Boruch Spiegel passed away at 93. One of the last survivors of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising in occupied Poland, he resided in Montreal. Spiegel was one of over 700 Jewish fighters who launched an uprising against German troops on April 19, 1943. They held off Nazi troops for a month. As the Germans overran them, Spiegel and his future wife Chaike Belchatowska escaped through the sewers and were not captured. It is believed he was one of only two or three currently surviving members of the uprising.
Professor Geza Vermes passed away two weeks ago. Vermes was a top scholar of the Dead Sea scrolls and wrote the first ever doctoral thesis on them. Born Jewish in Mako Hungary in 1924, he was sent to a Catholic school in Gyula, converted to Catholicism and became a priest in Nagyvarad (the Jesuits rejected him); he was able to survive the war. An expert in midrash and the editor of the Journal of Jewish Studies, he became a full professor in Jewish studies at Oxford in 1989.
Albert Seedman, a cigar chomping foul-louthed personification of a tough NYC detective with multiple rings, a pearl handled revolver, and monogrammed shirts, passed away at 94. He was the Jewish cop in a sea of Irish men in blue and seemed more Irish than the Irish. In 1964, he oversaw the Kitty Genovese murder case. Seedman became the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives – in charge of more than 3,000 Kojak-like detectives – for a little over a year in the early 1970s. It was a time when corruption was festering, cops and mobsters were being gunned down, domestic terrorists were attacking, and nearly 50 safe deposit boxes at the Hotel Pierre were looted. He allegedly retired after a controversial standoff at the Nation of Islam mosque in which suspects were freed in order to avoid a riot.