Thank you all for coming today to share in our simchah. Having children means different things to different people. To Chaya and me, having children is an act of profound hope. In the case of these two boys, we also feel that their names represent an act of Tikkun: an act of rebuilding and an act of repair.
Yosef Yehoshua, or Yossi as we will call him, is named after Chaya's paternal grandfather and my maternal grandfather respectively.
The second of five children, Joseph Gordon was born in 1913 not far from here in the Bronx. Education was to be a life long career for Grandpa Joe both in the U.S. military and later in Baltimore. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Grandpa Joe enlisted in the Navy. During the war, he played a part in the assault on Normandy and after helped coordinate the movement of people, armaments and cargo into the nearby port of Cherbourg.
After the war, he eventually ended up in Baltimore, Maryland where for most of his career he served as the Director of Health Information for the City of Baltimore Health Department where he coordinated public health education efforts.
Grandpa Joe was a man of many passions. He had a passion for nature and the ocean. He was an avid photographer, naturalist and writer. My father-in-law fondly recalls hiking and fishing with his father. Chaya remembers Grandpa Joe's voice from the audio tapes he recorded of himself reading children's stories.
In 1959 the family's life changed. Grandma Kate unexpectedly experienced a debilitating stroke. Rather than accept the situation as it was, Grandpa Joe spent hours each day helping Kate with her physical therapy and took on the responsibilities of running the household.
In the face of Nazi evil, in the face of personal struggles, in the face of public health crises, Joseph Gordon did not resign himself to silently accepting the circumstances of his life and the world as beyond his control or dictated by immutable fate. He understood that what matters in life is how a person responds to what happens to him or her in life.
The name Yehoshuah comes from my mother's father, Imre Goldschmied. He was born in 1904 in Kapuvar, Hungary. He moved to Budapest and married my grandmother, Boris, in 1933. He worked as an electrician and took his nephew skiing down the hills of Buda in the days before electric chair lifts. Like many other Jewish men during those dark years, he was rounded up and forced to work in labor battalions for the Hungarians in their fight against the Russians. According to the records available, Imre Goldschmied died in January 1943 in the Ukraine, when my mother was just 4 years old.
Those that remember Imre talk about him as generous and thoughtful. A man with a heart of gold, who desperately wanted to survive for the sake of his wife and child. The postcards we have from him during that time tell of a man who loved and yearned to be back with his family. Despite the deprivation he experienced, no one could take away his love for his family.
The memories of these noble Jewish men live on in Yosef Yehoshua. My blessing to him is that he grow to embody the values --- the love of Judaism, family and the world --- demonstrated by his two great grandfathers.
Tuviah Yitzchak, or Toby, is named after my mother's first cousin Tibor Weisz and Chaya's great-uncle Edwin Glantz.
Tibor, was born in 1937 in Kapuvar, Hungary. The son of my mother's aunt, Len'ka, and Laszlo Weisz. The annihilation of Hungarian Jewry took place in 1944 with alarming speed. Len'ka and Tibor were taken to Auschwitz and never returned. He was 7 years old. Like so many children who died in the Shoah, little is known about him, not even his Hebrew name. We've chosen the names Toby and Tuviah in his memory.
Toby's middle name Yitzchak comes from his great-great-uncle, Grandma's brother, Edwin Glantz. Itzie, as he was known, was born in 1922 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is remembered as a very smart, good-looking and lovable person. He was loved by everyone, especially his father since he was his first son after having had three daughters.
He fought in the U.S. Army during World War II, and lost his life on January 21, 1944 in Italy during the disastrous battle at the Rapido River, considered one of the U.S.'s greatest military blunders during the war. He is buried in Italy at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.
We are pleased to honor and perpetuate the memories of Tibor and Itzie through our son Toby Isaac.
A story is told about Yitzchak Perelman, that as he was about to begin one of his performances one the strings on his violin broke. Instead of getting a new instrument he played the entire concerto on just three strings. After he was done, the audience gave him a standing ovation. He told them simply, "Our task is to make music with what remains."
The lives of the people that these two boys are named after were greatly affected by the events of their day, but that does not mean that they were defined by them. As Victor Frankl points out, everyone has the power, no matter what the circumstances, to choose to give their lives meaning in the face of even the most desperate situation.
That's what we mean by children as an act of hope and restoration, Tikkun. Our response to a troubling and fractured world is to build anew and restore what was lost.
In this week's parsha, the Bnei Yisrael find themselves in extremely dire circumstances and, according to Chazel, following the decree to throw all Jewish boys into the Yaor they become despondent. Amram, Moshe's father and one of the leaders of the Bnei Yisrael, separated from his wife. He didn't see the point in perpetuating a doomed people. According to Chazal, it was Miriam, his daughter, who convinced him that his action was worse than Pharoah's because he was damning both male and female children and that he was destined to be the one from whom a savior of Israel would come forth. It is this basic act of hope in redemption, and an unwillingness to accept fate, that Chaya and I seek to continue with our family.
And just like those remarkable women, upon whose merit the Bnei Yisrael were redeemed from Egyptian slavery, Chaya is the foundation of our family. Chaya continues to amaze me with everything she does. Her love, her tenacity, her strength know no bounds. She is the light of my life, my love and life partner. Chaya thank you for being my partner and soul mate, together, with God's help, we will strive to build a family. A family imbued with the value we hold most dear, those of Torah and acts of Tzedakah and Chesed. May this be God's will.