To his mother, Barbara Shaiman, he was “the sunshine of my life.”
To his Jerusalem Post editor, David Brinn, he was “like a rich character from a detective novel … strong jaw, floppy hair, a sauntering gait and a smile that could fill a room.” To the mother of his childhood friends, Cecile Roy, he was “Danny” — a “funny, good-hearted boy … trying to make a difference in the world.”
But to the people who mattered most to Daniel K. Eisenbud in his final years — the legions of readers who read his deeply personal and passionate work in the JP — he was both a voice for the voiceless, and a well of humanity.
Eisenbud grew up in Bala Cynwyd. He attended Welsh Valley Middle School and graduated from Harriton High School in 1991. He went to Boston University as an undergrad then got a master’s degree in journalism from New York University.
In his tenure as a New York writer and editor, he worked for Hearst Magazines and Dow Jones, and as a daily newspaper reporter covering police and criminal courts. He also served as a New York City government spokesperson under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
In 2010, he rather suddenly made aliyah, trading a Manhattan apartment, a beautiful girlfriend and financial stability for a ramshackle room with a plywood bed in a kibbutz in the middle of the Negev Desert. He didn’t know Hebrew, nor was he particularly religious. But as he explained in an article for the JP, it was something he did for his maternal grandmother, Carola Iserowski Greenspan, the sole survivor of a family of 65 killed in the Holocaust.
“She taught me the inherent dangers of inactivity when wrongs are committed,” Eisenbud wrote of his grandmother, “and to love people of all colors and faiths, equally. At my lowest points, she always reminded me: ‘The sun came out for me after Auschwitz, and it will always come out for you, too.’”
When his grandmother urged him to go to Israel and to “make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone again,” he didn’t hesitate. And he dedicated himself to fulfilling her wish by doing the one thing he believed would create transformation: He wrote.
In one of several posthumous JP tributes to Eisenbud, Brinn called him “one of the purest, most flowing writers I’ve had the privilege of calling a colleague.” Brinn noted that Ben Gale, one of Eisenbud’s copy editors, noted that Eisenbud’s articles “were always bursting with empathy.”
“Possessed with an almost childlike sense of inquisitiveness, Dan connected viscerally to the people he interviewed and they to him,” Brinn recalled. “He was a soulful, articulate advocate for the silent and the forgotten.”
The Jerusalem Post devoted a full page of excerpts, photos and praise from friends and colleagues to Eisenbud’s memory. Readers quickly wrote in to say how much they’d miss him.
For Shaiman, the outpouring is comforting.
“As a grieving mother, it touches my soul so deeply that he touched so many lives,” said Shaiman, founder of Champions for Caring and a major force in Holocaust education in the Philadelphia public schools. “He cared about people. He wanted to use his voice to help marginalized people. In his column, Eisenbud’s Odyssey, he shared his beliefs, his values and his soul. He was very loving, very generous, very kind.”
His most recent writing focused on the Sudanese refugee problem in Israel. He lived in south Tel Aviv, near a Sudanese neighborhood.
“He took a very strong stand to champion them and be their voice … because he realized that in his family there was no safe haven for Jews during the Holocaust and he didn’t want to see that happen to the Sudanese,” Shaiman said.
He also fought against terrorism in Israel, working hand in hand with the Israel Police foreign press spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “Daniel was a highly talented writer who was a fervent listener,” Rosenfeld wrote. “He was able to reach thousands of people all over the world. His message was always honest.”
Such tributes would undoubtedly be gratifying to Eisenbud, who had a tattoo of a fountain pen breaking a sword. “I write for two reasons,” he wrote shortly after 9/11. “Because it’s one of the few things I’m any good at; and because words, in the right arrangement, are the most powerful weapons man has ever known to effect constructive change of any kind.”
“He just wanted to ensure that the world is a better place,” Shaiman said, “as if by doing this, he could make up for some of the pain that our family suffered during the Holocaust.”
Reading about Dan and being at the service for him and hearing from so many people he touched was inspiring but also heartbreaking. It was more painful to lose such a good and kind person so early in his life. The consolation is that even in his short time on this Earth, he managed to connect with more people and help and inspire so many, more than some do in a full lifetime. He squeezed it all in and will be remembered by all he touched. My heart goes out to Barbara and all his family and dear friends. Those who knew him best know how much they lost.