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A Tribute to Errol (Asher) Gotsman 1934 - 2020

 Our father and partner, Errol (Asher) Gotsman sadly passed away in early December 2020.

Errol was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa, on October 21, 1934. His start in life was not easy. He lost his father when he was only two years old. His mother decided to send him to cheder in the hope that the rabbis would be able to instill some discipline into her wild young son. I am sure this early experience was critical in helping to establish his beliefs when it came to questioning authority and enforcing religious dogma.

At the age of 12 the family moved to Randfontein and he attended Krugersdorp High School. He was known for his mischievous behavior as well as for being a great athlete (which I am very happy to report has been passed down by the genes). A major part of Errol's life in his youth, was his membership of the Habonim Youth Movement, where he spent many happy hours and made friends for life. He was also known there for being part of the group that was nicknamed the "Wild West Rand", which he wore as a badge of honor.

In 1952, at the age of 18, he came to Israel through the Movement to spend a year at "Mahon L'Madrichei Chutz LaAretz", the Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad, which left a lasting impression on him. He spent time at Kibbutz Tzora and Afikim, picking aubergines from morning till night and eating so many that for the rest of his life he could not eat aubergines again.

Errol discovered his two big passions while studying at the University of Witwatersrand; Education and Physics. He turned out to be an outstanding student, to the surprise of many of his friends from childhood, and earned an Honors Master's degree in Applied Mathematics and Physics. In 1959 he was offered a place at Imperial College London to do his Ph.D. in Physics under the supervision of Abdus Salam, who later went on to win a Noble Prize in the field. In 1957 he married his beloved sweetheart Lesley Targowsky and they had three children.

While studying in London, he became close friends with another physics student from Israel, Yuval Ne'eman, who later in life served as the Minister of Science in the Israeli Government. Yuval persuaded him that people with his knowledge, background and intelligence were desperately needed in the fledgling State of Israel. After graduating in 1963 the young family made aliyah and moved to Rehovot, while Asher started his first job at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) in Nahal Soreq.

Subsequently, he moved to Tel Aviv University where he became one of the Founding Fathers of the School of Physics and Astronomy and where he worked for the rest of his life. He was the Head of the School for a total of 11 years, in three different decades - an unmatched achievement until today. This feat resulted mainly from Errol's great character as a leader.

He always treated everyone as an equal never mind if they were the cleaner, secretary, or a Noble Prize winner. Errol was also recognized as an extremely talented lecturer and researcher. During his distinguished career, spanning more than 60 years, he contributed in many ways to the State of Israel, which he rarely discussed. One such occasion was in the 1970s when he was sent by the Jewish Agency to the USSR, under the excuse of a physics conference in Moscow, to meet Jewish Refuseniks, many of them academics, and the tremendous joy it brought him to be able to tell them about life in Israel, all this under the watchful eye of the KGB.

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Israel was flooded with a wave of extremely talented scientists. Our father, as Head of the Physics Department, went out of his way to find jobs for as many of them as he could, even if it meant that they had to take positions that were below their capabilities just to make sure that they could feed their families.

Even after his retirement, as Professor Emeritus, he never stopped doing research, going to his office at the university well into his 80s. Two days before his passing he was notified that his last research paper had been approved for publication in one of the leading physics journals. His brain never stopped working but sadly his heart gave in.

In 2009, two years after the passing of his beloved wife Lesley, he started a new meaningful relationship with Margie Goss, where he gained the love and affection of an additional family along with seven surrogate grandchildren. Margie and Asher lived happily together until he passed away.

As was said of him by a friend of over 70 years, "He was exacting in his expectations of himself and of others, with a passionate and generous side to his nature." He was an unbelievable father and grandfather to his six grandchildren and four great grandchildren and we were all so very proud of him. He was immensely humble, full of life's wisdom which he was always very happy to share, always happy to help others whenever he could and was always extremely hard working.

I would like to end with a quote from a friend of his from Habonim, who aptly wrote "Gotsie was a gentle giant, physically, mentally, and emotionally".

Asher will be sadly missed by all who knew and loved him.

May he rest in peace. 



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Thursday, 07 December 2023

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