There are three strands to the family timeline:
the Meyouhas Family
the Feigenbaum Family
the Zinder (Tsünder) Family
According to the genealogical study of the family written by
the sources of the Meyouhas family can be traced back to the Return to Zion from Babylon with the prophets Nehemia and Ezra in 538 BC. According to family legends going back some centuries, the family is descended from the Par’osh family that is mentioned in the Book of Nehemia among the returnees.
Closer to our time, it is fairly well established that there were five brothers of the Meyouhas family who were expelled from Spain together with all the Jews of the country in 1492. They made their way east around the Mediterranean, and, apparently, three of the brothers settled in Bulgaria or Greece, while the remaining two – Yosef and Rahamim – continued on to Jerusalem. Someone in the Meyouhas tribe has a receipt for goods delivered – wheat – by the brothers in 1512, so it is safe to assume that they arrived somewhere around the beginning of the 16th century. The family has been living in Jerusalem ever since.
My connection to the Meyouhas family is through my mother, Hemdah, who was the granddaughter of Margalit and Yosef Bar Rabbi Natan (Bara”n) Meyouhas, and the daughter of Rachel Meyouhas, who married my grandfather, the eye surgeon, Aryeh Feigenbaum. Yosef Meyouhas had four other daughters apart from my grandmother, so the Meyouhas family name disappeared from my family line in my grandmother’s generation. My mother, Hemdah, was well-known in Jerusalem in the early 30’s for her beauty, and for the fact that she was the first radio announcer in Hebrew at the Hebrew broadcasting station – Kol Yisrael – in 1936. She worked at the radio station until she got married to my father in 1939, and then devoted herself to bringing up my brother and me.
After spending seven years in the US, 1947-54, when my father was working for the Israeli Foreign Service, we came back to Jerusalem where my mother returned briefly to the radio, and then was appointed the Secretary of UNESCO in Israel, where she worked until her retirement.
She died of lymphoma at the age of 71 in 1987.
The name Zinder, originally Tsünder, comes from my father’s side. His father, Matityahu Tsünder, came from a religious family in Galicia, Poland – from the town of Buczac. My grandfather was attracted to Zionism at the age of 18, and decided to make his way to Palestine to fulfil the dream of Zionism. He went to Vienna first to get the blessing of Theodor Herzl and then made his way to Palestine, arriving finally at the northern town of Rosh Pina in 1884. Having learned agriculture from his father’s wood business, Matatyahu worked in Rosh Pina and the surrounding villages as an agricultural consultant.
Soon after that he was one of the founding members of the settlement (moshava) of Mahanayim, not far from Rosh Pina. In 1900, he married the sixteen-year old Esther Federhar from the city of Zfat (Safed), and they had one daughter, my aunt Leah. In 1902, at the insistence of his wife, who found life in early Palestine extremely difficult, the little family emigrated to the United States. It was at Ellis Island where their family named was changed to Zinder, since the immigration agent had no idea how to pronounce the umlaut in Tsünder, the original family name. Other members of the Tsünder family who emigrated to the US had their name changed to Zunder, for the same reason.
My grandparents remained in the United States for over 50 years (returning in 1952 when my grandfather retired) and raised a family of seven children. My father was the fifth in line, and at the age of 15, my grandfather decided that Harry (Zvi) would fulfil the Zionist dream in his place, and sent him to study at the Reali boarding school in Haifa. After finishing his high school education, my father remained for a year or two on Kibbutz Gezer, and then went back to the States and completed a degree in Journalism at Northwestern University. Soon after his graduation, my father returned to Israel and became the Assistant Editor of what was then the English-language Palestine Post (later, and to this day, the Jerusalem Post). In February 1939 he married my mother, Hemdah Feigenbaum, in Jerusalem.
