Kad­dish for Krautham­mer

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • By ALAN ROSENBAUM

Ask most Amer­i­cans if they know the name “Charles Krautham­mer,” and many will nod their heads, rec­og­niz­ing Charles Krautham­mer as the renowned Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal writer and Fox com­men­ta­tor, who died this past June at age 68. For most Is­raelis, how­ever, the name will elicit a blank stare.

For Rabbi Sh­muel Krautham­mer, 60, rabbi of the Young Is­rael of Kfar Ganim syn­a­gogue in Pe­tah Tikva for the past 27 years, the name is fa­mil­iar, be­cause Charles was his first cousin. Though Rabbi Krautham­mer is not in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with Charles’s body of work – his coin­ing of the term “Rea­gan Doc­trine,” his nu­mer­ous es­says and ar­ti­cles on such dis­parate top­ics as base­ball, chess and Win­ston Churchill – he is aware of his late cousin’s staunch sup­port of Is­rael, both in print and on the air. Rabbi Krautham­mer was so moved by Charles’s pas­sion­ate sup­port of Is­rael that he re­cites kad­dish for him daily in his mem­ory.

Says Rabbi Krautham­mer, “I say kad­dish for him at least once a day – not just be­cause he was my first cousin, but be­cause I held him in high es­teem for his love of the Land of Is­rael. It is not al­ways easy to write pos­i­tively about Is­rael, even in Is­rael. But out­side Is­rael, it is even more dif­fi­cult. Charles did it with great re­spect and honor. He never re­nounced his con­nec­tion to the Jew­ish peo­ple and the Land of Is­rael, and for this rea­son I de­cided that I would per­form this ser­vice for him.”

Sit­ting in his com­fort­able home in Pe­tah Tikva, Rabbi Krautham­mer shares his rec­ol­lec­tions of the fam­ily’s his­tory, his cousin Charles, and long-ago fam­ily vis­its.

THE KRAUTHAM­MER fam­ily name is not all that un­usual in Is­rael, he ex­plains. Some­one who came from the town of Krautheim in Ger­many was called a Krautheimer. The word kraut means cab­bage in Ger­man, and some in the fam­ily were in­volved in plant­ing cab­bage. Orig­i­nally, he says, the Krautham­mer clan was ex­iled from Spain and Por­tu­gal, moved north­ward, and ended up in Krautheim. Two hun­dred years ago, one of the mem­bers of the Krautham­mer fam­ily moved to Tiberias, and as a re­sult, many Krautham­mers liv­ing in Safed and Tiberias are re­lated to one an­other.

Charles’s fa­ther, Shulem, was the old­est of six, and Rabbi Krautham­mer’s fa­ther, Ye­huda Yosef, was the youngest. Charles was born in New York, and the fam­ily moved to Mon­treal when he was a child. Shulem’s brother Si­mon had moved to Brazil, and even­tu­ally Ye­huda moved there as well. Sh­muel was born in Rio de Janeiro, and his fam­ily moved to Is­rael when he was four years old.

Rabbi Krautham­mer has fond rec­ol­lec­tions of his aunt and un­cle, Charles’s par­ents.

“His par­ents had dis­tinc­tive, real per­son­al­i­ties, and Charles ab­sorbed Jew­ish tra­di­tion from his home, grow­ing up. They were in our home in Tel Aviv fre­quently,” he says. “Shulem Krautham­mer was a re­li­gious man who at­tended Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s weekly To­rah classes reg­u­larly and would send sum­maries of the lec­tures to his sons Charles and Mar­cel. Charles had a fine, tra­di­tional Jew­ish ed­u­ca­tion grow­ing up. If his fa­ther sent him Rabbi Soloveitchik’s classes each week, Charles must have main­tained a con­nec­tion.”

Though Charles did not re­main fully ob­ser­vant, his cousin says, “I don’t ex­am­ine peo­ple by their level of ob­ser­vance. I do know that he re­mained very at­tached.”

Sh­muel Krautham­mer re­calls the many vis­its from the Cana­dian branch of the Krautham­mer fam­ily. “I re­mem­ber Charles very well from when we moved to Is­rael,” he says. “They came, and stayed oc­ca­sion­ally in the Ac­ca­dia Ho­tel, some­times in our home. Charles was about 13 or 14, and he played with us. He was a very hand­some boy.”

