Fani Andelman was born on November 21, 1951 in Tartu, Estonia, the eldest child of Mira and Shmuel Spungin. Five years later, her younger brother, Yitzhak, joined the family. Fani was a bright student. She enjoyed summer vacations when she and her family spent time at Elva, a resort town where they liked to collect mushrooms and wild berries in the nearby forest. Throughout her life, when walking in nature, Fani fondly remembered those pleasant summer days.
Fani was 16 when her parents, with several other Jews, were accused by the Soviet authorities of trading in the black market, and were sentenced to prison. Fani had to take care of her 11-year-old brother and raised him single-handedly, alone, for nearly two years, while she continuing to attend school to complete her high-school diploma. Fani took exceptional care of her smaller brother during her parents’ imprisonment, providing a sense of home and stability for him under very difficult circumstances.
Following their parents release from incarceration, the family moved to Riga, Latvia, to be closer to her mother's family. Fani enrolled at Riga University and studied English. While in Riga, she participated in an underground Hebrew study group with several other young Jews who planned to immigrate to Israel. Fani recounted that for the first time in her life, she felt part of a community, and those young Jews she met in Riga became her life-long friends.
Studies and Family
In January 1973, Fani and her family immigrated to Israel. They initially lived in Arad and later settled in Petah Tikva. Fani then volunteered to enlist in the Israeli Army (IDF), but she was not recruited due to her age (21 years-old). Following a preparatory course (Ulpan), in Hebrew, Fani began her studies at Tel Aviv University in the Department of English Literature and Linguistics (1973-1976). Following her BA, she continued for an MA in psycholinguistics (1976-1978). Fani recounted that it was difficult for her to choose between the various Israeli universities, but the moment she arrived on the campus of Tel Aviv University and saw students in an open and relaxed atmosphere, she felt at home.
Along with her university studies, Fani joined the Esperanto language movement and attended an Esperanto summer camp in Europe. On the way to one of the Esperanto meetings, she met David Andelman. The two fell in love at first sight. David reported later “She was so beautiful that I could not take my eyes off her". Fani and David were married three years later and moved to the U.S. for their graduate studies in Boston. Fani completed her MSc in Speech and Language Therapy at Boston University (1980-1982). Then, she completed her doctoral studies in Neuropsychology (1985-1990) at the City University of New York (CUNY), working with stroke patients at Mount Sinai Hospital (NYC). Fani constantly sought to further study, research and excel professionally; she was not afraid of obstacles or challenges and was determined to reach her goals.
A typical example of Fani’s determination relates to David, back in 1979. David was having some difficulties contacting his future supervisor at MIT. Fani did not hesitate, went to MIT, knocked on the door of the supervisor’s office and said: "Hello, I believe my husband is looking for you…" Shortly afterwards, David began working with his sought-after supervisor.
During Fani and David’s academic studies in Boston, their son Guy was born (1983). Later in Paris, where David continued his post-doctoral studies, their daughter Michal (Michele) was born (1988). After completing their respective graduate and postgraduate studies, Fani and David received tempting offers from several academic institutions around the world. However, they decided to return to Israel, where they wanted to raise their children and be close to their extended family. They settled down in Tel Aviv where David was appointed as Professor of Physics at Tel Aviv University.
Life in Israel
In Israel, Fani completed an internship at Loewenstein Rehabilitation Center and at Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer) (1988-1991), in Rehabilitation Psychology with patients who suffered from head injuries. During the years 1991-1994, Fani worked at the Educational Psychology Department of Tel Aviv Municipality as a neuropsychologist. She performed neuropsychological diagnoses of children with learning disabilities, and supervised and mentored other psychologists in her area of expertise. In 1994-1995, the family left for Paris for a sabbatical year, and Fani engaged in research on learning disabilities (dyscalculia) at the Salpetriere and Sainte-Anne hospitals in Paris.
Upon returning to Israel in late 1995, Fani accepted a new and exciting offer from Tel Aviv Medical Center (Ichilov) in the functional neurosurgery unit, which combined her multifaceted skills and training (1996-2018). In this hospital unit, she worked closely with the surgical team, headed by the neurosurgeon Prof. Yitzhak Fried. In her work, she performed neuropsychological evaluations of patients with epilepsy and Parkinson, in order to determine their suitability for a neurosurgery intervention.
Under her leadership, the Wada test was brought to Israel. In this unique procedure, one of the cerebral hemispheres is temporarily anesthetized in order to diagnose language and memory centers in the brain. This diagnosis permits a critical assessment of the feasibility of the surgery for epilepsy patients. In addition, she performed neuropsychological brain mapping of conscious patients undergoing brain surgeries. In these tense and challenging procedures, she was always professional, and helped to maintain a feeling of comfort and security for the patients lying consciously on the operating table.
During her work at the hospital (1996-2018), Fani authored and co-authored dozens of articles in leading scientific journals, lectured at scientific conferences, received great respect and recognition from her colleagues, and supervised graduate students. Fani mentored the emerging generation of neuropsychologists in Israel. She also maintained a thriving private practice clinic where she primarily performed neuropsychological assessments as an expert witness in court trials. Here, too, she was uncompromisingly professional and reliable.
Beyond her work, Fani enjoyed her family life and leisure time. Fani’s children were always her first priority and she lavished her attention on them. With David, she greatly enjoyed wine tasting courses, and visited wineries all over the world; in particular, Fani loved the wines of Burgundy (France). She was an enthusiastic Francophile and Francophone, studying French literature and linguistics at the university level, at The French Institute of Tel Aviv, and with private tutors. Fani adored the sea, and with David, she earned a yachting license at a sailing club in Herzeliya. In addition, she practiced yoga every week, liked to take long walks in Hayarkon Park and along the Tzuk Beach, and traveled avidly around the world. She smiled at life, life smiled back at her, and she enjoyed each and every moment.
The Later Years
In January 2017, at the age of 65, Fani was diagnosed with a progressive ovarian cancer. She was determined to fight her advanced cancer, and immediately began her quest for optimal treatment. She underwent advanced medical examinations and received the most innovative treatments available. Throughout her illness, she remained optimistic and continued to work and be active. In October 2018, Fani's daughter, Michal, got married. Many guests from Israel and abroad came to the wedding and greeted Fani. She was immensely happy and looked as beautiful as ever. In November 2018, Fani and Michal traveled to Brazil for a week to attend the wedding of a close friend’s daughter, a trip Fani greatly enjoyed.
On January 2, 2019, after a short hospitalization at Tel Aviv Medical Center (Ichilov), Fani died of a rare complication of ovarian cancer. She passed away peacefully, surrounded by her close family. Fani had expressed her wish to be cremated after her death, and that the ashes will be buried under a tree in the civil cemetery "Menucha Nechona" in Kfar-Saba. In the eulogies that were written and spoken about her, the term "noble soul" repeated itself as a thread. Indeed, that is exactly how she was and how she will be remembered.
When her family was asked to think of a sentence to represent Fani, they chose a line from Meir Ariel's song (in Hebrew) "Modeh Ani" (I am grateful) with a slight change: "Haya lanu tov, tov mitov, tov me’od, ze matchil kvar baboker baboker. Ve’at mechayechet elay mitoch hasheynah” (It was good for us, better than good, very good. It begins now, early in the morning, and you smile at me from your sleep).
Such was Fani, seeing and living the best in the world. We greatly miss her already…