Judith Lisansky, daughter, middle child 1/27/05:
As a daughter, I was extremely lucky to have Edith as a role model and a mom. If it were not for her
support and encouragement, I do not think I would have followed my dreams and gone off to study
cultural anthropology, live in the Amazon jungle, earn a doctorate, write a book, and work as an
anthropologist for the World Bank. Although she had her professional life and I had mine, we had
enormous areas of overlapping interests in human behavior, society and culture, ethnicity, development,
social and individual change. She had a great love and appreciation for anthropology, and I dabbled in
her field even doing a postdoc at the University of Illinois in cross-cultural psychology. We had endless
marvelous discussions about everything from theory to course outlines to teaching techniques to how to
formulate research questions, and even one time collaborated on a book chapter together. I remember
one time when I was much younger asking mother if she believed in God and she answered me, "I
believe in man." I remember the banner over her desk that I also put over mine, in Latin, "Illegitimus
non-carborundum" or "Don't let the bastards grind you down."
Many of my memories of mother are of travels, either her coming to visit me somewhere or trips we all
took together such as to Sea Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico; New York; Israel and Egypt; England; and to
Italy. She and Henry visited me in the Brazilian Amazon when I was living there in the late 1970s doing
my doctoral research, and how we laughed when we found the enormous lump under their mattress was
a gigantic toad. We hung out in Florence, Italy with the Hofstaders in an ancient villa overlooking the
path that Michelangelo used to walk down. We went to Cairo with Shlomit and visited Anwar Sadat's
grave. So many trips, so many places and adventures.
Eugene Lisansky, son, youngest child 2/19/05:
My Mom taught me so many things, and I have been so influenced by her behavior and attitudes that it's sometimes
difficult to sort out what's uniquely me and what I took from her. Things like always sending bread-and-butter thank you
notes, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything", loving meadows full of wildflowers, singing nonsense
syllables very loudly while feeding the cats, and cutting through the BS to solve problems at work. Although I admired
her scientific focus and acumen, I did not follow in her footsteps, yet she was always very supportive of my endeavors.
Even when I went through long periods of soul-searching angst in college and afterwards, she let me know that was okay,
as long as I didn't make a career out of contemplating my navel.
The following is the text of my remarks at Edith's Festschrift, or career/lifetime celebration, which was held in Ann Arbor in
1999. I am very happy that I was able to share that event, and these words, with her while she was still here.
Life is a series of momentous occasions marked by celebrations where people get together and talk. Marriages, graduations, major
holidays… celebrity trials. The language of celebration is marked by certain buzzwords: accomplishment, achievement, lifelong,
memorable. All of these buzzwords could be applied to our honoree tonight.
For Edith Gomberg, who very coincidentally, or perhaps quite deliberately, happens to be my mother, has certainly accomplished a
lifetime of memorable achievements. But I’m not here to talk about them in an intellectual context. What I’d rather tell you about is
the personal effect my mother’s achievements and personality had on me.
First off- she let me drive the car. At age 5 or 6, or maybe it was 18, I recall returning from some errands with my mom, and as we
approached the driveway of our home, she let me sit on her lap, take the wheel, and steer the automobile into the drive and toward the
garage. Talk about “empowerment”. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn out to be a race car driver.
Here’s another example of my mother’s approach to child-rearing, which more closely resembled Mr. Spock than Dr. Spock. My
family is Jewish, but not rabidly so: we celebrated Passover and Rosh Hashonah and Chanukah. But lest I feel left out among all my
Christian friends as a little boy, we also celebrated Christmas, complete with a decorated tree, stockings, Santa Claus and presents.
We certainly covered all the bases. Today we would probably include Ramadan and the Chinese New Year.
I grew up in a family of talkers, where dinner table conversation was more likely to revolve around the latest international geo-politics,
rather than what’s new on TV or around the house. As the youngest and apparently the dumbest among five powerful yappers, I
rarely got a word in edgewise. This apparently explains my career in broadcasting.
