Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Meet Leon Fradkin 93 - Like I met him.

Leon Posing with his Manischewitz and empty glass.

   The story of this man starts back in 1920 - Leon Fradkin was born Belitza, Ukraine. Having lost his birth certificate he adopted the 20th of February as his legal birthday. Moving with his family to the USA while still very young till they moved back to Ukraine then escaped to England before the war, and later on he started his business in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his wife and started his own family.

He braved opening design studio with his wife, being a commercial industrial designer and with living through many years has given this man a wealth of knowledge and opinions for many topics of conversations, his wisdom and perspective is inspiring and I would like to share that with you. 

Aside from him, my own personal reason to visit him aside from being quick friends and building a relationship with him and listen to be inspired by his stories, I was told that he has never put on Tefillin thus being called a "Karkafta". The merit of helping someone who has never put on Tefillin in his life is very special. (unfortunately this visit wasn't his time to put on Tefillin - but i'm hoping to go again soon)

Leon is a man of funny thoughts, imaginative vocabulary and an expressive tongue. He's a learned man with knowledge in so many areas, he has lived through break-through technology and is amazed to learn everything he can, including a photoshop class, he uses Skype, just upgraded to Fios internet for his computer, and flat screen TV - Wireless headphones, a Cell Phone, speed dial on his home phone, and voice recognition while calling the gas company to change info about his account.

Leon and his granddaughter Rebecca Forstater.

(He's got so many one-liners that hes said during my visit, I will try to repeat most of them.)

As I arrived and got into the car, we start talking and he says "My late wife told me that I have poor memory, so since my birthday is in February, she had an idea that we have our kids in the same month so I could remember their Birthdays."

"...And thats what we did, they were all born in the month of February" (Sadly, she also passed in February)

He plays ping pong with the most interesting outfit - a hard hat, which he says "I once tripped on someones foot and i'm afraid of falling" - he also has a waistband with pockets of soft cushions, "If I fall it will soften the impact on my back" - then he adds...

"Well, I think it also gives me leverage over my opponents because I look ridiculous"

He even had a sip of alcoholic beer and said "Lechaim" with us, he also put the bottle back in the fridge and said "I'll save that for later" and disappears into the TV room with a determined look.
Leon Fradkin poses for a photo-op in his Ping pong outfit.


He has raised a wonderful family to which he has given his confidence, showed them love, prized them as precious and loved them for who they are, for their goals they have made and cultured them along to many grandchildren and to a future similar to his own in many ways.

He has written this letter to his children this past year:

"My dear children and grandchildren,

       Speaking for my lovely louise and myself ... We are giving to each of you a gift of $10,000. Why now... And if not now ... when... Well, I would like to be around to hear your thank you or read your thank you note. At 93 is it a bit difficult to remember birthdays and at 93 only the heavens know how many more Happy Birthdays I will be around to sing.
       This gift is meant to cover all the birthdays I will now longer remember and will miss I will like one favor from all of you. On March 25 Louise and I exchanged our wedding vows and for 64 years we shared a life of happy moments. and wonderful experiences. When I asked my lovely wife several years ago what she would like for her birthday. She answered “I want to be with you.” What beautiful music to a husbands ear!
        We would like that on March 25th for the next 10 years that you do something very nice for yourself and your partner and ... to a complete stranger and if the stranger asks why? tell them ... Because once upon a time we had a grandmother and a grandfather that loved us very much...

Grand pop Leon... "

(See photo below)


Sir Fradkin lives alone, and takes care of himself, feeds himself and doesn't let anyone help him besides an occasional skype call to his grandchild for help on using the Microwave.

He likes Soup, Tomato with Olive oil and Garlic,and raw onions. He also puts Hummus and Veggie chips on his plate - Always has desert. Now thats a golden rule in his house.

Also, he only eat with a fork, whether the toast or chips  (See photo below)


I asked him three questions:

1. What does "Beauty" mean to you?

"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" - "My teacher told me..." "he said that when I see the beauty in a salt shaker, your eyes will open to see the beauty in everything in this world.

