Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cousin Jacques

More than four years ago, I blogged about my father's first-cousin, Jacques Torczyner, here and here. I greatly regret to inform you that he passed away a week ago.

All week, I've been reading the canned bio's put out by JTA and the like; they are pretty underwhelming for someone who lived the life he did. I was glad to read something more real on Friday, from JWeekly. Here's an excerpt; the full article is here:

Urbane, multilingual, well traveled, Jacques Torczyner came across as a citizen of the world. He was. Yet his life’s work focused on one place, Israel, and one cause, Zionism.

With Torczyner’s death March 7 in Saratoga, the world lost one of the last pioneers of modern Zionism. He was 98.

The Belgian native spent many evenings in his youth at the feet of Zionist visionaries. He later fled Hitler for the safety of America, where he rallied Jews to the cause of a Jewish state. He spent the rest of his life stirring others to align with Israel.

“Jacques was a monumental figure in the world Zionist movement,” said Torczyner’s friend, radio personality and author John Rothmann. “He was part of Israel’s history from 1948, he witnessed all the great movements, knew all the Zionist leaders and was committed to bringing Israel to future generations.”

Said Robert Torczyner of his father, “He had extremely good political insight and was a very persuasive person. He was very instrumental in the creation of the State of Israel, from the standpoint of gathering support needed for the Zionist movement leading up to 1948.”

Torczyner grew up in Antwerp in a strongly Zionist household. His father was president of the Belgian Zionist Federation, and their home was a mandatory stop for Jewish leaders from Palestine, among them Nachum Goldman and Chaim Weizmann.

Soon after Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940, Torczyner and his wife, Berthe, as well as members of their extended families, fled to France, then Spain and, eventually, to Cuba. Once they obtained visas, the couple settled in Manhattan, living in a cozy West Side apartment for 55 years.

Though he maintained the family’s diamond business, Torczyner focused on Israel. He became active with the Zionist Organization of America and in July 1945 attended a pivotal New York meeting called by David Ben-Gurion to organize American support for the Jewish armed forces in Palestine...

יהי זכרו ברוך.


  1. We have never met but we are cousins. Jacques was my grandfather. I really enjoyed reading the JWeekly bio as well as your earlier blog posts on him. I also totally get the remarks you made about being far from family in your earlier post – living in California, we have always been far from most of the family and have seen them only on rare trips to NY or when they made it out to the West Coast to visit. Thanks for sharing Grandpa’s story.

    Rebecca (Torczyner) Rountree

  2. Cousin Rebecca,
    Thanks for your comment! I don't have an email address for you, but I'd be glad to hear from you at the address in my profile.

  3. My daughter Rebecca pointed me this way and I was pleased to see your blog. I had previously read your other blogs about my father and appreciate your comments greatly. The article in JWeekly was written by Dan Pine with whom I spoke to assist him in writing his article. He also felt that some "fresh" information was needed and I think he did a nice job.

    I hope that some day we get the opportunity to meet.

  4. Hello Cousin Bob! Thank you very much for reading and commenting, and I also hope we will meet.

  5. I only just learned of Jacques' passing today. He was my friend for a very long time, and he helped me enormously in my work when I lived in Israel and later in New York. Before he was my friend, he was my father's friend, and they worked closely together at the ZOA, helping to make the creation of the State of Israel a reality.

    Jacques was one of my heroes. He dedicated his life to Israel's survival and success. His love of Israel was reflected in his life, in his work, and always in his thoughts.

    Jacques had a keen intellect and he was a good friend. In his last e-mail to me, he told me, "I admire how you continue to write and fight." Jacques, I learned it from you. Thank you, Jacques. You will be missed.

    My deep condolences to Berthe, Bob, and the rest of the family.