Daddy I Miss You

By Greta Beigel

Father’s Day has come and gone. Rather apt when considering the life & times of Richard Beigel, the father I hardly knew.

He left South Africa when I was 10 and set sail with a distant cousin for America. His migration and subsequent citizenship saved my life by enabling me to flee a home of horror in Johannesburg and join him in Los Angeles.

In the year 2000, I went on a pilgrimage to his birthplace, Riga, now the capital of Latvia. And subsequently published a short story called, “A Jew from Riga.”


I found out recently that my father played the tuba in the Russian army. He always insisted that my musicality came from his side of the family. And that while stationed in Germany, his younger brother persuaded him to board ship and head for South Africa.

Apparently, the Jews of Joh’burg had established a pipeline of financial support to Eastern Europe in a desperate attempt to save the populace from the Nazis. My father’s entire family was wiped out in Vilnius. Here’s an excerpt from a letter of remembrance, published in my memoir, “Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life.” ©

Dear Daddy,

I miss you. I wish I’d known you more. If only you were alive today, I’d take you to concerts and buy you dinner and would demand that you have friends in this world. I’m a journalist you know, and can pretty much get tickets to all the events.

I said Kaddish for you at a Reform synagogue in Encino, Cal. You would have died if you’d heard the rabbi. I swear he sang the Kaddish, are you ready for this, accompanied on guitar to “The Girl from Ipanema.” I almost plotzed thinking of your reaction.

But I know one sure thing. Music is what we shared. Passionately. So let us sing our favorite arias, and admire a piano piece or two. And I promise the next time I visit South Africa I will stop by your grave at the Westside Jewish Cemetery to celebrate your life.

 I love you Jankela. Your daughter, Greta.

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