In Memoriam: Rabbi Abraham Avrech June 4, 1919 — March 15, 2014

My beloved father, Rabbi Avraham Avrech, passed away on Saturday, Shabbat. He was 94 years old.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Avrech. This photo was taken when he was a student in Yeshiva University. Soon afterwards, he joined the Army as a Chaplain and served in the rainbow Division in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Avrech. This photo was taken when he was a student in Yeshiva University. Soon afterwards, he joined the Army as a Chaplain and served in the Rainbow Division.

The funeral is tomorrow morning.

I will be sitting shiva for seven days.

Seraphic Secret will be on hiatus until my shiva ends.

Born in the town of Yanuv, Poland, my father came to America with his mother, Miriam and his brother Chaim z’l, when he was 4 years old. My grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel, z’l, a student of the Reb Chaim Soloveitchik, was a shochet, ritual slaughterer and mohel, specialist in ritual circumcisions. Reb Shmuel came to America years earlier. He worked hard, lived in poverty, and sent most of his money back to his wife Miriam so she and the children could make the arduous journey to America.

My father attended Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and then Yeshiva University where he was ordained as a Rabbi. He enlisted as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army, 42nd Division, and served during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. “The Army is the best thing that ever happened to me,” my father said. Serving until mandatory retirement, my father was honorably discharged with the rank of Colonel.

My father is one of the Greatest Generation. “We were poor,” he said. “But we didn’t know it. Everyone was poor.”

All his life my father served family, the Jewish people, and country, with selfless devotion.

There is no greater role model.

My father is the little boy on the left. His brother, Chaim, on the right. The woman holding their hands is my great grandmother. Miriam, my grandmother is to the rear. This photo was taken in Poland. The men in uniform are probably relatives, but I don’t know who they are.

My father is the little boy on the left. His brother, Chaim, on the right. The woman holding their hands is my great grandmother. Miriam, my grandmother is to the rear. This photo was taken in Poland. The men in uniform are probably relatives, but I don’t know who they are.

 

My father was a star athlete. He excelled in basketball though he’s only about 5’5. This is the Yeshiva University basketball team, 1938-39. My father, center, front row, right, holds the ball. Also holding the ball is Rabbi Irving Koslowe, z’l, one of my father’s best friends. Rabbi Koslowe went on to be prison Chaplain at Sing-Sing prison. His first duty was to accompany Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to their executions. “She was the strong one,” he told me, “She was a true believer. Not an ounce of remorse.”

My father was a star athlete. He excelled in basketball though he was only about 5’4. This is the Yeshiva University basketball team, 1938-39. My father, center, front row, right, holds the ball. Also holding the ball is Rabbi Irving Koslowe, z’l, one of my father’s best friends. Rabbi Koslowe went on to be the Jewish Chaplain at Sing-Sing prison. His first duty was to accompany Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to their executions. “She was the strong one,” he told me, “She was a true believer. Not an ounce of remorse.”

 

Chaplain Avrech leads Jewish services during the Korean war. I once asked my father of what he was most proud during his service in the Army. He told me that once he led Protestant services because there was no Christian Chaplain available. “I performed a real mitzvah,” he said.

Chaplain Avrech leads Jewish services during the Korean war. I once asked my father of what he was most proud during his service in the Army. He told me that once he led Protestant services because there was no Christian Chaplain available. “I performed a real mitzvah,” he said.

 

Touching home. My father was a fanatic baseball player. A fast and elegant short-stop, he was so talented he was scouted by the majors. But because my father is Orthodox—Shomer Shabbos, Kosher food, etc.—my father declined an offer to try out for a major league farm team. This shot was taken in a Brooklyn park where Sunday baseball was a ritual. My father is scoring the winning run at the bottom of the 9th inning. It doesn’t get any better.

Touching home. My father was a fanatic baseball player. A fast and elegant short-stop, he was so talented he was scouted by the majors. But because my father was Orthodox—Shomer Shabbos, Kosher food, etc.—my father declined an offer to try out for a major league farm team. This shot from 1942, was taken in a Brooklyn park where Sunday baseball was a ritual. My father is scoring the winning run at the bottom of the 9th inning with an inside-the-park home run. It doesn’t get any better.

 

As an orthodox Jewish Chaplain, my father was frequently underestimated by his fellow officers. Dad took full advantage of this soft anti-Semitism, and cheerily accepted challenges to play ping-pong for small wages. At first, my father would fumble around, lull his opponent into a false sense of security, and then boom! he’d unleash a vicious overhead slam that left the other guy speechless — and a few bucks light. Dad was like Paul Newman in “The Hustler,” minus Piper Laurie and broken thumbs.

As an orthodox Jewish Chaplain, my father was frequently underestimated by his fellow officers. Dad took full advantage of this soft anti-Semitism, and cheerily accepted challenges to play ping-pong for small wages. At first, my father would fumble around, lull his opponent into a false sense of security, and then boom! he’d unleash a wicked overhead slam that left the other guy speechless — and a few bucks lighter. Dad was like Paul Newman in “The Hustler,” minus Piper Laurie and broken thumbs.

