Eulogy: Naji Solomon Dingoor

October 21, 2018 by  
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Naji Solomon Dingoor came from humble beginnings in India and made a wonderful life for his family here in Sydney, Australia. He was a light-hearted, good-humoured man who loved to sing the lines of the latest songs on the radio. We all know that deep voice with the loud contagious laughter that resonated throughout a room.

A life in pictures

He was a loving husband to Rachel and a devoted father to Sally, Karen and Michelle. Proud father in law to Ron and Roberto. He was a proud grandfather of 6 girls and thrilled to be the great-grandfather of yet another 6 beautiful children.

Naji was the youngest of 6 sons born in 1936 in Bombay, India to Solomon and Salha Dingoor. With brothers names like Abraham, David, Ezra, Shalom and Sion one might wonder why he was named Naji. Apparently he was named after the Iraqi Prime Minister of the time who was good to the Jews. And there you have it, a love of Zion and Israel without even saying a word about it.

His mother passed away when he was only 3 years old. Growing up with little to eat and only few clothes to wear Naji remembers always being hungry. He and his brother Sion, often slept on the street on hot Bombay nights to escape the heat of their little flat. With only two hours a day of running water, they washed their evening dishes with ash from the fire. He really only received one decent meal a day and that was a hot lunch which was provided by the David Sassoon Jewish Day School.

The following story about his early life in India only emerged later in life by accident and was told by Naji to Sally as her own daughter Tami was having a procedure in hospital as a teenager.

Sally began to cry as Tami went under anesthesia. Naji turned and said to her “what are you crying for? – when I was in hospital no one was even there for me!”

And so this deeply hidden memory emerged.

It happened one day at the young age of 8 that Naji had a sore throat and went to the school nurse. She told him he needed his tonsils out and filled in a form to get it done. After going home and finding his dad was out at work (he was a Shochet) and his brothers not at home, this 8-year-old boy took himself to the hospital and was admitted for surgery. No one knew where he was. No one had any idea where he had gone. He went to JJ Hospital, handed in his form and they admitted him and took out his tonsils. You can imagine what his father and brothers had to say when he walked home 3 days later. They were really angry with him. But as he recalled on that day with Sally, he didn’t have anyone to support or visit him in hospital. Such was the life of a child in Bombay.

It wasn’t until he got a job at the age of 18 that he was actually able to provide for himself.

He moved into Sodality House where it was suggested to him that Rachel might be a good catch for him. He liked the idea and well… things worked out well for them.

He was especially happy to be welcomed into a home with many loving siblings and formed a close and warm relationship with Rachel’s mother Saada. He even named his home in Boyce Rd – “Saada’s Mahal” – Mahal meaning “palace”. And Mahal it was. Never in his wildest dreams did that little hungry boy in India imagine what a happy and contented life he would build down under in Australia.

Together, Naji and Rachel moved to Australia when Sally their eldest, was only 3 years old. They started from scratch arriving with only a couple of pounds in their pockets. They were known to all their friends as the “flies” cos they moved every two years to something a little bit better. From Brighton Blvd to Blair St, to Glenayr Ave, to Elphinstone Rd in Coogee to Anzac Pde in Maroubra and finally Boyce Rd. In those early years, Karen and Michelle joined their journey.

Naji worked shift work for a chemical company ICI.

He worked 3 shifts on a rotational basis: Day shift, afternoon shift and the graveyard shift from 11pm to 7am. Sometimes he even worked double shifts.

In between working shifts Naji hand washed the babies nappies; gave his daughters teaspoons of brandy and honey for their colds; ironed their clothes as he taught them their times tables; and Naji made a mean Hamim, with a hushwa sewn with love and care.

Those years were busy years with Rachel also working full time. Even though they had little money, they always sent some money to his brothers and his mother in law in Israel to help them along. In Sydney, they would cook food and take it to friends in need. They were always generous in spirit and with their money. He would, by example, always practice random acts of kindness, which he instilled in his children.

When he retired, he volunteered to teach English as a second language to migrants. He always enjoyed that very much and often thought he missed his calling as a teacher. In fact, his great-grandfather was Chacham Abraham, the chief Rabbi in Iraq, so maybe it was in his blood to teach.

He also took up taxi driving to fill his spare time in retirement. He used to ask his passengers “Are you going to sing or do I have to put on the radio!”. He always chatted with his passengers and had a special connection with young people. Many of his friend’s grown children came to visit him after he got sick and really shared a special connection with him.

Naji had a keen interest in the news of the day and kept a special ear out for news on Israel. He liked to follow Al Jazeera so that he could keep an eye on what the other side was saying. He avidly read the Newsweek magazine. He always sat with a book in his hand and read a lot.  In his retirement years, he could swim the entire length of the pool without taking a breath and regularly visited the gym.

One of his great joys in life was meeting each of his 6 granddaughters – Orit, Talia, Tami, in Sydney, and Lia, Ariella and Noa, in Jerusalem. He saw two of them happily married (Orit to Alex Kaye and Talia to Ari Bernstein) He was anxiously waiting to hear Tami’s good news when she and Anthony Biggs announced their engagement earlier this year. As Naji liked to say, “he was over the moon”.

