Short takes on Thursday developments

Events are moving faster than my ability to write them up, especially since I have another job. Here are capsules of items from yesterday, July 31. I expect to expand on these over the weekend.

• Most important was our conference call with Shmuel Elhanan, in which we learned many new details of his story between the liquidation of the Kovno ghetto and the reunification of his family in Palestine. One highlight is the account of how Shulamit's letter was delivered to the brothers, leading to their action to change their names in honor of their father.

I have a recording of the 33-minute call, and I am going to want to take the time to transcribe some of it. Unfortunately, I probably won't be able to post actual audio of the call. I used a new iPhone app to do the recording, assuming I would be able to transfer the sound file to my computer. Now I discover the app is fairly brain dead and is only meant to capture recordings on the phone, not transfer them to the Mac.

While we gained important new information, there is only so much that can be accomplished in a phone call. Shmuel suffered a minor stroke recently, and it is clearly difficult for him to handle all my queries on the phone. Walter and I agreed that we need to visit Shmuel in Israel as soon as we can. We are both looking into the possibility of making a trip in December. Maybe Joanne will come too.

• Last night, I attended the first of several San Francisco Jewish Film Festival screenings, a wonderful film called "Emotional Arithmetic" about the impact of Holocaust memories on a family in Quebec in 1985. It has an all-star cast including Max von Sydow, Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne and Christopher Plummer. For me, it resonated on the subject of the psychological after-effects on survivors' family relationships. Let's say that I recognized things about our family in seeing this portrayal, including the performance of Ray Dupuis as Sarandon's quietly suffering son. This is a remarkable movie that will be available soon on DVD.

I'll be seeing "Love Comes Lately," an adaptation of several Isaac B. Singer stories and "Every Day the Impossible," a documentary about Jewish women Partisans in WWII, on Saturday and Sunday, and maybe some others later next week. Last night, was the closing night of the first week of the festival, and the last of the San Francisco screenings at the Castro Theater. Saturday is opening night at the Roda Theater in Berkeley. For closing night, "Emotional Arithemetic" director Paolo Barzma discussed the film with festival director Peter Stein and took questions from the audience.

• There was ridiculous traffic on the Bay Bridge getting home, but I did a bit of research work when I finally did get back. I followed one of Morris Spector's recent leads and found myself with a searchable database for Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens. This is where both of Stan's parents, Walter and Selma, are buried, and where we have visited several times in the past. It occurred to me to look for Joseph Rabinowitz there, which I did and had a brief moment of elation when I found a JR who died August 31, 1920 and was laid to rest by the Isaac Elchonon Independent Society. It has to be the right one, no? Well, I cross-checked the date with the ItalianGen NYC death record database, and I find that the JR who died that day was just 47 years old. There is a different one that died at 65 in November 1920 that we were hoping for. It looks like another near miss.