Over the summer, Diana Douglas, mother of Michael Douglas and first wife of Kirk Douglas, passed away. She left a special legacy and remained on amicable terms with Kirk throught her life. She even appeared with him in several movies, including her last film, “It Runs in the Family” (2003), which also starred Michael Douglas and one of her grandsons, Cameron.
What interested me about remembrances of Diana Douglas’ life was the reminder of Kirk Douglas’ life and legacy. He returned to his Jewish roots with a second bar mitzvah while in his 80s, following a helicopter crash in 1991 in which two men died. He said he believed he was spared because he had not yet come to terms with Judaism or what it meant to be Jewish. He became a conscientious Torah student.
I applaud Kirk Douglas’ return to Judaism and can relate to it since my father, who would have been exactly Kirk Douglas’ age, was the lay leader of his synagogue in Marco Island, Florida, for 13 years in his retirement.
My father led all religious services and performed religious ceremonies – and I believe that his faith was one of the core values that kept him going for 95 years. The only time he did not go to services was in the last month of his life, when he was too sick to get out of bed. I knew then that the end was near.
I understand the passion and drive that directs us zealous individuals and especially those of us who are Jewish. Somehow the value of learning and education has been engrained in our gene code and its strength has carried us through the good and the bad.
I was given very strong roots and I can feel them in my bones through the legacy of past generations. I’ve had many opportunities in both my personal and professional life to call on the strength of those roots. There has always been a voice calling to me from somewhere that has said, “You can do this. You can make it. You are here to make a difference.”
To quote King Solomon, Proverbs, 24:16, “A righteous man falls down seven times and gets up.” That has carried me through.
As Diana Douglas returned to her heavenly roots, and Kirk Douglas returned to his Jewish roots, and my father returned to both, we all seem to find or return to our roots.
Patricia Raskin is an award-winning radio producer and talk-show host. The Patricia Raskin Show airs on WPRO. She is a board member of Temple Emanu-El. She can be reached at patriciaraskin.com