 

My father worked at Yeshiva University for over 30-years. He was Director of Community Service Division and Director of Alumni. This shot was taken in the early 50′s in his YU office. As a child, when my father took me to work I just loved watching him interact with students, Rabbis, and teachers. Every once in a while a student needed a loan. Most YU students were from modest homes. My father would shoo me out of the office when he made the interest free loans from a fund he administered. He didn’t want to embarrass the student.

My father worked at Yeshiva University for over 30-years. He was Director of Community Service Division and Director of Alumni. This shot was taken in the early 60′s in his YU office. As a child, when my father took me to work I just loved watching him interact with students, Rabbis, and teachers. Every once in a while a student needed a loan. Most YU students were from very modest homes. My father would shoo me out of the office when he made the interest free loans from a fund he administered. He didn’t want to embarrass the student.

 

A few years ago, My father was visiting us in Los Angeles. One afternoon, I was sitting in my office, cleaning my guns. My father asked if he could pose with one of my pistols. He chose my Ruger Birdshead, a classic cowboy revolver.

A few years ago, My father was visiting us in Los Angeles. One afternoon, I was sitting in my office, cleaning my guns. My father asked if he could pose with one of them. He chose my Ruger Bird’s Head, a classic cowboy six-shooter. The first movie my father ever took me to see was a John Wayne film. My father loved Westerns. He understood the moral landscape of the Old West where good and evil struggle for dominance.

Baruch Dayan Emet, Blessed is the True Judge.

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42 Comments

  1. Posted April 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Hadn’t been by for a while, so just saw this. ‘Condolences’ seems like such a little word, but it is the appropriate one.

    More like him, we need.
    Firehand recently posted..Starkville, MS Aldermen David Little and Ben Carver, welcome to the fameMy Profile

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  2. jschick
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Very sorry for your loss, Robert.  The world has been a better place thanks to Rabbi Abraham Avrech, and your family’s loss is a loss to the entire Jewish people.  HaMakom Yinachem, and may his memory and his legacy be a blessing.
    -Joe Schick

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. VENT-L-8
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    May his memory always be a blessing to those who knew and loved him.  Today I salute a fellow officer.
    MAJ Ponder

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. M.R. Smith
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    May you be comforted with the mourners of Zion. What a thing to have to deal with on PURIM, which is supposed to be a happy, family day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  5. Rabbibrian
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים thank you so much for sharing with us about your father z”l.
    May his memory be for a blessing for you ,your family and for all of klal Yisrael.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  6. Sora Deetza Spigelman
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים
    ולא תוסיפו לדאבה עוד
     

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. eyawitz
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
    He obviously was a great inspiration for you and therefore, indirectly, for all of us.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. Jeremayakovka
    Posted March 18, 2014 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you for bringing him to life here many times. And for introducing us in your home once.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. coticlan
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about your loss.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. D_mnFinn
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    A long life, blessed with great memories to leave his posterity.
    He has only stepped from the stage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. covvie
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    It has been over seven years since Dad died.  Less than four months since Mother has gone.  I deeply feel your grief.
    I just preached from Isaiah 61:3.  May you have, some day, comfort from HaShem in your mourning, my friend. 

    Phil Pockras

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  12. Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    My condolences to you and your family, condolences that are only shallow comfort compared with the wonder of this great man you have introduced to us. Thank you for the honor of knowing about him.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Johnny
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    My deepest Condolences to you and your father.
     
    You have written about him many times and your love and pride for your father has always been apparent.  We should all be so fortunate to have such parents.
     
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Robert- I am sorry for your loss.  I am sure that your father’s long life was filled with the kinds of achievements that left a rich legacy for you and your children to treasure.  I hope your memories and the love of your family serve as a source of strength for you in the trying days ahead. 

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Randy
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    My deepest condolences Robert. He sounds like a remarkable man.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. peter
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Robert,
    Baruch Dayan haEmet . ברוך דין אמת
    Rabbi Abraham Avrech blessed this world with much: a son named Robert, who gives so many of the loyal followers on this website truth, perspective, encouragement, and a special humor; a grandson, Ariel, whose spirit lives on in this website, and so much more. One has to but look at his face, and it’s evident that he was some kind of person!
    I’ve been retsraining myself in the comments section for a while, but I read your postings every day.
    Shalom.
    Peter

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. indygirl
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    My deepest sympathies on your loss. He sounds like a wonderful man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. kgbudge
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    My condolences to you.
    I lost my father thirty years ago. It is never easy.

