This one is for Neil Krieger.
Mr. Krieger was born in 1942 in Spring Valley, but his family soon abandoned Rockland for Brooklyn. He spent his teen years living in the storied Hotel Bossert, also known as the Waldorf-Astoria of Brooklyn. The hotel was a favored hangout of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and two members of the team actually showed up at Krieger’s bar mitzvah.
He went on to earn a doctorate in biochemistry from Harvard and then he founded West Rock Associates, a Boston-based consultancy that helps biotechnology startups obtain funding. He also served on the faculty of the medical schools at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.
And then, last April, at 78, Mr. Krieger died of complications of covid.
Now his family wants to honor this smart and kind-hearted man by memorializing his silly side. In particular, they want to get a word he coined into dictionaries.
That word is orbisculate, and it means the squirting a juice from citrus fruit into your eye.
Mr. Krieger made up the word as part of a school assignment — and then he never stopped using it.
“Our mom mostly did the cooking, but our dad was responsible for the orange juice on the weekends,” his daughter Hilary Krieger told the Washington Jewish Week. “And so he would say, ‘Oh, it orbisculated on me ….’ It was just a word used in our household.”
Hilary and her brother Jonathan have set up a website at orbisculate.com to promote the word, as well as to raise money for charity.
“The pain hasn’t left us, but neither have the lessons he taught us: to find a way to laugh even in dark times; to follow your own path; and, when you don’t like the solutions in front of you, to make up your own,” they wrote on the site.
Hilary noted her father’s love and respect for Jewish values. Raised in the Reform movement in the 1960s, Neil Krieger belonged to the Congress of Racial Equality — CORE — and he patronized Boston businesses specifically to press them to hire African American workers.
While he was a synagogue hopper and didn’t settle on a single congregation for the long term in Boston, Krieger was an avid reader of Jewish thinkers. “He loved Heschel and Buber and he would read a lot of Jewish philosophy,” his daughter told the Washington Jewish Week.
While the dictionary campaign pays tribute to their late father, Jonathan said, “This is really about two kids who want to honor their dad during a really hard time. That’s a very universal thing that a lot of people are struggling with right now. I hope what we’re doing can help other people who are going through loss and grief.”
Excuse me. Something is in my eye. I must have been orbisculated.
Larry Yudelson with Sam Sokol/JTA