Funeral services were held on Wednesday November 20, 2013 at 11:00am, at the Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery (1230 N. 167th Street, one block east of Aurora).
Son Jordan’s Eulogy
Andiamo Figlio Mio!
You’re so sweet…
A few of the many phrases you might recall my dad using.
My dad was a man of many languages. Having been born and brought up in Egypt, going to French schools and watching and listening to American movies and music, having lived in Italy, France, Texas, New York, Palm Springs, CA, and of course Seattle - he picked up a few languages and dialects along the way. I believe “perdy” is how they say “pretty” in Texas.
He was a cultured man. He was a man that was happy, outgoing, cool, hip…
He loved food of all types and he took his Pasta very seriously. He used to make us a baguette sandwich with a slice of cheese and a cup of coffee with milk and a lot of sugar. His favorite drink was as he called it American Champaign or coke as some call it.
He loved old westerns movies, music of all kinds... One movie that we still watch to this day and if you haven’t seen it…you should… It’s called “The Great Race” with Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood. It is definitely one of the funniest movies ever made. In fact, the third generation of Assouline boys and girls are now watching that film – laughing and quoting it regularly as my brother and I did growing up.
These were just some memories I have of my dad. He enjoyed life. He enjoyed laughing. He enjoyed his two boys. He called Morrie “jeek” short for Ijiku and he called me, well many names, but we don’t need to mention any of them.
One of my most vivid memories of him sitting on the floor in our family room with me just smiling. No doubt, I was playing with my cars and he looking at me with a smile…probably thinking the same thing I now think when I sit on the floor beside my boys as their playing – how can I get in close enough for kiss and yet out of the way fast enough without getting hit or scratched – I assume he was thinking the same thing, but I can’t be sure.
My father was the kind of guy that had friends from all walks of life. When he came to Israel for our wedding – I would walk down to the lobby with him and complete strangers would say hi to him. He must have met them in the elevators or something, but he had that affect on people because he was such a people person. Yet another testament to this, as others I am sure can and will recall - is when I visited him in Palm Springs. he would have friends in every café, store, post office, golf course from those playing golf to the caddies and he didn’t even play golf.
He did however play a mean game of Squash and Racquet ball at the Seattle Club. He was a great swimmer. And as Omar Sharif could attest to – he was a master pool player.
Oh and regarding his impressions that he left on people – go and talk to the wonderful Kline Galland Home staff who cared for him over the past few years. Ask any of them about Jacques or as many of them called him Jack…. They almost always mentioned that he was so easy going and they would use the work kind to describe him.
Kind and gentle.
My dad was a good dad; a great dad. My dad was a good, decent, kind, respectful and gentle man. He was never angry at anyone, never held a grudge, never wished ill on anyone. My dad had tons of acquaintances and friends, but he had a few very close and important friends who stuck by his side no matter what and for many, many years. Those friends were like family to us. Those friends, some of whom are here today are still like family to us. They have remained in contact with me, my family and my dad throughout the good times and difficult ones. Those are true friends. Some are sitting in here today and you know who you are. Some are unable to be here today because they live in different parts of the country at the moment. However as the emails, calls and texts have been steadily streaming in from everywhere – Palm Springs, CA, Florida, France, Australia, Israel, New York/New Jersey, etc. – I know they are with us and he is with them in their thoughts and prayers.
There is never enough time to speak about all the attributes, all the times, all the funny things that happen in a special person’s life at a time like this, but that’s fine. I want to remember my dad everyday in a different way. I want all of you who knew him to remember him every day in a different way because he was a great man. For those of you who didn’t have the opportunity to meet him – hopefully you can see just a little bit of his greatness shine forth in his children and in his grandchildren.
Going forward my dad’s two namesakes Jakey, my bekhor and Jacob, my brother Morrie’s bekhor as well as all of his grandchildren Abe, Eli, Joey and Raquel will have to learn the great qualities of their Jido-grandfather from us. As such it will be upon us to strive to be great people, great sons, great fathers, great friends to many people like our dad, Jacques was to all of us.
Thank you all for coming this morning.
