In addition to the lives lost in the Middle East over the past several weeks, we lost several unique luminaries in the Jewish community. They included:
ALAN “ACE” GREENBERG. The former Chairman of the defunct, bankrupt Bear Stearns, succumbed to cancer last Friday at the age of 86. His funeral at New York City’s Temple Emanu-el overflowed with about 2,000 mourners. Although he requested a simple casket, they used a nutmeg colored one that was a step above the plain pine box. Before the eulogies, they broke a magician’s wand over his casket. Greenberg was an Oklahoma-born magician, a gruff business leader, big game bow-and-arrow hunter, dog trainer, and highly ranked bridge player, a paper clip hoarding philanthropist who always had a deck of cards and was ready to deal. Warren Buffett said Greenberg was a better card player and trader. His firm avoided hiring ivy league MBAs, and recruited poor and hungry grads from lower-tiered schools. His son Ted, a comedian, said his father let the kids try to throw change into tollbooth baskets as they drove, and would retrieve the coins when they missed. â€œHave fun, kids,â€ he told them, â€œbut control costs.â€
Greenberg and his families donated millions to worthy causes in his lifetime; and I knew him best as the “caller of cards” at the annual UJA Wall Street fundraiser in Manhattan. He would stand on the dais and announce how many millions he was pledging to the annual UJA campaign. He would then call out the names on the donation cards of other bankers and ask them how much their families would be pledging. Tisch, Tischman, Zicklin… he would read through the names of famous business titans, and each would shout out the hundreds of thousands of dollars they planned to contribute.
There were dozens of tributes across the media and twittersphere. Of course, there are those who could not eke out praise for Greenberg. Business writer and consultant @Tom_Peters tweeted ,”100% support healthy Wall St. But find morally repugnant praise heaped on late Ace Greenberg, principal architect bogus mortgage securities.” While Peters chose to blame Greenberg for millions in losses on mortgage securities and the losses to Bear Stearn employees and customers, most business writers stated that Greenberg was no longer in the control of the company when the failures were discovered. An author of a collection of his memos, one of his most famous told employees to remove the paper clips from incoming mail before discarding the papers. Why should the company spend money to buy paperclips when there were plenty of free ones to be had?
RABBI ZALMAN SCHACTER-SHALOMI – REB ZALMAN to many- passed away in Boulder Colorado at the age of 89. He was considered the spiritual father of the Jewish Renewal movement and its perhaps forty Jewish Renewal congregations. A member of Chabad-Lubavitch in his youth, he was an emissary who befriended many spiritual seekers including Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), Professor Timothy Leary, and Thomas Merton.
In the late 1960s, after Reb Zalman praised his use of LSD, the Chabad movement distanced itself from him. He formed a movement named “P’nai Or” which promoted havurot, gender and sexual equality, an interest in kabbalah, the greater inclusion of the “Shekhina,” and dynamic, ecstatic, enlivened rituals. A few of of his methods have been adopted by many congregations. Born to the Schachter family in Zholkiew, Poland (now Ukraine), he grew up in Vienna, and with the rise of Nazism fled to Belgium, France, North Africa and the Caribbean â€” before arriving in New York City in 1941 at the age of 17.
BEL KAUFMAN passed away unexpectedly at age 103. The cause was not announced. She was the author of the comic novel “Up the Down Staircase.” The novel was based upon her experience as a teacher in NYC public schools; the book was a bestseller at a time when people still consumer a lot of books. “Staircase,” which was published in 1965, stayed on bestseller lists for 15 months, including five months at No. 1. It was a story of absurdity and school ineptitude; the comedy was written with short vignettes, lesson plans, and lists. Included in the book were issues of urban poverty, racial strife, drug addiction, crime, teen pregnancy and the sexual tension between students and their teachers. The book’s title came from a note given to a student by a vice principal that read: Please admit bearer to class â€” Detained by me for going up the Down staircase and subsequent insolence.” Bella Kaufman was born in 1911, in Berlin, where her father was a medical student. She grew up in Odessa. Her mother, Lala Rabinowitz Kaufman, was a writer and the daughter of Solomon Rabinowitz, whose tales of Jewish life appeared under the pen name of Sholom Aleichem. Bel has clear memories of the Russian Revolution, murders, and of her grandfather, whose writings became the foundation for “Fiddler on the Roof.” At age 12, she arrived in NYC, learned English, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hunter College and began a carer as a writer for Esquire. At age 100, she taught a course in Jewish humor at Hunter College. In one of her favorite jokes, a Frenchman, a German and a Jew walk into a bar. The Frenchman says, â€˜I’m tired, I’m thirsty, I must have wine.’ The German says, â€˜I’m tired, I’m thirsty, I must have beer.’ The Jew says, â€˜I’m tired, I’m thirsty, I must have diabetes.’â€ˆ
LORIN MAAZEL passed away this month, just days before his famed annual Castleton Festival concerts that take place at his Virginia farm. Maazel was a former child prodigy who became the brilliant music director of the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera and several other orchestras and music ensembles. Over his career, some found his conducting to be his fastidious, arrogant and distant, others found them intense. Lorin Varencove Maazel was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris in 1930. His parents were music students. Bu 5 he was living in Los Angeles and studying piano. In 1940, just before his 10th birthday, he conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony and at age 11, Arturo Toscanini invited him to conduct the NBC Symphony in a concert.
