Go to Vivian Klaff's Memorial Page

Go to Doreen and Eitan's home page

Frankie's tribute at the unveiling
Doreen Levy
Alex Klaff
Oren Klaff
Colin Kessel
Session 7.6  at the Thirty-eighth Anuual Conference of the Association for Jewish Studies in San Diego, California, December 18 2006,  was a session in memory of Vivian Klaff.

Frankie's words at the unveiling:

When you live with someone for a very long time, your brain waves and breathing patterns during sleep apparently synchronize. If you are married for a VERY long time, an even more terrible thing appears to happen. One doesn’t know where one person begins and the other ends. This quirk of nature drove me crazy.
Viv would begin to tell a story about something that happened to him. The problem is I knew it had really happened to ME. I tried to convince him of this in those bickering events that you O, T and C always hated. In fact I was POSITIVE it had happened to me. But now even I begin to wonder.

Apropos of family arguments, I am reminded of an incident that happened in the car during a long journey, when both boys were absent. Caryn was sitting quietly in the back of the car. Suddenly Viv turned around and shouted. “Caryn! I can’t stand it. FIGHT WITH YOURSELF.”
I alas am now doing just that.

Viv may not be here in body but his voice has infiltrated my mind. I hear him asking if I locked the doors, switched off the lights. Annoyed, I sigh.. “yes” and then go to check and invariably there is something I have missed.

Now forgive me as I am going to have a little chat with because I know he can’t argue the points.
Ok Viv, I scratched the side of the car while backing out of Tamir and Alex’s driveway. But don’t worry. Tamir watched me do it and he made sure to handle me just as you would have and I am duly contrite. Also, I strayed rather far off course returning home on the very usual straight route from DC but Caryn guided me home via cell phone. I scrambled the computer commands in ways that used to amaze you and activated the cell phone lock for which you never left me the password. Don’t fret, Oren at midnight directed me to solutions.
But I have religiously taken up the garbage and brought down the bins, collected the mail, watered the plants and mopped up the mess you warned me not to make, planted your dream English garden.. well sort of, played those damn pigorian chants, and fixed the toilet. Scott and his dad have fixed everything that squeaks or has a wire attached. Errol has done the plumbing, Mary has balanced the check book and told me to stop working so much and Joyce has emptied the dishwasher, found my lost diary, handbag, keys, papers, cup of tea, glasses, credit card and anything that is not attached to my personage. Viv when did you ever get time to work?  It has taken a whole team to fill in for you. In fact it has taken a village. But nobody does your morning ritual of opening your eyes, half raising your head and staring at me in mock terror,then with a shudder of horror at the sight of me, fall back on the pillow, shutting your eyes for relief.

We have always used humor to handle life’s more maudlin moments. One of our favorites was in fact a joke about dying. “Abe, when one of us dies, I’m moving to Florida.” Liife is always about change and moving on. I will now tell Cale and Tali a story their daddy wrote when he was about 6 when our family had to move from to Illinois to Delaware and Tamir’s Mommy who is also your Safta, was sad about this. Tamir wrote
Lady Pie
Lady Pie lived in a pie. She loved it so much that she never wanted to move out of it. Her husband said, “Let’s move away” and she said, “You can go but I’m staying here with the kids.”
So Viv. Lady Pie is ok, and so are her kids and the little ones.
I know we all have to move on because that’s how life is, but meantime. Florida will have to wait.

We had a really good life together, We were kids when we got married and we grew together. We loved, we fought, we made up. We planned, we had fun, we were damn good parents and we had an amazing life together with shared values, dreams and goals almost all of which were realized. We were one as a couple but we were also two as separate individuals and Viv knew much contentment in his private world. He was convinced there was life in galaxies beyond so I am sure he is on his very own celestial trek, True North his guide.

Go in peace,Viv, Shalom and in the words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy .”So long and thanks for all the fish. ”

Doreen's words at the unveiling:
To the Klaff family: Frankie, Oren, Tamir, Caryn, Alex, Tali and Kale as you gather around Viv's grave, preparing to unveil his tombstone.

