Abraham Lincoln once said “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Our friend, Elie’s 80th surprise birthday party was held at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto at 6PM. Cecile and I were privileged to be among
the honored guests. As we emerged from the underground parking lot we could hear the soulful sound of a saxophone player echoing from the Center’s courtyard where cocktails, wine and appetizers were being served.
By 7:30 PM, we all got the word that Elie was on his way up with his wife Yael. Excitement and anticipation was in the air. “Surprise!” we all yelled out. Elie’s face registered shock, confusion and joy all at the same time. He was lovingly greeted by family and friends. As we walked through the doors into the ballroom, Eli’s Band was on stage ready to go (not to be confused with Elie).
The theme for the evening was travel. We had been given Passports with our names on the front and Cecile and I were assigned to the “France table.” There was a photo of Elie on the inside with the words: Elie and Yael think Paris is the most romantic city in Europe.
It can be difficult to appeal to a multi-generational group of people, but Eli’s Band—Eli Buzglo Entertainment from LA had everybody on their feet with their incomparable high energy performance and music selections throughout the evening. They were one of the best live bands we’ve ever seen in these types of Life Cycle celebration venues. They are probably the only band out there who could keep up with Elie, our high octane octogenarian friend who puts all us guys 15 to 20 years younger to shame on the dance floor. As we poop out, he's just getting started. He indeed has always been the life of the party. The food and dessert were superb and if you didn’t have a great time, you had to be brain dead. This was an extraordinary celebration.
About Elie: No one would argue the point that Elie is a true Renaissance man. He is curious, creative, and a risk taking real estate entrepreneur. Throughout his career
he has displayed perseverance and self-discipline. He has a thirst for knowledge in many fields and always welcomes new, enriching experiences. He has shown excellence in intellectual, artistic, physical and social fields. He and his beloved wife Yael are patrons of the arts, supporters of their community, and have a deep love for opera and travel.
Elie’s parents were born in Salonica, Greece that is steeped in Sephardic culture, foods, songs and the Ladino language. Motivated by the desire to learn more about Jewish life and his family’s roots and their experience there, he, Yael and their family traveled there a year ago.
Born in Tel Aviv, in 1959 Elie ventured out to California to study nuclear chemistry at UC Berkeley, receiving his BS in 1963 and PhD from USC in 1968.
While attending Berkeley, Elie founded the Educational Student Exchange (ESEP), the largest charter flight operator for students in the USA until 1972.
After returning to the Bay Area from LA in 1969, Elie entered the field of land and property development and acquisition, which and his family are still currently involved in.
Elie carries with him the spirit of Zorba the Greek within his heart and soul, that teaches us to live each day, and enjoy life even when things don’t always go our way.
After listening to the loving speeches given by Yael, and his sons and daughters, and after blowing out the birthday candles he gave a speech that was both wise and loving as it pertained to embracing life as one matures. “By the time we reach 50," he's said, "there should be a cease and desist order placed on birthdays. After all, each of us is going to have one,” he added.
“As we mature, we may not be able to do the things we used to do. We may not accomplish all the tasks we set out for ourselves. We may no longer look how we used to.
But, I want to you to know that age is just a number. It requires some change in our activities, exercises, and eating habits (Elie is a confirmed Vegan). It requires visiting doctors more often.” That being said, he expressed profound gratitude for his beloved Yael, who has brought him blessings from the first time they met and has continued for 40 years. “Not only do we love each other, but we are best friends.” he added.
While Elie and Yael were in Greece a summer ago, he picked up a quote from Socrates who once said: “If you marry the perfect wife, you will become a happy person. If you marry
the wrong wife, you become a philosopher.” Apparently, Socrates had a sense of humor. But, he also taught that “an unexamined life is not worth living.”
The irony is that Elie “is” a philosopher, who was bestowed with a certificate of philosophy. As he once told a childhood friend he is very happy with his life. When he looked at a photograph when he was 18, he said to himself, “Hey! You’re the same person except life has enriched you with tremendous experiences, gave you a wonderful wife, blessed you with wonderful sons and daughters and phenomenal grandchildren and prosperity. You have lived the American Dream.”
When we do an inventory of our lives as the years fly by there is always a question of all questions we ask ourselves. If we had it to do over again, would we do anything different?
Elie, who was asked this question by a friend said: "Yes! That included his “successes, failures, and mistakes because they made him the man he is today. Calling upon his family to come to the front of the stage, he ended his speech with a Hebrew prayer to thank God for all the blessings he and his family have received and expressed gratitude to all who came near and far to help him celebrate another milestone in his life.
Elie, Cecile and I want to wish you Mazel Tov! May you live til 120. As you know it is a Jewish Blessing which in Hebrew is Biz Hundert un Tsvatsig. This is not intended to wish you the attainment of a particular numerical age, but that you should be blessed with the mental and physical faculties that come along with maturing in age. We wish this for you and your family.