But it also explains my love of information, and the words we use to disseminate it. If I’d been raised a few houses over, I could
probably tell you every cartoon that played on Saturday morning TV. As it is, I am filled with valuable insights like this one: on my
birthdate, July 21, 1954, the headlines in the New York Times announced the division of Vietnam into North and South. What a
prophetic day that was.
Edith Gomberg is not a housewife- never was. She is someone who aggressively pursued learning and knowledge. She graduated
from high school two years early, then got a college degree 18 hours later, and a Masters degree the following week. I exaggerate of
course, but when you’re a little child, time flies. As a role model, however, she was unparalleled.
My early memories of my mother include the large L-shaped wooden desk she still uses, surrounded by a massive library of books.
By the way, if you have children, please do NOT let them read the collected works of Freud before age 15. Besides letting me drive
the car, my mother also let me help her score personality tests she had given to experimental subjects. Ahhh, you say, THAT explains
the data. So let me add that I was in college at the time.
I would be remiss in recounting my mother’s powerful intellectual effects on my life if I did not include the infamous Pompeii
Report. Assigned to do a report in the fifth grade on the destroyed civilizations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, I procrastinated until the
night before the due date, then pleaded for help. Edith proceeded to research the subject so thoroughly, organize the information, and
present so logically and intelligently, that following my delivery of the report the next day, the teacher severely questioned that the
report was my own work. If I had been the smart-ass I was today, I would have told her, “No, Eric Sevareid wrote it, I’m just
reading the tele-prompter.”
So, yes, my mother communicated her great love of learning, of knowledge, of the quest to understand the world we live in in every
way possible. I blame her for the breadth of my education- my failure to develop a myopic focus on one area, to the exclusion of
being well-schooled in many It calls to mind something I read in college in a textbook on personality theory. In fact it’s one of the
only things I remember from college. The author described his approach as benevolent eclecticism versus partisan zealotry. That I
believe, describes both my mother and myself.
A couple of more incidents and memories, even if they might be false, and then I’ll stop.
My very birth is the subject of family legend. The story goes that Edith was at the movies, watching “Gone With the Wind”, when I
decided I wanted to be born. I must have smelled the popcorn, and I definitely wanted out, but my mom was so spellbound by one
of the greatest epics ever filmed that she insisted on staying until the final credits, and I was emerged shortly after the conclusion of
the film, fortunately at the hospital.
Later when I studied film here at the University of Michigan, she kept calling me Eric Von Stroheim. I think she expected me to wear
a monocle and shout “Cut!” through a megaphone.
My mother attempted to name me after one of her great heroes, and although it’s not my legal name, Eugene Victor Debs IS my
namesake. Although I did not end up in organized labor, the name and the man had an effect on me. Edith successfully gave me a
sense of responsibility for the less fortunate, the downtrodden, the voiceless masses that radio broadcasters like Edward R Murrow
did so much to try and help.
There’s not much I can say about Edith’s long career in the field of alcohol research, except to thank her for a lifelong excuse to have
a drink or two: “I’m doing field research” always has a scholarly ring to it, as you pour out another whiskey sour.
I am very very proud of my mother, and happy to be here to share that with all of you, and with her.
Stephen Lisansky, son, eldest child 4/27/05:
“I was born two weeks after the start of the roaring twenties” was the first line of what was to be my mother’s
autobiography. She was proud of her durability and wanted the reader to know it at once. “I have cheated death four
times”, she said to a friend, and accepted a gift of some rosary beads, “just in case”. The autobiography would have
been typed; the computer remained an unloved mail machine. She gave me my first typewriter, a second-hand manual
portable Royal, and only made it to an electric ‘golf-ball’ herself.
“Why do you smoke that brand?” her father asked her in the thirties. “For the coupons - you can get things”, she replied.
“Like consumption?” he said. Ruminating on, she remembered the milk soured on the windowsill and the cold red borscht
with hot potato and sour cream, the goats on the corner when Brooklyn still had farms and the five-cent streetcar.
