Chava Lifshitz Memorial Symposium
Tuesday, March 21, 2006, 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Los Angeles Building, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Giv`at-Ram
you were gone...
(March 26, 1936 -- March 1, 2005)
...from all the lives you left your mark upon
One of my mentors, Prof. Chava Lifshitz of the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, finally lost her decades-long struggle with cancer on March
Chava Lifshitz was born Eva Wolf in Vienna on March 26, 1936 in an
upper-middle class home. After the Anschluss, her father (a prominent
attorney) managed to get the family out
ahead of the Nazi murder machine. Eventually the Wolfs made their way
to Eretz Yisrael (then a British Mandate area). There, as customary
then (and to a large extent still now) her first name was changed to
the original Hebrew version of Eva, "Chava".
Her father, Shlomo (Salomon) Wolf, played a key role in the creation of
the Maccabi Sick Fund (presently Maccabi
), one of
Israel's four HMOs. By all accounts Chava
was a very gifted pupil, and grew up in a cultured home in the old
European tradition --- including piano lessons from the Israeli
composer Paul Ben-Haim.
In 1953, she started studying Chemistry at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, under a special program that allowed gifted students to
combine their military service with their studies. She obtained the
M.Sc. degree in Physical Chemistry in 1958, and a Ph.D. in 1961, with a
dissertation entitled "Isotope Effects in the Radiation Chemistry of
Aqueous Solutions" (advisor: G. Stein). At the Hebrew U. she met and
married fellow chemist Assa Lifshitz.
The focus of her research career was determined by a two-year
postdoctoral stint with mass spectrometry pioneer Franklin
Long at Cornell. She joined the
Hebrew U. Faculty in 1963, and rose
through the ranks to become a Full Professor at the (for Israel) young
age of 40.
She left an indelible mark on her fields of science (mass spectrometry
and gas-phase ion chemistry), on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
and on the people with whom she interacted.
Her contributions to science were honored by many awards, of which I
will only note the Kolthoff Prize (Technion 1985), the Max Planck
Research Award (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, 1991, shared with
longtime collaborator Helmut
and the Israel Chemical Society Prize (2003). On the occasion of her
60th birthday, she was honored with a special issue of the
International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Processes (edited by
Robert C. Dunbar and Tilmann Maerk).
In his eulogy at her funeral, Hebrew University Rector Prof. Menachem
Magidor called her "a supporting pillar" of the university. She held a
succession of leadership positions in the university and within the
Israeli higher education system: Chair of the Chemistry Studies
Division (1972-1976), Chair of the Tenure Committee in the Experimental
Sciences (1984-1985), Member of the Council for Higher Education
(Israel, 1986-1991), Chair of the Physical Chemistry Department
(1989-1992), Member of the High Committee for Science and Technology
(the "Harari Commission", 1991-1992), and finally Head of the Institute
of Chemistry (1994-1997). All students of hers I spoke to remember her
as a brilliant teacher, a scrupulously fair evaluator, and a warm
But there was much more to Chava than science, science policy, and
education. Her youngest daughter Orna recalled in her eulogy that when
she was five, "doctors told Chava she had another five years to live,
if she was lucky". She struggled against the disease with stoic courage
and unflinching tenacity, and beat the doctor's prognosis by a good two
decades, leading an active life until the very end. As Prof. Raphael D.
Levine recalled in his eulogy, she got a grant proposal approved a mere
two months before her death.
Speaking for myself, I will always remember her as not being "like"
anybody: she was an original. At once unfailingly polite in the best
European tradition and bluntly outspoken (especially about politics) in
a way that could startle even Israelis.
At once a sworn feminist and a doting mother; a driven scientist and a
"mother lioness" to all who worked for or with her; a political liberal in
many ways yet simultaneously the most strident of right-wing
at once an uncompromisingly analytical thinker and loving beyond reason
--- of other people, and of the Land of Israel that, in very different
ways, is so dear to both of us.
Chava Lifshitz, the one and only.
She is survived by her husband, Prof.
; by her son, Dr. Ron
daughters Donna and Orna Lifshitz, and half a dozen grandchildren.
May her memory bless us all the way I feel blessed by it. Farewell,
The background music you are hearing is the 2nd movement ("Dirge") from
Ernst Bloch's Concerto Grosso
no. 1 for Strings and Piano
, sequenced by Michael A.