I have a horror of people speaking to the dead, as if they are hovering just above the grave and listening to every word. I doubt if Viv wanted to believe that either. So I address these words to all of you:
Life pays cruel tricks and we were all sure that Viv, long-living Sholem's son, would bury us all. How cruel is fate and that today you are gathered to unveil the tombstone on Viv's grave. Our thoughts and love aim to support you during this ceremony which somehow makes Viv's death final.
Saying a last farewell to Viv is very painful. We have known Viv forever – Anthony since they were young cousins thrown together through their parents – and me, since my Habonim days; we were madrichim together even before Viv and Frankie started to go out together. Our 4-way relationship blossomed on many continents: during the Six Day War, in South Africa, Israe,  and the States.
We all married so young, secure in the knowledge that we had chosen our life's mate and that Israel was the land to which we belonged. Even after your family left Israel, it and Judaism were still central to Viv's life.
Viv wasn't a saint but he was steady and a core of strength to those surrounding him.. He had his weaknesses – like the ability of Israeli taxi drivers to drive him out of his mind and his preoccupied air of needing to be somewhere more important. Even these things changed as Viv and Frankie learnt to hire a car when coming to Israel. After Viv's first bout with cancer and the birth of Tali and later Kale he found peace in the presence of his grandchildren. Despite the pressures of his life he was a devoted and involved father at a time when it was not common. He anchored Frankie's flights of creativity and always encouraged her to develop more.
Although not so verbal his very being was a tower of strength to all of you. As you regroup today we know that Frankie has become a source of strength to you all and that she draws her strength in turn from your support and love. You are the Klaff family.
Our lives have been so intertwined that saying a last farewell to Viv is in a way saying goodbye to part of ourselves. We love Viv and miss him dearly.

Alex Klaff

This letter, written by Alex(andra), Viv's daughter-in-law, was read out at Viv's 60th birthday event in July 2002. Alex read the letter at Viv's memorial service at the Hillel Student Center.
Dear Viv and Frankie,
I have never told you how thankful and lucky I feel to be a part of this family and I wanted you to finally know. I am extremely grateful to you both for your acceptance of me. You have embraced me with such ease, even if I didn’t bring the Jewish culture and heritage the Klaff family would have wanted. It seemed like my marriage to Tamir became just another statistic in one of your Jewish identity studies. I worried about not being the right person you wanted for Tamir. However, every worry that I had was quickly set aside when I was accepted with more love and warmth than I could have ever imagined! But my thanks doesn’t end there because I also have to thank you for having Tamir and for molding him with the most special qualities a human being could have. These are the qualities that bring enormous happiness to my life.

I cannot end without also adding how thankful I am for wanting to know every “uh” and “ah” that Tali makes. From the beginning, when she entered our world you have been so interested in who she is, what she does, says, feels, makes, and eats. It’s special to know that you care enough to want to know about the details.

So, it is my thanks to you for EVERY little thing you have always done for me (even from the beginning), for Tali and for “shaping” Tamir. However, more important, is your acceptance of me for who I am. Of course, you must also realize that I would not have married Tamir had you not passed on such fine qualities to him!

It is my wish as a parent to be as accepting, loving, giving, and understanding as you are with your kids.
Forever thankful,

Oren Klaff, at Hillel Student Center, University of Delaware, January 16th, 2006.

"Wow. This is a large crowd.  It is an honor.
This will be a short ceremony.  Dad would have wanted it that way.
In fact, he probably would not have come.

In the fell clutch of circumstance, Dad did not wince once or complain out loud.
Under the unfair twist of chance, his voice was quieted, but his head unbowed.

In the last email I received from him, almost six months ago, he wrote, “things now are ok, but tough times ahead.”
Beyond that day he was not able to fully understand his dire situation, but indeed he was right. Tough times ahead.

I paraphrase loosely the poet William Earnest Henley,

Beyond this illness and your tears
Looms but a place of constant shade,
And yet the menace of these times,
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how close the gate,
How long the list of ailments on the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

And through the entire journey of his life, he was a stern and honest captain of his soul.

Over the last six months, Dad continued to be a reflection of himself, no matter what faculties were taken away.
He remained kind, gentle and thoughtful and wry.
His character was not tested in this adversity .
It was revealed.

Although Dad and I began life as polar opposites in our value systems and ethics, I believe our philosophies and values drew much closer to each other over the years.
I have prepared a few words of my own writing that I will read to you now, in full belief that these ideas both reflect his ethic, and are an intersection of his sensibility and mine.

My daily affairs are quite ordinary.
I carry water, chop wood.
My daily affairs may seem unglamorous.
I do them because I believe they will help others find their way.

Many things come to me.
I do not hold on to them.
Many things come to me.
I don’t reject them.

Who cares about wealth and the admiration of others?

Even the most humble work can shine.
When daily
We are drawing water, chopping wood.

I am honored this evening to be among Dad’s friends and colleagues.  My mom will now speak a few words, which will be extemporaneous and lighter and you will now have a chance for some laughter and to relax.”