2. How do you get through creative blocks?

"I always learned to see a 'face' in everything I see, in the dirt on the floor, like kids do in the clouds in the sky" "Can you see the face in this painting?" (See photo)

3. How do you handle yourself when you are in a bad mood?

"I go on a walk.. thats what I would always do, the fresh air and seeing the outside would take away anything negative and put me back in a good mood"


Leon has lived a life with his beautiful wife for many years, sometime after their 50th wedding anniversary he was asked to submit a little tidbit for "Happily married past 50" here is something he wrote the following:

“In every marriage there are times when argument and anger threaten to bring on a degree of dissatisfaction... I decided early on I had two choices: to stew with my anger or to give Louise a kiss and make up. In most cases I choose the kiss. Now i have added a 10-second  hug with the kiss. It is amazing how 10 seconds of her warm body melts away my anger.”
Leon Fradkin
Married to Louise. March 25, 1948


While trying to convince him to put on Tefillin, I was exploring all my tactics to convince him to put them on with me, I did the "I'll make you famous", also the "My mom would be proud" - None were successful.

A friend of mine gave me advice, said I should write a letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's and let him know the situation that I was  in, so I explained to Leon how the Lubavitcher Rebbe, being the leader in this generation he cared for every single person and took time to answer and personal question or request with answering him personally with love and care.

I told him how proud he would be if I would have the chance to let him know that I was with Leizer ben Chaim and that I wrote to the Rebbe that if maybe somehow he would get some instant inspiration or I would choose the right words to convince him to change his mind.

As I was saying how the Rebbe in his later years would stand for hours and give a dollar to anyone who came to see him, and thousands of people all got a chance to see him for a short moment to ask, relate, or pride the Rabbe with any good news.

"So let me give you a Dollar for Charity" - He took out his wallet and gave me a dollar, and I asked him to sign it for me. (See below) I told him "It states that no harm will come the way of a traveler who is on the way to do a Mitzva " And the importance of being a messenger to do a Mitzva for him.

I spent about an hour with him and chatted many different topics from creativity and religion, about what keeps him happy, his vision and ideas for the young who are starting out in this world.

Autographed dollar bill he gave me. It says "Safe trip" Leizer - In yiddish letters.
I will leave you with a few more images from my stay below.

Handing me the "Mitzva" money.
Reading a poster sign he collected from the IDF 6 day war. 
Dinner is served. 

Eating dinner. 
Living space. 

Photo-op. Dressed in his Ping pong outfit holding a Tanach and his blood pressure machine.
 "Hey lets do it like this" - Leon

Portrait of Leon Fradkin

A portrait he showed me from his younger years. 

What a wonderful man, a well lived person, a kind individual, soul searching, and such a jew.

Hes got yiddish in his vocabulary and old jewish folk songs humming in his head.

Meeting this man has put new perspective in my life, and I hope I was able to translate that over to you in this short little space on my blog.

He always repeated "Talk slowly, clearly, and distinctly." - Be understood, proud. Talk to be heard.

(I so much more to write about him, but I think think this is enough for now)

"Time to say Good bye" - He wanted to stand on the steps so we would be the same height.
 I printed this image, and sent it to him. Its now on his fridge.

Rebecca Forstater
My connection to meet his man - was back from my trip in January when I took a trip with artists from the USA for a free trip to Israel with the Birthright program.

Joining us was Rebecca Forstater - An artist sculpture that uses clay and ceramics as her medium, she is a crazy creative and true artist who thinks and breathes what she loves to do, she is a fearless girl with no shame being different and every conversation she has a smile.

She also loves everything pretty, kind and weird.

This post is about her Grandfather, Leon Fradkin. 


To a new day filled with new inspiration.

If you know someone that I would enjoy meeting, please send me a message.

-Levi T


  1. Great Blog Post Eli! :)

    Would Love to Meet Laizer (Leon) and have a Game of PingPong! ;)

    ~ L'ChaiM! :)