A Personal Tribute
It is perhaps the greatest compliment that one can make to a friend that has left us too early, that although we are grief-stricken with their loss, the more pervasive feeling is one of enrichment that we were lucky enough to walk with them in shared experiences and thereby be enriched in our own lives.
I knew of Ester first through her scientific work, which was breath-taking in its breadth and scope. We first met in person at El Escorial in Spain in 2001 after she had sought me out in the hopes that we could work together on making her research on the role of cannabinoids in newborn feeding and development more available to a growing audience for this new area of science. A few months later, we spent a wonderful evening and subsequent day together in Berlin, seeing the remnants of the Wall, and the Jewish Museum, a difficult pilgrimage for me, but a far greater one for her, whose family fled that land for the refuge of the Netherlands, and later, Israel. Through that experience, and every subsequent encounter, I grew to know Ester as a person of matchless personal strength, integrity and impeccable grace. Ester was the rare individual who could engage in intense and heated political debate, but never lose respect or amity for her erstwhile opponent. Despite her own strict observance, she was not one to offer recrimination for a friend and colleague at dinner as he flaunted ancient dietary laws and demolished a huge platter of traif in her presence at a grilled seafood buffet at a conference in Italy.
It is one of my most cherished professional memories that Ester asked me to co-author a book chapter on cannabinoids and clinical psychiatric issues. That this was accomplished between a scientist and an erstwhile clinician, of divergent views and backgrounds, with a seamless result and no ensuing rancor or discord reminded me of how fulfilling such collaborations can be. With a partner such as Ester, the effort to reach the result was next to nothing.
I am aware that Ester faced great challenges in her life, but she distinguished herself by rarely submitting to despair or even complaint. Such emotion was wasted when a goal remained unreached. She displayed a tremendous devotion to her family, taking mobile calls from her mother no matter where or when. She took time off from a busy ICRS conference in Monterey so that her daughter might have the opportunity to go whale-watching. Ester suffered the loss of her dear brother to the cruel disease of cystic fibrosis, but translated that tragedy into a passion for innovative research into treatment possibilities based on cannabinoid mechanisms. Her concepts were creative and brilliant, and it was her drive to see these theories applied someday that helped her to bridge the chasm between basic science and the clinic. Her vision was clear and her purpose unfailing. The greatest compliment that we, her friends and colleagues can grant to her memory would be to draw inspiration from her example and continue the quest.
This past summer at ICRS, Ester was not present in a physical sense, but her spirit was manifest in abundance by her devoted students. Their admiration for her and the excellence of their work are a fitting tribute to her legacy and a guarantee that her influence and memory are on a solid foundation and will live long for us all. How truly blessed I feel to have known her.
Ethan Russo, Chairman, January 2010