Rabbi Ken Chasen

Allan Axelrad

Stephen Axelrad

Karen Axelrad

Eve Axelrad

Joel Axelrad

Eulogy for Harriet Axelrad

Delivered by Allan Axelrad

My mother was filled with love. Love for her children, grandchildren, her great granddaughter, and her many other relatives and friends. She loved literature and all the arts. In truth, her love reached out to all humanity and to the physical world in which we live, our planet Earth. Caring was not enough for her; her love for people and the planet involved responsibility and action—in this sense, it was political.

One of Mom’s poems was titled “We The People”:
    We the people
        Built a country based on democracy.
    We the people
       Welcome folks of different races and colors.
    We the people
       Can make or ban nuclear weapons.
    We the people
       can clear the air and clean the water.
    We the people
       Can save the forests and plant more trees.
    We the people
       Can take charge of our destiny.
    We the people
       Can use our power to heal the planet.

When Mom was born in 1916, women did not have the right to vote or hold office; they were not full citizens. That would change in a few years with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Citizenship for Mother was a precious right and serious responsibility.
She first voted in a presidential election in 1940, helping to reelect Franklin Roosevelt, as she did in 1944. He was one of her great heroes, as was his wife Eleanor. His successor, Harry Truman, was another great figure to her, evoking local pride, for he, like Mother, was from Missouri. Just recently, while bedridden with cancer, Mother read a 900 page biography of Truman, with great enthusiasm.
In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Mother was preoccupied with raising 5 children. Of course, there was World War II, and I have childhood memories of our Victory Garden and Mother stopping the car to pick up hitchhiking men in uniform. I also have memories of how she abhorred the Red Scare and the fear mongering and demagogy of the 1950s. In these years she was an active participant in Planned Parenthood and strongly opposed governmental regulation of women’s bodies. She supported fully legalized contraception and she supported the right of women to choose whether or not they wished to bear a child. She enthusiastically endorsed the Civil Right’s Movement and actively worked to integrate the Pacific Palisades, for well into the 1960s no local realtor would sell or rent to African Americans. One more note about the 1960s, when both the Democratic and Republican parties failed the American people with the war in Vietnam, Mom sought an alternative and joined the Peace and Freedom Party.
In the years that followed, Mom was active in the anti-nuclear movement in particular and the peace movement in general; she strongly supported environmentalism; she reached out to immigrants; supported Jewish causes; and she supported a variety of medical causes. Even as her body was being ravaged by cancer, she continued to read the newspaper, keep up with politics, and care about the world in which she lived. She was particularly outraged by the invasion of Iraq.
With her passion for life and justice, she was a wonderful role model for all of us. I would like to conclude with her poem titled “Rejoice”:

Sing a song of loving
Of feeling and of life
Pushing into nowhere
Guns, hatred, and mad strife.

Glorify the rainbow
Flowers in the fields
Plant food in the garden
Till their harvest yields.

Limbs were made for dancing
Music for romance
Nothing has been ordered
Time to take a chance.

Do the work you care for
Leaving time for fun,
Spreading your horizons
Dazzling in the sun.