NADINE GORDIMER, 90, the South African author passed away in July. She was the recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991; and she resided in Johannesburg. She was one of the most powerful voices against apartheid, a member of the African National Congress (ANC), and was a close confidant of Nelson Mandela. She edited Mandela’s famous I Am Prepared To Die speech, which he gave as a defendant during his 1962 trial. Gordimer wrote that a book ought to be an ax to break of the frozen sea within us. The daughter of a Lithuanian Jewish watchmaker, Gordimer began writing from an early age. She published her first story – Come Again Tomorrow – in a Johannesburg magazine at the age of fifteen. Gordimer once told a reporter for Haaretz that although she was an athiest, that being Jewish is like being black. It is something inside you, in your blood and in your bones.
PAUL MAZURSKY, 84, moved from Hollywood to Heaven. A director and witty, satirical screenwriter, his films included “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” “Blume in Love,” “Alex in Wonderland,” “Harry and Tonto,” and “An Unmarried Woman.” It works reflected an era in American culture, that experimented with encounter groups, Esalen, aging, therapy, pot, self-absorption, moral earnestness, yoga, and wife-swapping group sex. Another film, was a 1989 adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s 1972 novel, “Enemies, a Love Story,” about the fatalism, sexual desires, romances, and hope of Holocaust survivors in New York. Other films included, “Next Stop, Greenwich Village;” “Moscow on the Hudson” which starred Robin Williams; “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” which starred Nick Nolte, Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss; and “Scenes From a Mall.” Mazursky was a confirmed atheist, but he wrote that he grew up with Jewish traditions. As an actor, he appeared in “Blackboard Jungle” and several episodes of Larry David’s HBO comedy series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
RED KLOTZ passed away at 93 in Margate NJ. He was known for losing basketball games; he lost perhaps 15,000, or some say, 20,000 games. How could he win? He was the head of the Washington Generals team which faced off each night against the Harlem Globetrotters, the basketball comedy team. Of course, in the 1940’s in Philadelphia, he was a winner, a star basketball player. But in 1952, he joined the Washington Generals as its player-coach, at the request of Abe Saperstein, the owner of the Globetrotters, and he continued coaching and playing to the age of 75. His team played more than 200 games a year, always facing off against the Harlem Globetrotters, and its stars Goose Tatum, Meadowlark Lemon, and Curly Neal. Klotz said it was the Globetrotters’ responsibility to win the game, not the Generals’ job to lose (On Jan. 5, 1971, at a college gymnasium in Martin, TN Mr. Klotz’s team actually beat the Globetrotters 100-99, when meadowlark missed a shot).
TOMMY RAMONE (“Tom” Erdelyi Tamas), the last surviving original member of the Ramones, a parent of the punk rock movement, died in NYC at the age of 65. His bandmates: Joey (singer, born Jeffrey Hyman), Dee Dee (bassist, born Douglas Glenn Colvin) and Johnny (guitarist, born John Cummings) all passed away in the past decade. Tommy was the drummer, the author of several of their songs, and manager. All were high school friends from Forest Hills, Queens, who formed a band in 1974. When Tomy moved on from the band, he was replaced by Marky Ramone (Marc Bell). In Steven Lee Beeber’s 2006 book, “The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk,” Tommy said he was born in post-War Budapest; his parents were photographers and had survived the Holocaust.
MARGOT ADLER is a name and signature voice familiar to many American Jews. She was a reporter for National Public Radio, and she succumbed to cancer this week. Adler was an award winning journalist, a specialist on vampires, and a Wiccan high priestess, a neo-pagan practice of worship. She was the granddaughter of Alfred Adler, the Viennese psychoanalyst who became one of Freud’s rivals.
DR. S. MICHAEL FREIMAN of Saint Louis passed away at 85. He performed Missouri’s first legal abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade. When Dr. Frieman was a teen, his cousin died after a botched illegal abortion; the abortionist dumped his cousin’s body in a hospital parking lot. Frieman became an OB/GYN and performed abortions legally and safely. In his career, Dr. Freiman headed the infertility clinic under Dr. William Masters, the now-famous sex researcher and therapist in St. Louis. He met his wife when he yelled for her to get out of his way in a hospital blood bank. He later apoligized, took her to dinner, and they became betrothed six weeks later.