Rabbi Krautham­mer’s eyes light up, and he men­tions that “I can re­mem­ber this very clearly. I re­call study­ing Tal­mud with him. We stud­ied the Mishna and Tal­mud from the be­gin­ning of the third chap­ter of trac­tate Bava Met­zia, “Ha­mafkid.” He taught me.”

CHARLES KRAUTHAM­MER at­tended McGill Uni­ver­sity in Mon­treal, grad­u­at­ing in 1970. He then went on to Ox­ford, be­fore re­turn­ing to the United States to study medicine at Har­vard. It was dur­ing his Har­vard stud­ies that he sus­tained a life-chang­ing in­jury, when he was in­jured in a div­ing board ac­ci­dent, and be­came par­a­lyzed from the waist down.

Says Rabbi Krautham­mer, “After the in­jury, we had very lit­tle con­tact with him. It was very dif­fi­cult for him to get here, due to his con­di­tion.”

De­spite his se­vere in­jury and ac­com­pa­ny­ing dis­abil­ity, Krautham­mer man­aged to com­plete med­i­cal school on time with his class in 1975, be­com­ing a psy­chi­a­trist.

His first foray into pol­i­tics was with the Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion of pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter, serv­ing as di­rec­tor of psy­chi­atric re­search, and then be­com­ing a speech­writer for vice pres­i­dent Wal­ter Mon­dale in 1980.

Krautham­mer’s po­lit­i­cal views changed, and – known for his eru­di­tion, wit and keen in­tel­lect – he be­came one of the top con­ser­va­tive voices in the United States. He wrote for The New Repub­lic, Time, and The Weekly Stan­dard, was a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Post, and was a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor on Fox News. His 2013 best-seller, Things That Mat­ter: Three Decades of Pas­sions, Pas­times and Pol­i­tics, con­tained a col­lec­tion of es­says writ­ten over the past 30 years. A se­cond com­pi­la­tion of Krautham­mer’s work, The Point of It All: A Life­time of Great Loves and En­deav­ors, edited by his son Daniel, was re­leased ear­lier this month.

Charles Krautham­mer wrote pas­sion­ately on many sub­jects, es­pe­cially about Is­rael and Ju­daism. One of his best-known pieces on the sub­ject was writ­ten in 1998 for The Weekly Stan­dard. Ti­tled “At Last, Zion,” he de­scribed the dif­fer­ences be­tween Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in the Di­as­pora and life in Is­rael, and opined that if Is­rael were to be de­stroyed, it would mark, ef­fec­tively, the end of the Jew­ish peo­ple. Krautham­mer wrote about Is­rael, “It is the only na­tion on earth that in­hab­its the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same lan­guage and wor­ships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago.”

Sh­muel Krautham­mer re­calls his cousin’s visit to Is­rael in 2004, and says, “I vis­ited him in Jerusalem, when he met with Prime Min­is­ter Ne­tanyahu. I spoke to him in He­brew, though he didn’t speak He­brew flu­ently. By then, we didn’t have much of a con­nec­tion. I fol­lowed his de­vel­op­ment and suc­cesses, but we were not in touch very of­ten after that pe­riod. I am sure that if he had been in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion and had been healthy, he would have vis­ited much more of­ten. Ev­ery move­ment was dif­fi­cult for him.”

The writ­ten record of Charles Krautham­mer is ex­pan­sive, both on­line and through his col­lected works that are in print. There are nu­mer­ous video in­ter­views avail­able which cap­ture his unique take on Ju­daism and Is­rael. Yet the words of a close rel­a­tive pro­vide a greater sense of clar­ity into his per­son­al­ity, be­yond the awards and ac­claim.

Says his cousin, “I ad­mire him for his willpower – to be able to get back on his feet, fig­u­ra­tively, with­out the use of his feet, to study, and to progress in life, to have a fam­ily. I rarely grant in­ter­views, but in honor of Charles...,” Rabbi Krautham­mer’s voice trails off. ■

Charles Krautham­mer wrote pas­sion­ately on many sub­jects, es­pe­cially about Is­rael and Ju­daism

(Le­van Ramishvili/Flickr)

CHARLES KRAUTHAM­MER with his fa­ther Shulem and mother Thea at his grad­u­a­tion from McGill Uni­ver­sity.

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