He wanted nothing more than to dance at Tami and Anthony’s wedding in December and never gave up hope to be there. In his final week, when Karen asked him if he had any messages for her girls in Israel he replied, “tell l them I’m looking forward to seeing them at the wedding.” The family are so grateful that he had the opportunity to meet Anthony and make the link for Tami’s future. He had a special spot in his heart for both of them.

It was well known that Naji always wanted a son. Instead he together with Rachel had 3 daughters, Sally and Ron had 3 daughters, and Karen and Roberto had three daughters. That’s 9 daughters folks.

So you can imagine how happy he was to meet each of his sons in law and later grandsons in law. Ron, Roberto, and later Alex, Ari and Anthony. He and Rachel were always welcome in Sally and Ron’s home for Shabbat meals and all the chagim over the 34 years that Sally and Ron have been married. Ron was a strong support to the family throughout those years. On asking Sally to marry him Ron offered Naji 20 camels for his first daughter… well 20 camel cigarettes anyway – which he then smoked! In the later years, Naji liked to bring his grandsons in law red hot chillies to eat with their dinner. Ron was not a chilly man. Naji always said “bless them” whenever their names were mentioned. He loved them all.

It wasn’t until the great-grandkids came along that the baby boys started to arrive.

In the last 6 years, Naji and Rachel were blessed with 6 great grandchildren – 4 were boys. Well, Naji couldn’t believe his luck. Orit and Alex scored the trifecta with 3 boys – Rafael, Leo and Noah. Talia and Ari were blessed with Elichai, Layla and their latest beautiful addition only born 5 weeks ago – Sofia Rose. In fact, both Naji and Sofia were in the same hospital when Sofia was born.

He was on morphine at the time and secretly knew that Talia had been admitted to hospital that morning. A team of doctors came to discuss his medical condition and the mood was very serious. In the middle of the meeting that took place around his bed, he turned to Karen and said in a loud voice – “Has the eagle landed yet?” Well, the doctors and nurses all thought that the morphine was getting to him. But he knew exactly what he was asking. He kept asking the same question throughout the day until late at night he received the good news that Tali and Ari had given birth to a healthy baby girl. He liked to communicate in code and till now this topic was top secret so Karen asked if “Mohammed would come to the mountain or should the mountain come to Mohammed. He replied that he would go to visit the new arrival. The next morning, despite the pain he was in, he stepped into a wheelchair and rolled on over to meet his 6th great-grandchild. It was a very special and meaningful moment. He held her in his arms and told her how much he loved her and how happy we all were to welcome her. After that, he smiled every time he thought of her. He would always refer to his great-grandchildren as his antidepressants.

Naji was very proud of what he and Rachel had achieved in their life together. He always marvelled that in his retired years he could be so comfortable and worry free. He didn’t imagine in his wildest dreams, back in India, that life would or could be so comfortable.

In the Mishna it is written:איזה הוא אשיר? השמח בחלקו

Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.

In this sense, Naji was truly a rich man.

In their early years in Australia when life was more of a financial struggle and Naji had a few dollars spare he would buy some cashew nuts to eat after dinner on Friday nights as a special treat for Shabbat. On those nights he would marvel at how lucky they were. His contentment went from strength to strength. He always felt he was wealthy.

Until a year ago he mostly enjoyed good health. Every day was a blessing.

When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, this last June, his pain began to increase. Before he went into hospital Rachel helped Naji shower, gave him his medicine, prepared his meals and helped him walk. She was up most nights helping him to get through the night. Sally used to say that if she could breathe for him she would have.

On hearing this, both Karen and Michelle, who lived overseas, dropped everything and flew to Australia to help care for him. Karen flew in from Israel and Michelle from New York. Michelle gave him massages and cared for him in every way that she could. Karen was also by his side every day feeding and even shaving him. Both of them managed to spend the little time he had left with him in a meaningful way.

Naji, on the other hand, was always brave and positive. He was strong throughout the whole time that he was in hospital. He thought the hospital food was very tasty and every time someone came to visit and asked how he was, he smiled and replied, “VERY GOOD”. In keeping with his love of lyrics, he would say to the nurses, “are you going to take away my pain” – a line from one of Johnny Farnham’s songs.

For Rachel, Karen and Michelle made a world of difference by just being here. They are still here today and for that, we are so grateful. Michelle, who only returned to New York two weeks ago to start a new job, flew back to be with us now after only being in her job for three days. Her boss, the head of Ramaz, the largest Jewish Day School in New York, said “of course you should be with your family at this time. It is where you should be.”

In ending, it would be fair to say that Naji was a family man. He enjoyed the simple pleasures in life and despite his difficult beginnings, he was always filled with optimism throughout life.

His loving wife Rachel, stood by his side throughout their 58 years of marriage. She was a pillar of strength for him and the family during his illness. Rachel will especially miss his friendly nature, his companionship and that deep voice with the loud contagious laughter.

He often liked to sing the words of a popular song by Abba, “when you’re gone, how will I, even try, to go on.” Naji, now that you have left us, it is us that wonder how life will be without you. We will all deeply miss your happy disposition but you will always remain… forever in our hearts.

Naji Solomon Dingoor: Born 18.4.1936 Bombay, India. Passed away 7.10.2018 Sydney Australia

 

Eulogy written by his daughter, Sally Weiser.

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