In Memory of My Beloved Father
Imagine this: pre-war, pogrom-ridden Poland, a time when being Jewish was hazardous to your health. In the village of Shtyptz lives the Orthodox Jewish family of Jacob Maron, a young talented photographer who boldly mingles with the general Polish population. Eventually, his skill as a photographer merits his being hired by the officials to photograph the momentous occasion of the arrival of the regional Cardinal. The local churches protest the hiring of a Jewish person for the event, but the authorities ignore the protests and assign Jacob Maron to be the official photographer of the event. His demeanor eventually eases the Judeo-phobia of the visiting church officials as well as the local priests attending the event, just as it had eased the phobia of the local authorities.
A few years go by and the Nazis invade Poland. The Jews are rounded up everywhere, the Jews of Shtyptz are no exception, and Jacob joins the Polish break-away militia to do what he can to repel the overwhelming German war machine. Back home, however, his people are besieged by makeshift ghetto walls comprised of barbed wire and surrounded by German soldiers. Their food is running out fast. Yet, somehow, food is smuggled in through the wire. How? With the help of one of those very priests who protested the hiring of Jacob as the official photographer for that major church event back when. Jacob had turned his heart around. He no longer fears or despises Jews and risks his life to sneak bread through the wire.
Jacob's physical and emotional stamina and strength, as well as his capacity to learn the art of warfare at unusual speed, soon earns him an unusually high rank in the Polish army, especially unusual for a Jew. His fellow soldiers soon learn to set aside their sentiments about Jews and respect their Jewish superior who not only leads them to one victory after another, but also risks his life often to save theirs, and at one point single-handedly destroys a German submarine with a solitary shot from a Howitzer. His skill is also employed toward training Jewish survivors of the Nazi onslaught who soon join in the fight against the German advance. His daring exploits grow bolder and more dangerous after he receives word that all the Jews of his home village, his family included, have been slaughtered by the Nazis. Filled with grief and vengeance, Jacob pushes on with increasing tenaciousness, suffering serious wounds and refusing hospitalization until he arrives in Berlin with the allied forces, his wounds gaping, and climbs atop the Reichstag headquarters to post his country's flag.
After the war, Jacob Maron musters forth the same uncanny strength that had enabled him to survive four years of combat and creates a new life and a new family in post-war Germany and eventually in the U.S. where he starts from scratch as a poultry farmer in Flemington, New Jersey. While language and other barriers prevent him from continuing a photography career in the U.S., he is forced to work two jobs to support his growing family and to support his wife's disadvantaged relatives in then Soviet Russia. A dedicated husband and hard-working father, Jacob Maron gives his All for the sake of family and community in spite of the unimaginable nightmare of having lost his entire family in the Holocaust. As a poultry farmer, Jacob not only busies himself night and day with raising his family and supporting his children's pursuits in higher education, he also accepts humbly the mantle of leadership in his community; it is to him that farmers and other neighbors turn for problem- solving and conflict resolution. He came to this country with empty pockets, and in the end builds a medical center, supports institutions, and contributes generously to those in need.
On Wednesday morning August 8, 2007, this unsung hero – my dear father -- passed away quietly in Toms River, New Jersey, in the company of his family. Jacob Maron left behind his wife of more than sixty years, my mom Sonia, and his children, my sister Trudy, and my brothers Myron and Ed, as well as nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He had suffered a debilitating illness during the six years that led up to his death, and was attended to daily during that period by my devoted mom, also a survivor of the Holocaust. During his final days, I was blessed to sit at his bedside and to gift him with loving touch and soothing song, accompanied by special rituals and prayers prescribed by the Jewish tradition for those in transition.
My dad remains a hero not only to those who fought alongside him in that horrendous period of human history, but also to those who benefited from his philanthropic generosity and moral strength in peace time. He was a model of humility, strength, determination, and hope. He died at the age of 95.
I deeply thank my father for teaching and demonstrating faith, courage, strength and endurance.
Papa, I love you and miss you.