A Great Father, for sure, but also a Great Man!

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Many people think their father is a great father, and for the most part, that’s a good enough definition for me. Meaning, if you think your father is a great father, it doesn’t matter how you measure that, and whether there is a relative difference in my definition or yours. In other words, it’s a very personal determination.

On that scale, no one can argue with me when I say that my father is a great father. He is, by definition. Of course, I can give you specific points and examples of why I feel this way, but it’s totally unnecessary.

Instead, I’d like to take the time to discuss something that is a tad more objective, namely the fact that my father is also a great man. Many people may believe that their father is a great man as well, but in most cases, it will be laughable when looked at relative to others’ definition of great men. Here’s my attempt to hold my father up to that light.

My father’s life was shaped at the young age of 14. That might be true for a lot of people, but typically, their lives are shaped by something meaningful to them, but subtle to others. My father was shaped by events known to the world. He was raised in an orthodox religious family, and was destined to spend his life studying the bible and living in a very closed community. At the same time, Great Britain was tightening its grip on Israel (where my father was born and raised), Arabs were attacking Jews, and an underground movement sprang up to fight back and try to gain independence for a new State of Israel.

Given my father’s upbringing, most kids in his position would have ignored the turmoil, and continued to obey their father, and study the bible, ignoring worldly conflicts. Instead, my father felt an overwhelming need to help his fellow citizens to free themselves from foreign rule. He left his parents’ house at 14-years-old for good, and joined the underground movement called the Irgun. While spelled slightly differently from the way we spell our name today, he is listed on this page, he is the second of the two people listed with the nickname “Gad”.

Over the next few years, he lived an unimaginably difficult life, in constant danger, with no stability of any kind. This would be difficult enough for an adult, but he was still a sheltered teenager. I guess the word sheltered isn’t really accurate, as he obviously had to grow up instantly. My father can’t bend one of his thumbs, since a bullet went through the knuckle. He has a deep gash on one of his legs where the shrapnel from an explosion ripped off chunks of his leg. High School isn’t that tough for most of us…

At one point, he was the most wanted criminal by the British. While he was still number one or very high on that list, he was captured by the British and put in jail. He was sure that he would be executed. The next morning, they let him out without ever realizing who they had rounded up the night before. I guess having a baby face came in handy that time. 🙂

My father has many such stories from the 1940’s, and has actually written a number of short stories (back then) about his experiences. One of them was titled “Seventeen on a Jeep”, about an escape from an Arab stronghold with literally 17 people crammed into and on top of a single Jeep.

My father met my mother in the underground and when Israel finally won Independence in 1948, both served in the first official Army.

In 1955 they were sent to Australia to head the Zionist summer youth camps as part of the Betar movement. They spent two years there, and I was conceived and born there. Here is a picture of my father and my sister, in 1955, in Australia:

Elazar and Liora Pedhazur

We returned to Israel when I was one year old (I have no memories of Australia, but my parents and sister loved it!). 18 months later, they were assigned to head the Betar summer camp in New York and we moved to NYC when I was 2.5 years old.

At the time, my father was 31 and had two children. He didn’t even have a formal High School education, but he loved to read and study and had a deep appreciation for education. Since his official duties only occurred during the summer, he taught Hebrew the rest of the year in order to pay the rent. At the same time, he enrolled in New York University Undergraduate, and took all of his classes at night and on weekends. While working full-time and raising two children, he graduated with honors.

He immediately enrolled in night school at NYU and completed a Masters in Psychology. After graduating with honors, he immediately enrolled in the PhD program, and received his PhD in Psychology from NYU as well. Immediately upon finishing that degree, he was offered a professorship at NYU in the graduate Psychology department.

In 1976 he won The Alumni Great Teacher Award (page 19 of the PDF, or search for Pedhazur). This is an award normally given to soon-to-be-retired professors, in recognition of a lifetime of achievement. It is relatively rare for someone as young as my father (he was 48) to win the award. He won it again shortly before he retired, making him a rare two-time winner.

Along the way, he wrote a number of seminal textbooks in his field of Research and Design. Here is an Amazon page of three of them. Students of his still contact him to this day. He touched many of them deeply, in many ways.

A quick side-story. When he was teaching Hebrew, all of the teachers were called in to take an exam one day. Ten minutes after the exam booklets were handed out, my father turned his in and left. All of the other teachers stared at him in disbelief, as there was no way he could have completed the exam that quickly. They toiled for another hour or more, and then found out what my father found out earlier. The last page of the exam booklet said “It’s not necessary to complete the exam, feel free to turn in your booklet at any time!”. My father was the only teacher who bothered to look through the entire exam instructions and booklet before beginning to work on the “problems”.

He was (and is) an extremely moral and ethical person. Given his reputation in his field, he was sought out frequently to lead research studies. The people attempting to hire him knew that if a study was published with his name on it, it would be instantly trusted. 99% of the time he rejected these offers, even when they were lucrative, because the premise behind the study was often flawed. He would explain that, and when they would respond “It doesn’t matter, we’ll pay you anyway”, he would run for the hills. Given how modestly we lived, I often had trouble understanding “running away from money”, but I understand it completely now!

I could go on and on telling stories about my father, and continuing to praise his amazing achievements. None of that would change the points made above. He is a man who has sacrificed of himself in nearly every interaction he has ever had with others. First, for his country (which wasn’t even officially a “Country” at the time). Then for his fellow Zionists. Then for his family. Then for his students. Now for the people who live in his apartment building (no, I’m not kidding). He is a giver. All he asks for in return is respect and civility.

A warrior by necessity, a scholar by choice.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!