium. 

She started graduate school at Columbia but left in 1951 after marrying Lloyd Tennenbaum, a Columbia student in mathematics and philosophy who became a rabbi. Her stepfather meanwhile was picked to lead the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1952-1976).

Silvia and her husband started coming to East Hampton in the 1960s to visit her mother and stepfather who was principal guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic. The Tennenbaums lived the next seven years in Lynchburg, Va. during which time Silvia gave birth to three sons and started her writing career. After briefly serving in Plainfield, N.J., Lloyd Tennenbaum was appointed rabbi to two congregations on Long Island and the family settled in Huntington, N.Y. where Silvia Tennenbaum began writing.

In her first and most famous book, Rachel the Rabbi's Wife (1978), Silvia tells a thinly fictionalized, funny story of her own experience as wife of a rabbi who is vain and a congregation that expects the wife of the rabbi to donate her time to pet activities of the congregation’s leaders.

By 1981, the couple had separated and Silvia lived mostly in her old house on Fireplace Road, becoming active in East Hampton civic and political life. She and her husband were divorced in 1986.  By then, Silvia Tennenbaum had returned to graduate school at Columbia and completed her MA in art history in 1983. An avid traveller and prolific diarist, she is also the author of Yesterday's Streets (1981), a fictionalized account of life among upper-middle class Jews in Frankfurt, Germany from the start of the twentieth century to the Nazi takeover. In 2012, the city that Silvia Tennenbaum had fled named Yesterday's Streets as their "Book of the Year”.

Silvia was generous with her opinions. One of her critical letters to a local paper prompted someone to post a hand-painted sign saying “Communist Headquarters” near her driveway. She kept it for a time.

 As a writer, Silvia continued to find success publishing stories. One of them, “A Lingering Death,” was selected by Joyce Carol Oates for “Best American Short Stories of 1979.”

In 2014, she moved to the Quadrangle, an independent living facility in Haverford, Pa., where she continued to keep up with news. Silvia is survived by her three sons, Jeremy Tennenbaum of Wynnewood, Pa., David Tennenbaum of Chicago, and Raphael Tennenbaum of Brooklyn. She was buried at Green River Cemetery on June 29; Rabbi Daniel N. Geffen of Temple Adas Israel presided.


Silvia was a neighbor, and a neighborly one she was. She told me she got a million-dollar advance on the paperback rights to Rachel the Rabbi's Wife, which allowed her to build a studio in the back of her house where she did her writing. She gave us a few things she didn't need when we first located near her, and was always responsive to our suggestions about improving the community. We and others missed her greatly when she moved to the Philadelphia area, and continue to now that she has passed on.

See also: One-year anniversary of her death.

Friday, July 8, 2016

BOISSEVAIN | The van Lenneps

Cornelis van Lennep, the 10th and youngest child of Herman Jozua van
Lennep. He was the father of Hansje van Lennep Hyland.
One name that crops up more than once in the Boissevain family tree is van Lenneps.

Two van Lenneps married two Boissevain cousins. Hilda van Stockum's mother, Olga Emily Boissevain, was one of these cousins.

So Hilda was related to the van Lenneps at least twice, by marriage.

Hansje van Lennep, whom we knew in Washington, D.C., was related to  the Boissevains through the marriages of her Uncle Herman van Lennep and her Aunt Mies van Lennep Boissevain.I n Holland, if a first cousin is much older, one calls the cousin "aunt" or "uncle"–hence the expression "Dutch uncle".

Both the Boissevain and the van Lennep families have historically important names that are protected by Dutch law. One cannot just take one of these names–one must be born with the name, or be adopted by someone with the name or marry someone with it.
Hansje van Lennep and Family.
Matthew Philip (Matt) and Hansje Hyland, at
home in Washington, D.C. It was January
1995, during AEA meetings. Photo by JT Marlin.
Hansje van Lennep wrote to her friend Diane Haddick in January 1999, explaining how she knew her Dutch cousin, Hilda van Stockum.

Diane just sent me Hansje's letter.

Essentially, two van Lenneps married two Boissevain cousins. Hilda's mother (Olga Emily Boissevain) was their cousin.

So Hilda was related by marriage to the van Lenneps at least twice. Hansje van Lennep was related to  the Boissevains through the marriages of her Uncle Herman van Lennep and her Aunt Mies van Lennep Boissevain.

Visiting Hilda van Stockum in 1946

Hansje writes:
My mother [Mrs. Cornelis van Lennep, 10 in the list below] was rather concerned that her daughter [10c] was going far away in 1946, to work in the Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC, and she said this to Hilda's cousin Olga Boissevain van Lennep [1d]. Olga offered to write to Hilda van Stockum to ask her to put me up for a while. Hilda agreed. 
I stayed several weeks at Hilda's house on Northampton Street near Chevy Chase Circle in Washington, D.C., until Hilda's husband (Spike Marlin) was transferred to Montreal by his employer, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency. During that time Hilda suggested that we would PLAY being real cousins, since both of our families were back in Holland.
Spike went ahead to try to rent a house in Montreal. Not able to find anything right away (it being  summer), he had to settle for a house that was, literally, IN THE WOODS, outside Montreal [in a place called Ste. Marguerite].
So the family moved into this house, with no running water. The smallest of Hilda's six kids was 1 1-1/2 year old Elisabeth. There was no driveable road to the house, so the rented car dropped them off a small distance away. Hilda's widowed mother, Olga ("Aunt Olga" to me) later had to go buy a bathing suit, as did the rest of the family: the "bath" was a lake... As a result, a book was born - Canadian Summer
Thanks to correspondence with Hilda and Aunt Olga, I knew beforehand of some of the adventures later printed in the book. Years later, I spent Christmas with them at Ste. Adele. They had a house near the church and on several occasions the priest (or minister) had to ask the Marlin family to tone down their noise during the church service! That told you a lot about Hilda and her family!! 
Hilda will be 91 on Feb. 9, 1999. She is writing a book about her studies at the State Academy of Arts in Amsterdam and is doing two paintings, RIGHT NOW!"
Details on Links between Boissevains and van Lenneps

Both the Boissevain and the van Lennep families have old names that are protected by Dutch law. One cannot just take one of these names. One must be

  • born with the name, or 
  • be adopted by someone with the name or 
  • marry someone with it. 
In Holland, if a first cousin is much older, one calls the cousin "aunt" or "uncle".

