In Loving Memory
Luz and Israel Teicher
Israel “Izzy” Teicher, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and cherished member of the Jewish community, died in Stockton, CA, on December 29, 2020. His beloved wife, Luz Selenia Teicher (née Colón), mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt died a couple of days later in the first hour of the new year, January 1, 2021. Luz and Izzy each enjoyed a full and happy 85 years in this world, 60 of those years as a couple. They left this world together, succumbing to Covid-19.
Israel Teicher was born on December 2, 1935, into an Orthodox Jewish family in Berlin, Germany, during the rise of Nazism. Through a series of unfathomable decisions, extraordinary events, and family separations, the Teicher family—father Elazar, mother Ciporah, and five children—escaped from internment and survived the Holocaust, waiting out the war in Switzerland, where Izzy lived in foster care for several years. His family reunited eventually and made their way to New York City in 1950.
A multi-linguist with broad interests, Izzy left behind years of rabbinical training for a secular education and life. He met Luz in a speech and debate class at City College. Neither one spoke English when they arrived in New York. They were soon frequenting dance halls together and got married in 1962. Izzy started his career as a mathematician and computer engineer but longed for a deeper sense of purpose and later in life switched to social work. He yearned to help others who also had suffered traumas. He used his rabbinical and secular education and life experience to educate and bring healing to many, with special dedication to preserving families.
When Izzy’s father disowned him for marrying out of the faith, he was forcibly disconnected from his family. Even given the horrors of the Holocaust, this loss was likely his deepest wound. Fortunately, Luz’s family embraced him as their own. In the words of Luz’s brother, Pastor Eli Samuel Colón, “Izzy belonged to the Colón Clan. He was ours and we were his.” Because he knew from bitter experience the negative consequences of religious intolerance, Izzy was committed to unconditional love and acceptance. This allowed him to celebrate Judaism without prerequisites. Through his knowledge, humor, commitment, and kindness, he taught us all to be better people. He was a loyal and loving husband and became the type of father, brother, uncle, and grandparent that he never had. We will forever be grateful for his resilience and capacity to love, especially given everything he had to overcome.
Luz was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, on April 6, 1935, the first of 12 children of Concepción and Rosa Maria. Luz is remembered by her siblings, nieces, and nephews as “the trailblazer,” the family’s “brightest star,” the loving “primogénita” (first born). At the age of 18, motivated by a drive for education, Luz bravely boarded a propeller plane bound for New York City, leaving behind her mother and siblings.
She received a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Rochester, a rare achievement for a Latina of her generation, particularly one who had just learned English. Even amid Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation, Luz presciently predicted that humanity would more likely succumb to a virus. Steeped in scientific principles, she identified for a period as an atheist but converted to Judaism before marrying Izzy. In a moment of crisis in 1977, a series of epiphanies awakened a belief in God and prayer that would stay with her to her final breath.
Luz was a bibliophile, a voracious reader, a hard worker, and possessed a beautiful singing voice. Philosophically inclined, she pondered metaphysical questions and explored the edges of what could be rationally explained in order to reconcile her faith with science. Brilliant and beautiful, she was a source of immense pride to her family, yet remained profoundly humble, gracious, and generous.
Their marriage formed a bridge between God and the secular, between belonging and loss. Izzy and Luz forged a seamless family out of their disparate backgrounds. Despite multiple moves, career changes, and spiritual explorations, their daughter, Victoria “Vika” Lynn Teicher (b. 1969), remembers joyful celebrations of both Christmas and Hanukkah, Easter and Passover. Above all, she felt an unwavering sense of being unconditionally loved and appreciated.
Luz and Israel were adored by their community as well. From New York to Utah to California, everywhere they lived, they found a welcoming Jewish community that appreciated them and gave them a spiritual home. Their community remembers their love for music, singing, dancing, and laughing. We are grateful for everyone who got to contribute to and bask in the joy, humor, curiosity, kindness, and warmth that defined them, undiminished even as they both struggled with Alzheimer’s in their last years.
They are survived by their only daughter, Vika, son-in-law Andrew Shanken, and two grandsons, Aaron Elias Shanken and Lucien Cy Shanken. They also leave behind their beloved Colón family.
Their burial in Fernwood’s Gan Yarok Jewish Cemetery took place on Sunday, January 10, 2021, 59 years and 1 day after they eloped. In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.