On reflection, I’m sure she didn’t write the book because her mind was pointed firmly towards the future. The nostalgic
indulgence, fun for us, wasn’t for her. She was interested in people and achievement. Visiting us in England she liked
going to Hill Top, the cottage of Beatrix Potter, a children’s author, pioneer environmentalist, founder of the National
Trust and Herdwick sheep breeder. And to Waddesdon Manor, a Rothschild house full of treasure and also the original
1917 ‘Balfour Declaration’ committing Britain to the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine.
She wanted her children to write with her a scholarly book on alcohol; I was to do fermentation but said I preferred
cocktails. We never got past the planning stage but maybe it would have been too much a labour of love to be
interesting. She did, however, keep copies of everything her children wrote, published and otherwise.
She was proud of her intellectual and literary productivity, as were we. She graduated from university at 18 and her last
book arrived when she was 83½. One book, “Gender and Disordered Behavior”, was dedicated inter alia to my wife and
me. On the face of it, I said, this could be thought a dubious honour; besides it would have sold better if called “Sex and
One of my favourite lines, a little adapted, was, “If God had intended us to eat at home, he wouldn’t have given us
restaurants” as a corollary to “I have already proved I can cook”. We dined everywhere from Michelin two-stars in Paris
to British truck stops. She enjoyed the occasion and the company but also had an excellent stomach and enjoyed the
Enduring memories of Edith remain with her friends. Visitors, even those who only stayed a day or so, were impressed
with her warm hospitality. Her travel with Henry and with us gave her friends and acquaintances everywhere.
She loved Puccini and passed this on to us. Her rigour, discipline, patient capacity for work and thinking, yet sympathetic
listening and quick compassion and generosity were hopefully passed on in some measure. Her quirky politics, I always
told her were "probably side effects of the drugs” but she didn’t retreat or recant.
Edith had conviction and candor, cleverness and compassion. She was a first-class role model and an excellent mother. I
thank her for her life and mine.
Sally Mesh, second cousin 2/19/05:
I met [Eugene] as well as Henry, a number of years ago in Ann Arbor during one of our trips there for either Scott's or
Cynthia's graduation from U. Mich. I'm sure you remember Scott...and perhaps Cynthia also. Though you and I are
second cousins, we know one another precious little, but I did want you to know that I had just spoken with your Mom at
the end of November after an unconscionable period of time (several years) in which we'd had no contact. She filled me
in on her health situation...it didn't sound good...but some of her old spunk was still there and I was glad to hear it. I am
really grateful that I had the opportunity to speak with her recently. It's truly my loss that I wasn't more assertive about
developing more of a relationship with her during these past 25 years...you see, she was the last person I know in my
mother's family (there are surely others, but I don't know who they are, where they are, or even their names...pity). I truly
squandered a great opportunity to know Edith better, and to know more about the family through her. As I said in my
guestbook sign-in, your Mom was really wonderful to both Scott & Cynthia when they were so far from NY as students at
U. Mich...her generosity in that truly amazed me because she and I had barely known one another over the years.
My husband, Stan, and I send our sympathy. We've lost a very special lady!
Scott Mesh, third cousin 2/19/05:
I am very sad to hear the news of your mothers passing. She was such a wonder-
ful person and had a great influence on my life. By seeing her life as a
psychologist and what that life could be I too decided to join the same profession.
She encouraged me to continue in my studies and work in the same field. If I had
not been blessed by being in Ann Arbor during those years with your mom and
with you guys I’m not sure I would have chosen this career path. Your mom’s
encouragement and positive spirit was a wonderful gift to me. The last time that I
visited her in Ann Arbor she shared with me her certificate of internship. She was
the first clinical psychology intern in New York State. I was so impressed by that,
seeing the old type and the hand written number 1, and your mom’s name on it.
Then she told me to take it, and I now hang the certificate (right) in my home.
I want to express my deep sympathy to all of you and to let you know that my
thoughts and prayers are with you all.
Milton Lisansky, first husband 7/15/05:
Edith Silverglied and I first came together when she was fourteen and I was sixteen at a meeting of the Young Peoples
Socialist League (Yipsels), Circle 4 Jr. Kings (Brooklyn), an amorphous group of youngsters whose creed was "Socialism
in Our Time". We revered Norman Thomas. After the meeting we walked Edith home and I carried her roller skates.