** Herman Jozua van Lennep 1830-1888 &1859 Henriette Wilhelmine Sillem 1836-1907. [Hansje Carla van Lennep's grandparents had ten children, numbered 1 through A on the list below; her father is A and she is Ac.]

*1 Ernst van Lennep 1860-1922 [son of Herman Jozua van Lennep] &1888 Johanna Louisa van Eeghen 1865-1957
 1a Johanna Louise van Lennep 1890-1950
 1c Anna Caecilia van Lennep 1896-1980 &1919 Leonard van den Honert 1891-1957
 1d Herman Josua van Lennep 1899-1979 &1927 Olga Emily Boissevain [first cousin of Hilda van Stockum] 1902-1993
 1e Anne Willem van Lennep 1905-1977
 o Louise van Lennep 1895-1980 &1918 Jan Daniel Mulder 1890-1932
*3 Robbert van Lennep 1863-1921 &1891 Adrienne Minette Lucassen 1867-1940
 o Minette Adrienne van Lennep 1892-1975 &1930 Alphert Schimmelpenninck 1880-1943
 o Henriette van Lennep 1894-1972
 o Henriëtte Wilhelmina van Lennep 1906-1969 &1937 Jacob Emmer 1901-1958
 o Henriëtte Wilhelmina van Lennep 1906-1969 &1950 Rudolph Theodor Meurer 1898-1979
 o Aernout van Lennep 1898-1974 &1925 Joanna Maria Loeff 1897-1962
 o Anna Maria van Lennep 1901-1999
*5 Karel van Lennep 1866-1923 [Son of Herman Jozua] &1892 Anna Elize Homans 1871-1943
 5a Anna Petronella van Lennep 1894-1984 &1921 Henri Rijnier Boeree 1873-1949
 5b Cornelia Sylvia van Lennep 1895-1986 &1926 Pierre Joseph Eyma 1875-1934

 5c Adrienne Minette van Lennep 1896-1965 [daughter of Karel] & 1919  Jan "Canada" Boissevain 1895-1945  [Jan was first cousin of Olga Boissevain; their fathers Jan and Charles were brothers]

 o Sara van Lennep 1897-1970 &1920 Hylke Halbertsma 1895-1972
 o Karel van Lennep 1901-1949
 o Ernst van Lennep 1908-1908
*6 Henriette van Lennep 1868-1942
*7 Herman van Lennep 1869-1903
*8 Louise van Lennep 1871-1950
*9 Sylvia van Lennep 1873-1945
*A Cornelis van Lennep 1875-1948 &1908 Hyke Albertine Hinrichs 1885-1940
 Aa Hyke van Lennep 1909-1983 &1946 Eliasz Wajnztein 1903-1985
 Ab Sylvia van Lennep 1909-2001
* Cornelis van Lennep 1875-1948 &1918 Jacoba Johanna van Hell 1898-1970
 Ac Hansje Carla van Lennep [daughter of Cornelis] & Matthew Philip Hyland                      
 o Cornelius Sylvius van Lennep & Cordula Wilhelmina Coops

The Jan ("Canada") Boissevain Family in World War II

Hansje's letter continues:
During World War II, one of Hilda's brothers [Willem van Stockum] died overseas; he was shot down. 
The Krauts, who had occupied Holland, first imprisoned the husband of Adrian Minette (Mies) van Lennep [5c above], Jan ["Canada"] Boissevain, then let him free (he was a banker and was accused of lending money to Jews, which was trumped up, as Holland never differentiated among its citizens), then arrested him again and sent him and Mies to two different concentration camps. 
Also taken were their two oldest sons: Jan Karel [Janka] and Gideon [Gi], who were part of an underground resistance group, all in their early 20s. In 1943 they and others were killed by a firing squad in the dunes. 
Their younger brother, Francois Boissevain and the kid's nanny, Jane, were sent to a concentration camp in Germany. They survived the war. Alas, Jan did not - he died one month before Holland's liberation, in April 1945 in a camp near Berlin.    
Mies had been sent to Ravensbrueck in Southern Germany. She was part of a group liberated by Sweden's Count Bernadotte and was sent to Sweden. When she heard that her husband and her two eldest sons had died, she did not want to live any more. But then she looked out of the window of the plane that was bringing them all to Sweden. They broke through the clouds and the sun shone on a quilt of farms and towns below. She decided there was still a lot for her to do on earth.   
When she eventually returned to Holland, she started a movement where people would make quilted skirts out of remnants of cloth left over from the war. Friends and family would donate the pieces of cloth. The called the skirt the "feast rok" (festival dress), to celebrate the liberation of Holland. 
Because of her heroic behavior in the concentration camp, where she would save her fellow prisoners from despair with talk and deeds, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt invited her to come to America as she wanted to thank her and meet her personally. 
Diane Haddick Note

The letter makes Diane wonder if Mies van Lennep Boissevain ever did come to America at Mrs. Roosevelt's invitation, "and if she did, what happened after that?"


I have evidence that Mies did go on such a tour. I am looking for details.