Son Morrie’s Eulogy
I'd like to start by thanking everyone for coming. My father, Ya'aqobh Zaki Mourad Assouline, was a unique individual with a unique past. He was the son of Hollywood royalty in Cairo and lived a life that is usually found in a great novel. In fact, I had an idea years ago to write his story. I called it the "Prince of Egypt.". He came from a Musta'arab family (indigenous middle eastern jews who were never in Spain) that traced it's roots from Israel, then followed the Phoenicians through North Africa to Morocco and finally to Egypt. He was named after his grandfather Zaki Ibn Mourad Assouline, an extraordinary Hazzan who then became a mainstream singing star. His aunt, Laila, rose up to become one of the most famous stars in music and film. His father, Mounir, was a great comedy actor and composer. I don't know where that came from as nobody in my family is funny. Or into Hazzanouth.
My father grew up in a golden age in Egypt's history. They had prestige, money, influence and respect. Much like us today in this country. He spent his youth as an adventurer traversing the Sinai desert. His adventures sometimes led to near disasters like the time he was almost buried alive by a sandstorm only to be dug out and nursed back to health by a bedouin. Or, as he told me his favorite place was El Alamein, the very place where Rommel was defeated. Years later he would read that a German tourist stepped on a live mine and was killed. My father swore that there wasn't one part of that place he didn't walk. He lived on a beautiful island in the Nile known as Zamalek, played billiards with Omar Sharrif and was friends with the children of diplomats. Then, it all ended. The modern State of Israel threw the Jews in Arab countries into a state of flux. They were loyal citizens of the countries our people lived in since the stories found in the Tora, yet they were Jews and were considered enemies of the state. Each subsequent war created more strife and after several mass exodii from Egypt, the final exodus was around the corner.
In the spring of 1967, with the commencement of the Six Day War, the remaining Jews and foreigners were thrown out. My father, and many other Jewish men were arrested. He sat in a jail for several days, but he never lost sight of what was important to him. His father, the famous actor, was able to influence the powers that be to give him preferential treatment, but he refused it. He wasn't going to be treated differently than his Egyptian Jewish brethren. Finally, he was thrown out. At the docks, an Egyptian soldier was looking to get the last precious item my father owned, a gold necklace that had engraved in beautiful cursive, Allah, God. My father, without hesitation, backhanded the soldier and ran up the gangplank. At the top he turned to see the results of his actions only to find the soldier pointing his rifle ready to shoot and a second soldier wrestling the gun away. The ship was Italian. Had the soldier fired, he would have done so on sovereign Italian territory.
Then, my father spent a few months in France and finally made his way to America. The country he had always dreamed of living in. He came with nothing more than a few hundred dollars and his mother. They lived in Brooklyn and worked hard. The prince was now a pauper. But that didn't stop him from living. My father, as many of you may know and some may not, had a real zest for life. He would never attain fame or fortune like his family members, but the talent was there. My father was funny. He was carefree and the life of any party or gathering. He was as he presented himself. He was an uncomplicated person in what has become an increasingly complicated world. There's a Pasuq I'd like to reference here, but as an Abhel I'm not supposed to engage in Tora. So, I'll use a maxim atteibuted to Leonardo da Vinci - "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." My father was fearless and genuine. I remember he once saw a group of kids bothering a homeless man. Without hesitating my father stopped the car and stood up on the side. He yelled at them to stop and they ran away. Later he told me why he stepped on the side of the car. My father was not a big guy. But the car gave him another several inches that mixed with his super confident attitude scared the punks away. But, that was the courage he possessed only when needed. Otherwise, he was the kindest, most polite and soft spoken man. I never met someone who didn't instantly like him.
Today is bittersweet. My family and I are saddened by our loss, but we've been put at ease that he's no longer suffering. There's a principle in quantum physics that I have come to embrace. It says that energy never ceases, it just transforms into another source. Our bodies are physical and they do have an end, but our Neshamoth, our souls, never cease. I'd like to think that transformation is what 'Olam HaBa' is. Not a physical realm, but one where pure energy transcends the physical universe and can possibly be prepared to comprehend the secrets of the universe. With the sadness and grief that comes with the end of this life, there's a happiness and excitement that his Neshama is moving on to the next great adventure.
I love you dad. Bahabak ya Babba. I want to thank you all for being here and for your support in our time of need. Barukh Dayan HaEmeth.