Colin Kessel:

My friend Vivian Klaff - Viv,Ever since we went to say our farewells in September 2005 I have thinking a lot about Viv, the unique and sometimes "nutty" friend who was always there for you, no matter how long we had not seen one another.We had the sort of "male-bonded" friendship which comes from extensive and early years of imprinting.He was from Durban, me from Johannesburg, he a few years younger (which in those days was often a vast chasm).But Habonim was a world where truly amazing friendships were forged and have lasted.. like forever. With Viv it was literally till the day he died.

My memories of him in SA have to do more with camps, seminars and great intense debates on the true meaning of Chaluziut – "Kibbutz" Oriented Aliya versus those with more of an "Urban Leading". What seems total bullshit today was conducted with heat and intensity difficult to imagine or explain. We both came on Aliya about the same time and both spent time at the "Machon Lemechkar Hevrati Shimushi", run by the famous Professor Louise Guttman, American genius and statistician of great fame and stature.Viv was a real sociologist, demographer and serious bean counter (later on became a "foreskin counter' as he sought ways to seek out Jews from the background masses.. Point is he was one of the few really serious students at the Machon where he learnt and adapted Guttmann's later contributions such as his mastery of the Guttman Latent Structure Analysis.I remember an hilarious session in Illinois (more later) during which he tried to help this lesser mortal understand some of the more esoteric aspects of the Guttman approach... And with this enthusiasm and talent he soon became a central figure at the Machon, staffed with very high level intellectuals , Judy Shuval, Profs Aharon & Helen Antonowski, Subhi Abu Gohsh and the all talented Uzi & Ziona Peled who led the Machon and the country into the TVage with Professor Eliyahu Katz.

I am getting ahead of myself as our overlap in Jersalem where we both did our MAs was all too brief due to the 6-Day war which had me all drafted to the Army while Viv chose the obviously best course for himself , a PHD at the University of Madison Wisconsin.Where he obviously found his niche.The field he found fascinating which he loved explaining at great length and passion to anyone willing to listen, especially the part about the methodological complexity of doing a survey to count Jews in a Country where there is no Census that lists them as a separate entity.

We saw Viv & Frankie a few times but really picked up big time when we went to do our PH.Ds at the U of Illinois where we landed in mid winter (-20C) to find the Klaff's well settled and waiting for us.Viv took us on as a "project" and in his amazing way had us settled in our tiny student housing, with all the furniture and household appliances we needed in no time.We saw a lot of them those few years, got to know the boys and Caryn (just born) and our friendship only deepened, despite some "intense" discussions about "Aliya", returning to Israel and the like!! One thing was certain Viv knew what he was after academically and stuck to his guns, no compromises, till the Delaware offer came up.

We saw them often in their amazing house in the woods in Delaware, but from that period what comes to mind most was Viv the "Super Madrich" leading his Israel study tours for his Delaware students.All his great qualities came out in this effort, his total passion for Israel (he made sure they got the word from the best madrichim and lecturers he could find, most his own contacts from Habonim SA) , his great organizational skills (he had no patience for disorganized travel agents!!), his weird sense of humor (he had hilarious stories about his students and his methods of keeping them disciplined and in line) and underlying it all was his total seriousness for accomplishing the task at hand. When the intifada brought these annual pilgrimages to an end we really missed these little intense "pop-ins" .

His last visit to Israel was symbolic as he brought Oren on a roots trip, his chaotic pop-in took place the same time Errol & Jule Hackner were visiting…it was a typical Viv whirlwind, total chaos but driven by his desire to get through everything on the schedule (even though they were 2 hours late!!).
We saw him one last time in September, when he was clearly not himself, but we still could talk about his work and his studies. He was still well enough then to provide the most pedantic and exact driving instructions all the way to Kennedy.
Viv was in many ways unique, a "one-off", a "tipus" (character) someone I grew to love and whose company I am sorely going to miss. To Frankie, Oren, Tamir & Alex and Caryn my heart goes out to you all. Be strong and please just remember Viv as he was in the good days, strong minded, driven, and passionately serious about his work and the owner of one weird sense of humor!! First and foremost in all my discussions with him you guys were almost top on the agenda, he was very proud of you and while (maybe) not always "in full comprehension", he always gave his fullest backing to whatever each of you chose to do.

To Fankie all I have is complete respect and awe at the amazing way you have handled these last six months. Kol Hakavod and my only wish is that you will be able to remember him the way is was then when times were good.

I am really going to miss him.
May he rest in peace,


January 24, 2006


Go to Vivian Klaff's Memorial Page
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