The evening began as the sunset performed like fine public art, sliding slowly behind a deepening blue and glowing orange Mediterranean Sea. Next door, the minaret of a long-abandoned mosque cast its shadow upon the ancient port below. Distant lights came alive in the soaring high rises of Tel Aviv.
Alfred Raider strolled up to the bimah when he was called for the third aliyah during a recent Shabbat morning service at Shaarey Zedek Congregation, an Orthodox congregation in Valley Village. After services, family, friends and fellow congregants gathered to join Raider for the Kiddush, which he hosted in celebration of his birthday and the 89th anniversary of his bar mitzvah.
Elmore Kittower was 80 when he died in November 2007 at Silverado Senior Living, an assisted-living facility in Calabasas. His death was initially attributed to natural causes; at the time, a sheriff’s deputy told Kittower’s wife of 49 years, Rita, that her husband had “just stopped breathing.”
Birthdays with a zero have a special purchase on the imagination. Whether one turns 40 or 70, that zero marks a turning point, the end of an old decade and the beginning of a new one, a chance to take stock: what in Hebrew is called cheshbon ha-nefesh — literally, an accounting of your soul. And if that birthday takes place in Israel, where you once lived for years — and where you might have stayed, had you chosen to — you have a formula for cascading, competing visions of what was and what might have been.