Sunday, April 03, 2005

Life and Death

This week has been an exceptionally difficult week.  No less than three people I knew well died this week, and none of them were the Pope or Terry Schiavo. 

On Tuesday, Irina's grandmother, Sura Ratsuskaya, passed away.  (Irina's my girlfriend.)  Irina has posted part I of her quite incredible biography.  Sura spoke many languages, but not too much English, so I couldn't communicate much with her verbally.  Sometimes, though, you can take measure of a person without speaking to them at length.  Sura, I think, was a person who led by example.  She was early to bed, early to rise, and she knew enough English to let me know that I should try going to sleep at a normal hour when she caught me staying up late and reading (though according to Irina's biography, this was not something she did when she was younger).  The devotion of her daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters to her (caution: people who marry into this family may not have such an easy time having a son) gives one a hint of the devotion Sura showed to them.  I would have wanted Sura to meet my own Grandma Ruth, who passed away in 2002.  I think they would have had an interesting time comparing notes.  My grandmother was not the intellectual type, but she matched Sura for the common wisdom of raising and managing a family. 

On Sunday, Dr. Jerry Bloom passed away.  Dr. Jerry Bloom was a mix of brilliance, humanity, and literal sweetness that made him a beloved congregant of my shul, Congregation Sons of Israel.  He had encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects, from Jewish history to
medicine to art to law (he gave me his well-worn copy of Anthony Lewis's famous book, Gideon's Trumpet, about the case Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the constitutional right to counsel for the accused).  He was also a mensch, one of the nicest men I ever knew.  And he was sweet, known among the children in my congregation as the shul candyman, handing out lollipops to all those children who came to the mens section to wish him a good Shabbos, and all those who were sugar fiends and wanted a lollipop.  It kept a lot of kids coming to shul from week to week, including, at the beginning, me.  These last few years, he has been debilitated by a stroke, and his absence in shul has been very deeply felt. 

His two sons take after him in all respects; they are smart, kind, and sweet.

On Friday, Larry Laurenzano, the former Music Chairman at Fort Hamilton High School, passed away.  My dad played a role in bringing Mr. Laurenzano to Fort Hamilton, where, in traditional budget cutting style, they made this professional musician chairman of the music, business, and art departments.  I met him several times, and he was a very kind man.  More importantly, he was beloved by his students, and the catalyst for the creation at Fort Hamilton of one of city's most vibrant high school music programs, encompassing several choirs, an orchestra, a band, a musical drama, and more.  A few years ago, Fort Hamilton named its very large auditorium after Mr. Laurenzano, an appropriate tribute and a remarkable one for a man who spent maybe a decade or so there, remarkable for what he accomplished in a short period of time in fragile health.  

All three will be sorely missed.  May their memories be for a blessing.


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Thank you for your beatiful tribute. It's a shame I didn't get to know Dr.Lews and Mr.Laurenzano the same way I got to know my own grandmother. I can attest, however, to Mr.Laurenzano's influence and popularity at Fort Hamilton.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Dr. Bloom, I mean. I've no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that!


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