Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frank Stein z"l

I received a call today from a friend and colleague to tell me that Frank Stein passed away earlier. I'd been adding him to the list of Cholim (seriously ill people) for whom we pray in synagogue each week ever since I'd received an email from a different colleague notifying me of his cancer, but had been expecting him to pull through - an expert with whom I'm close had told me that it was one of the more curable strains.

In the days before Nefesh B'Nefesh, there were Olim associations. In 1991 Frank was taken on board by the British Olim Society (BOS) to act as a counsellor to Olim and prospective Olim. My first encounter with him was 5 years later when he came to my Ulpan on a regular basis to help Olim adjust to life and have an easy outlet for their questions. 3 years later I encountered him again - I was working for the Jpost at the time which was cosponsoring a series of English language election events together with the Olim associations at about a dozen locations around the country. Every night found me in a different city - Frank would be there too.

Frank really came into my life in a big way shortly after the elections when I answered an ad from UJIA Israel which incorporated the BOS in the 1990s. They were looking for 2 people to work with Olim - to show them the ropes. I was one of 15 people who were interviewed. Were I interviewing myself then for the same position now, I'd have said that I was too young and too green for the job. I got the job - Frank was the one who called to tell me. He and the boss, Shifra decided to give me a chance. I haven't looked back.

Frank mentored me through the early years, teaching me what I needed to know, patiently reviewing the material, sitting in on my first interviews, giving me my first independent assignments, letting me loose on the webpage, trusting me to do things right. He was very hands off but he was always close by when I had a question on some archaic detail of the rules of Bituach Leumi or Australian pensions law.

Every week, Frank would work late into Thursday night, catching up on the emails that had piled up over the previous seven days, making sure that people had appropriate, accurate and complete answers to their questions. Over the years he helped thousands of people to make the right choice, to come with appropriate expectations and information - he was a one man "Aliyahpedia".

I remember how terrified I was when Frank announced that he was not going to be dealing with Olim anymore, and how comforted I felt to know that he was close by still.

Frank was a very private person; his apartment in Talpiot shared with his beloved cats. He never met the right person with whom to settle down. I was lucky enough to be welcomed into his inner circle and to enjoy the fruits of his labours in the kitchen - complete with exquisite presentation.

Since he moved to other accommodation we saw less and less of each other and the last time I saw him was before I headed out for Shlichut. We exchanged emails earlier in the year when he did a short shlichut in South Africa before he was diagnosed at which time he seemed pretty upbeat.

Frank has touched the lives of thousands both directly and indirectly. Although I didn't need his assistance in my Aliyah, he was instrumental in my long term absorption by choosing me for a position which led in a pretty straight line to my current position - jobs which have enabled me to help thousands of people too, to weather the storms of the intifada and the recession and to have tremendous job satisfaction.

Sometimes you cross paths with a wonderful person; when our paths intersected Frank took my hand and guided me, sending me off on my own when I was capable - it's proven to be a successful route - like many people, I owe him a great deal. He'll be very missed.


arnie draiman said...

yehi zichro baruch - may his memory be for a blessing. frank helped me too when i made aliyah in 1984 - we were colleagues for various organizations, and well, he was always the smiling mentsch.

will miss him.

arnie draiman

Andrew Balcombe said...

I'm run the British Zionist Federation but now live in Israel.

I did not know of Frank's death till I saw it in the newspaper. He was simply the best at steering you through the pitfalls of Aliyah. Many many people are grateful for his deep care and attention which so improved one's life here
He was a mensch who will truly be missed by the ZF
Yehi Zichro Baruch
Andrew Balcombe