During those early years our social group came from all over New York and we often chose inexpensive entertainments
such as the free David Mannes concerts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, voyages on the Staten Island ferry, five
cents, long walks in Central Park, safe then, and dining at the Automat. Among our group were my best friend, George
Rubinstein, and Henry Gomberg and Edna Cohen who was Henry’s first wife. Boy-girl relationships were varied but not
very long lasting. A tale has it that one evening after George's date with Edith, he kissed her at the entrance to her
house and she said it was very nice except that he was standing on her toe.
Edith's parents, Bernie and Dorothy lived in a two family house in Brooklyn directly across the street from a public school
for the convenience of the children, her brother Saul and sister Pearl. Edith went on to graduate from Brooklyn College
at age eighteen.
Edith loved theater and during one of our relationship periods I remember the thrill of our seeing "Lady in the Dark" with
Gertrude Lawrence; Danny Kaye had a small part. Later Edith and I were close to each other when she was an intern at
Rockland State Hospital. We spent the summer of 1940 as Counselors at Camp Eden, a Jewish camp near Cold Spring,
On the first of May 1943 I was off to the Army and different posts in the U.S. Edith was off to Yale to do a PhD in
In January 1945 I was preparing to go overseas as a dentist with the 88th Field Hospital. Edith wrote me a note
wondering where I was and what was I doing. I replied that I was coming east from California on a short leave and we
could get together. We celebrated her birthday and decided to marry. And so we did. Honeymooned one day, had a
party with friends at my parents and I left for Hawaii, Okinawa and the occupation of Japan not returning for eighteen
Then Edith was still at Yale and we had serious discussions as to whether the hasty marriage was a good idea. We would
give it a try and I took an internship in oral surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital and so it began. We lived in a two-room
apartment in an old house near the hospital and the Institute for Human Relations sharing house space with Angela,
Edith's long time roommate.
We honeymooned once again in Montreal and the Gaspe. Back to Yale for both of us and in September 1947 Stephen
was born. Edith juggled career and childrearing; it was not easy. We moved to a summer house for the winter in Indian
Neck, Branford, which had a primitive heating system and the snow actually came into the house at one time. Came July
we gained the use of Professor Irvin Child's house in North Haven for the summer and then we rented a house of our
own for the next few years. Edith did a splendid job of running the household despite the fact that I became a full time
student at the Yale School of Public Health and Judith arrived in September of 1950. We then bought our own house in
Hamden and I started private practice in New Haven. Edith achieved her PhD in June 1949.
Her professional activities included affiliation with the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies, some private practice, and of
course childcare, cooking and laundry.
During those years we often went to the Schubert theater in New Haven and saw such magnificent plays like "South
Pacific" with Mary Martin and Enzio Pinza, "Street Car Named Desire" with Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy, My Fair
Lady with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews and many others. Also went to the theater in New York for ballet and opera.
Saw Leontyne Price in her debut as Cho-Cho San in "Butterfly" which remained Edith's favorite opera.
In the 60's we went camping with the children to Maine, Vermont, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In our Hamden house
there were many large dinner parties with our circle of friends most of whom were in the fields of psychiatry and
During our life together there were the usual strains and cracks and the transmutation of love into anger or indifference.
In 1965 we drove cross country with Eugene our youngest; went to Texas, California, Idaho, Chicago; covering 9,000
miles in six weeks, a good trip but strained and tense. The following January- February of '66 began the process of
marriage dissolution and we were officially divorced in '67. Edith then married widower and old friend Henry Gomberg and
I married Sybil Pinco and we both did very well thereafter.
Edith's death in January at what would have been her 85th birthday and the 60th anniversary of our marriage was a
much greater shock to me than I would have anticipated. Obviously I remained with a very strong feeling for her and was
much saddened by her passing. She was an unusual woman.
Edith's Clinical Psychology Internship
certificate, Number 1, dated August 26, 1944.