UNITED STATES—The two men became good friends, Sam Delaney and Chain Weisshaus, on both blood and intellectual planes. They began meeting and every year brought welcome visits in New York, Boston, Tel Aviv—sometimes train stations and docks where a ship was setting sail. Their conversation went on for hours and hours. It drifted from English to Russian to Yiddish, with occasional French words and scraps of Spanish thrown in by Sam. There were times when it was momentarily impossible for Chaim and Sam to know what language they were speaking, only that they were connected on a deep level.

Their wives Vera and Rebecca had their own observation, “They’re off in their world.”

The languages were employed following a certain rhyme. English for money, Russian best for existential heavings. Yiddish to paint the world in a sardonic light and to reflect the heartbreaks the Jew is privy to. Weisshaus spoke often of his hometown in Poland, as if he had never left, rather like Graydon Miller never left his rural California hometown of Watsonville when roaming the globe. During all of Weisshaus’ wanderings to fund a state in Palestine, the hometown never left him. Diaspora fatigue, disappointment, frustration, ire. His transcendental belief that only when Jews would be free when settled on his own land.

“Chaim,” Sam corrected, one night while after a few Dewars highballs. “You are perhaps short-sighted in that. Freedom is seldom free,” he said, taking another sip of Dewars.

“When the Jewish people have their own land, do you not realize, they will be chained to it, by bonds of history and culture. No other spot could be the promised land, on that we see eye to eye, and you have my whole-hearted agreement. And who does the land belong to now? I know something about land, Chaim. And this I know; that those who sell it legal and documented, they or their heirs in them springs a regret and they want it back. This Israel will always face, and in creating a nation in the Mideast, the Jew will be surrounded by fierce enemies. And now the great and landless state of Israel, that spans the globe with its Yiddish theaters, a connection that was really the world’s first true television, will stoop to statehood. It is a risky business, Chaim.”

“Sam you are such the Devil’s advocate,” Chaim said. “You could have been as successful as a lawyer.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sam said.

In the early years of the 1920s, Sam donated a cool million to the cause of a Jewish land. This money was used to buy land for the settlers, build farmhouses, buy tractors, plows and seed. He did not take a public part in this work, but he did serve as director of the Palestine Economic Corporation, on which he served alongside the Marshalls, Warburgs and Lehmans. Before the stock crash, Sam gave $750,000 to build a hydroelectric power generator in Palestine.

They dreamed of a country that did not exist, but would exist. Sam who owed so much to the Bhagavad Gita still got his sprinkling of daily wisdom from the book. There in the description of the yogi, pleasing the Supreme, renouncing of possessions that fueled his giving until it hurt. Much more than the concept of tzehdakah was this constant replenishment, fueled now by the grief after the death of his son in the war. Old and neverending hurt. Both the austerities and the excesses.

“I saw a fortune where other people only saw trash,” Sam told Chaim Weisshaus, whose wife was born in 1881 like Sam. They shared the background of Eastern European Jews, Chaim born in Belarus, and Sam in what used to be Moldava.

“For Jews of my generation,” Weisshaus said, admired Sam for embodying a clean break from the Jewish male stereotypes. He was a Hebrew Goliath. When the President of one nation didn’t favor the banana man as his predecessor had, and his concerns were dismissed by the American government, he knew he had his one chance to save all he had smiled for, all he had scraped up, and the fortune he made by the time he was in his late teens. He was tough. The guy is called on in hard dark times to save the day. Shtarker, there was a name for this guy. Not the nebbish, he rolled up his sleeves. Like those numbers from Eric at Evans that gave a super power.

“Terrible what the British have done to us,” Weisshaus.

Sam nodded glumly. He was depressed. He didn’t have to say it, his face told it.

They met in 1939 soon after the issue of the White Paper. The British scoundrels: the White Paper banned immigration, blocking a final escape route for European Jews. It came at the moment when Mr. Hitler was setting the Nazi war machine into its most insidious high gear.

To be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)