Eight months after they were married, the Second World War broke out and my father joined the Associated Press organization, and later the Time & Life organization, and spent the years of the war as a correspondent for these press agencies. There was hardly a single front of the war that he didn’t report from, including North Africa, Belgium, Burma, Japan, and finally Germany, where he was with the first Allied forces that crossed the Rhine in 1945.
During that time, my mother brought up my brother, Oren, and myself, virtually on her own, since our father’s visits to Palestine were few and far between. When the war was over, he was appointed the Chief Middle East correspondent for Time & Life, and in 1947 – just before the War of Independence in Israel, he was asked to come to the US to work for Time Inc. there. In 1948, when the State of Israel was established he was asked to join the new Israeli Embassy in Washington as Press Secretary, and that was the beginning of a seven-year stint as an Israeli diplomat, first in Washington and then in New York where he worked for the Consulate and the UN mission.
When we returned to Israel, in 1954, my father became head of the Government Press Bureau, and then he was appointed as the Director-General of the radio, Kol Yisrael. During his term of office there he brought about the creation of an independent Broadcasting Authority, and helped create the conditions for introducing television to Israel. He left the radio of his own will in 1962, feeling that he had achieved everything he had wanted to achieve in Israeli broadcasting. He then went on to work in various official capacities as a government official, including the Educational Television Authority and the creation of the Truman Center at the Hebrew University. In 1972 he established a dubbing company, Zinkoe, based on what was then revolutionary technology, but during the Yom Kippur(1973), the company folded when all if its employees were taken into their reserve army units, and the company could not function for three or four months.
After he retired, my father served for a number of years on the Board of Directors of the Broadcasting Authority.
He died in Jerusalem in 1991 at the age of 83.
My maternal grandfather, Aryeh Feigenbaum, was a world-renowned ophthalmologist and eye-surgeon. A true Renaissance man who, apart from his great talents as a physician, was also an accomplished painter, a violist, a philologist who knew 20 languages, and a medical historian of note.
Originally destined to become a rabbi, he, like my paternal grandfather, turned away from religion and, in his case, decided to study medicine. He too followed the Zionist cause, and eventually came to Palestine in 1912. Family legends tell that when he came, he hired a mule and traveled the length and the breadth of the country to find out if would like to stay. He returned to Lvov briefly, and then came for good in 1913. Among his many achievements was his pioneering study, and eventual defeat, of trachoma in Palestine, which was one of the most prevalent eye diseases in the Middle East at the time. Early in his career he was appointed Dean of the Medical School at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, a position he held for nearly 30 years.
In 1915 he married my grandmother, Rachel Meyouhas, who, like her daughter after her, was regarded as one of the great beauties of Jerusalem.
He died at in Jerusalem in 1991 at the age of 96.
I have been married to yet another great beauty, Leah (née Laks), who came to Israel to stay in 1965 from South Africa. She returned briefly to South Africa after the death of her father, and then came on Aliya for good in 1967. Having worked as a teenager at the South African Broadcast Company, she continued her radio journalism initially at Kol Yisrael, then anchored a cable TV program called Hello Jerusalem, and then, for over twenty years was an anchorwoman, reporter and editor for IBA News, the English-language news broadcast of Israel Television. After retiring from the TV, she has pursued a career of media training for top high-tech and business executives.
Perhaps fittingly, we met onstage in 1968, when Joyce Miller, a lecturer at the English Department of the Hebrew University, where Leah was doing her MA, decided to do a co-production of Twelfth Night, with her students and he actors of the English-speaking Theatre Games Company of the Khan Theatre, where I was appearing.
We were married in June 1969 in the courtyard of my grandparents’ house on Ethiopia Street in Jerusalem, and have three children: Shani, Ariel and Rachel. Shani is a school counselor, Ariel is a lecturer on Medieval Hebrew liturgical poetry in Spain at the Literature Department of Tel Aviv University, and Rachel is a full-time mother. They have a total of 9 children: Maor, Inbar, and Klil, then Elia, Assaf, Gali, and Rotem, and finally, Nur and Anis – respectively.