From Stalingrad to Portland, doctor's impact felt
By Paul Haist
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Dr. Moisey Wolf, a renowned psychiatrist, Yiddish scholar and writer, died in Portland on Feb. 14 at age 84.
Services were held Feb. 16 at Holman's Chapel. Interment was at Skyline Memorial Gardens the same day.
Born April 10, 1922, in Cheremoshno, Poland, Dr. Wolf, who was raised to become a rabbi, fled to Warsaw at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Eventually, he had to flee to the east, a journey that took him to Stalingrad where he began medical school.
After three years of study, he was assigned to a military hospital on the front lines of the war.
He survived the Siege of Stalingrad and, when the war turned in the Soviet Union's favor, he was called back to his studies at the Moscow Institute, which at that time had been evacuated to Stalingrad.
During the war, Dr. Wolf lost all his siblings, parents and grandparents to the Holocaust.
He met and married Susanna Kozlovskaya, a pediatrician, in Moscow in 1944.
The couple had two children, a son, Solomon, and a daughter, Nadezhda Kozlovskaya who passed away in 2004.
In the Soviet Union, Dr. Wolf became a renowned psychiatrist who for 50 years was the chief of the psychiatric clinic at Moscow Hospital.
He authored more than 120 papers, practical guides for physicians and scientific monographs. He was especially renowned for his expertise in epilepsy.
In addition to his professional writing, Dr. Wolf also was a highly regarded Yiddish scholar and writer who produced many articles for the Soviet Union's official Yiddish publication, the only Yiddish publication allowed in the Communist state.
Later, after he came to America with his family, he would create a dictionary of Yiddish that enables readers of standard Yiddish to translate the Sovietized Yiddish that was the state-required norm in the Soviet Union, and which previously had made Yiddish of that time and place essentially unreadable outside the Soviet Union.
The "Spelling Dictionary of Hebrew (and Aramaic) Words in the Yiddish Language" was presented to the Florida-based Operation to Reunify Yiddish in 1995.
As a Yiddish writer, Dr. Wolf wrote many essays, as well as reviews of other Yiddish literature of his time.
As a Yiddish scholar, Dr. Wolf was sought out as a popular speaker by Yiddish groups from Los Angeles to New York City.
Dr. Wolf came to America in 1992, during the last great outpouring of Jews from the Soviet Union. He brought his family to Portland owing to the presence here of other family members.
When the Jewish Review wanted to launch a Russian-language column for the many ex-Soviet newcomers in Portland, Dr. Wolf was recommended as the best person for the job.
He wrote a Jewish Review column on Torah, Jewish life and international affairs from 1992 until late in 2006.
During his time in Portland, Dr. Wolf also completed an autobiography.
The autobiographical manuscript was immediately recognized by local scholars and Jewish leaders as a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Jewish experience in wartime and postwar Eastern Europe and also of the Soviet-Jewish immigrant experience in America at the end of the 20th century.
The Moisey Wolf Life Story Project Committee was formed last year to ensure that the seminal manuscript receives the attention that it deserves.
At present, an individual has been engaged as translator, editor and researcher for the project. The manuscript was created in Russian. A national publisher will be sought.
Roseanne Royer is the project coordinator. She is spearheading efforts to raise funds for the project, which has a preliminary budget of $41,000.
A large crowd of Jewish leaders, Soviet immigrants and friends gathered for the funeral services for Dr. Wolf. Rabbi Joseph Wolf, no relation, of Havurah Shalom led the services.
Dr. Wolf's son, Dr. Solomon Wolf, was the first speaker. He recounted touching moments with his father recalled from his childhood. He described his father as "a man who healed people with a word."
"Your legacy," he added, speaking to his father, "is your book, which you finished just before you left. Your legacy to me is to be devoted to my patients."
Dr. Wolf's eldest grandchild, Lyuba, who will graduate from Stanford University this year, spoke of her beloved grandfather as "a treasure chest of family memories."
"His powerful mind carried such a wealth of knowledge and memory, I was awed by him," she said. "To his last day he was trying to pass on as much as he could to us."
Jewish Federation of Greater Portland Executive Vice President Charles R. Schiffman said, "He represented living history." Turning to Dr. Wolf's coffin, he added, "You exemplified all of Jewish life in the 20th century."
Schiffman vowed that Dr. Wolf's autobiography would be published.
Several of Dr. Wolf's friends and fellow ex-Soviet immigrants took an opportunity to speak from the podium about their good friend and his long life.
Before leading all present in the Mourners' Kaddish, Rabbi Wolf said, "Moisey Wolf embodied the highest standard of what it means to keep and preserve Judaism."
Dr. Wolf is survived by is wife, Susannah, his son Solomon, daughter-in-law Margarita Wolf and three grandchildren.
The family said donations in the memory of Dr. Wolf may be made to the Oregon Jewish Museum.