In Memoriam:


A wound that cannot heal! That is the only way I can describe the untimely passing of my dear brother, Jacques. A few weeks after, and still my pen cannot describe him in the past tense!

Reading the extensive exchange of letters between us in 1960, he a teenager writing in Benghazi and I in the US, does not leave room for the thought that these were of yesteryear! In these letters, he comes alive with his concerns about the family, the future of our careers and about Judaism. Already then in 1960, he expressed an urgency to leave Libya, emphasizing the deteriorating situation of the Jews there.

His enrolment at the American High School in Benghazi, and the geographical distance that separated us, highlighted those concerns and strengthened his determination and urgency to register in any American university in order to live his dream of democracy and the values he had internalized, as he described, from one of Emerson’s essays, “Self-Reliance.” He adopted American literature as his own, and became fascinated by American history, cherishing the concepts of American democracy as expounded by the American Fathers of the Revolution.

In 1961, Jacques landed in New York City, and attended Yeshiva University. The geographical distance between us was now narrowed to the extent that I could go and visit him in New York from Boston almost every weekend. We spent time together enjoying our new freedom, anticipating the arrival of the family and paving the way for his transfer to Brandeis University. These visits brought us closer than ever before

For Jacques, Yeshiva University served not only as a springboard to study in the United States, but also as an introduction to a new Jewish world, the Yiddish world and its language, to words like ‘daven’ and ‘tsholent’ for which Jacques could not find a literary counterpart, as much as he tried, in the Jewish language of our country of origin.

Thus the subsequent year, 1962, Jacques’ transfer to Brandeis University marked the beginning of his rapid climb in the welcoming new world. From Brandeis he went to Princeton University, from there to a Fulbright, the World Bank, projects in Asia, North and South Africa, South America, and lately university teaching.

True to the spirit of the Protestant work ethic, as reflected in the American way of life, Jacques found also time to write and contribute his share on subjects dear to him, such as modern Libya and the Middle East. But it pains us all that he was unable to see the fruits of his latest endeavor in the form of this book on which he had labored untiringly.

Although a full-fledged product of American education, he never abandoned his admiration for and practice of his heritage and continued to enrich it with the acquired knowledge resulting from his interaction with different environments.

The impressive dossier of the history of his life would have made other people vain and pretentious, but not he who insisted on humility and shyness, warmth and consideration, exemplifying that part of his childhood and youth.

Not only the family, but also his friends from near and far mourn his passing. It was too early. We would have wanted him to stay longer. And yet despite the pain, we all feel thankful and lucky to have had him pass through our lives and to have left us richer than before. He fits the proverb that says one should put life in years and not years in life. He managed successfully to put life in years!

May your legacy, dear brother, continue to shine on your family and brighten the horizon of our world.

Maurice M. Roumani, Jerusalem , January 2017

Copyright by Sephardic Horizons, all rights reserved. ISSN Number 2158-1800