    Did your father have a favorite charity suitable for a Gentile to make a donation to, as a mitzvot in his memory?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. Posted March 17, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Robert, my deepest condolences, and my prayers for you.
    May your father’s name be a blessing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Pearl
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet. I’m sorry, Robert, to hear of your family’s great loss and YU’s great loss. Your father, a’h’, made a wonderful impression when I met him, and through the years based on the stories you’ve shared about him. May you be comforted among the many mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim and be spared any further sorrow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Brianna
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry for your loss.  ברוך דין אמת

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. gootch
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Baruch Dayan Emes.
    הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
     
    Your father was an inspiration from beginning to end. That picture of him scoring the winning run is a true classic. It should be placed in a museum as a beautiful example of life in those years. Tenachamu min hashamayim

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. maya
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Robert, my deepest sympathies to you and yours.  Your father was a great man, who gave selflessly of himself to serve others.  We need more people like that in the world today.  I’m glad you, your children, and your grandchildren had the joy of knowing him for so many long years.  May his memory be for a blessing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Nickie Clifford
    Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Robert:
     
    So sorry for your loss. From what you’ve shared with us about him it sounds as if he was a fine-man and loving-father. It was a blessing that he was with you until such an age. My sincere condolences. 

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Posted March 17, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Deepest condolences, Robert. My prayers are with you and your family.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. Michael Kennedy
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    My condolences. He had a long and full life from the sound of it.
    A good friend of mine was born in Poland on September 1, 1939. He is a neurosurgeon, in practice with his brother, in my area. When he was in the Air Force in the 70s, he was a colonel and the only neurosurgeon for all the US forces in Europe. He decided he wanted to see the village where he was born. He went to the US embassy in Vienna and told them he was a US citizen and had lost his passport. With the civilian passport he was given, he got a visa to Poland and went there to see where he was born. If the Soviets had caught him, who knows what would have happened.
    His parents got him out of Poland, a little Jewish newborn, and into France where his brother was born. After the war they got here and I had the great pleasure of meeting them when they visited in 1974. I was always struck by the probability that a Jewish baby boy would survive the first days of the war and make it here. There is a life force that will not give in. I suspect your father had it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    After so many wonderful stories about your father over the years, his passing brings painful reminders of my own father’s passing and I feel as if I share a bit of your pain.

    My deepest condolences to you and your family, Robert. Thank you for sharing your memories with us. He will be missed.

    (I had to translate Moishe3rd’s Hebrew text and I’m glad I did. Now, I feel as though I should repeat it.)

    הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָֽיִם

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. Earl
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry for your loss, Robert.  Your dad seemed a real mensch, an absolute champion bloke.  That’s a great photo of him with the revolver.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. Bob
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Robert:
    My deepest condolences on the death of your father.  May the Almighty grant you his comfort and peace now and in days to come.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  30. dafauman
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Dear Robert:
    Please accept the condolences of our family. I know how you are now. My father Simcha Yosef ben Dovid 1918-2006 was also of this heroic generation. On my best day I don’t have his courage. My you be comforted with the legacy of his great grand children.
    Very Best Wishes and Regards,
    Dovid Fauman

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. Shyla
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    A man’s man, a true hero, and a great American. This country was blessed by his presence. He lives on through you. I pray for your comfort, and for your family and all who knew him. Thank you for sharing a bit of him with us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. Kimosabbe
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    My condolences to you and yours, Mr. Avrech.

    Mr. Aldrich, it’s the 4th commandment for Catholics only ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. Barry
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Robert,
    I have good idea of what you feel and what you will be feeling. These things, as I know you know, last forever. My only, and admittedly somewhat shallow thought, based on what you have written, is I  wish he had gone for his MLB tryout.  there are plenty of rabbi’s, but shortstops…Good luck, kid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  34. Bookworm
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    My deepest condolences.  His life certainly was a blessing and, both through his actions and those of his children, he leaves the world a better place.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  35. Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    ברוךדיןאמת
    May your work continue to show the greatness that was your father
     

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  36. Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    HaMakom Yinachem Otcha.
    It was only now when I saw your father’s YU pic at the Community Service Division that I realized that I knew him from my years there, 1964-69.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. DrCarol
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    So sorry to hear this news, Robert.  Your father was a true hero, and a great man.  Sincere condolences from all my family to yours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  38. Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Baruch Dayan Ha’emet
    sorry to hear
    It sounds like you could really make a great movie about your father as 20th Century Jew.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  39. sennacherib
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    He lived a good life and has gone to the other side. To him from us Irish:
    May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind always be at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    and rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May G-d hold you in the palm of His hand.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  40. Bill Brandt
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    My condolences to you Robert. You are his legacy and by you I know what a good man he was.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  41. Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Baruch Dayan Emes.
    הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָֽיִם
     

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. Kevin Aldrich
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    My deepest condolences on the loss of your father.
    He sounds like a man who make it easy for his son to obey the 5th Commandment (4th for Christians).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

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  • Annual Ariel Avrech
    Memorial Lectures

    Young Israel of Century City
    Eleventh: June 8, 2014
    Michael Medved: "Shifting Alliances: Why Liberals No Longer Reliably Support Israel — And Conservatives Do." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 97MB)
    Tenth: June 9, 2013
    David Horowitz: "The War Against Judaism on the University Campus." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 16MB)
    Ninth: June 3, 2012
    Joel B. Pollak: "The Mainstream Media's Betrayal of Israel." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 15MB)
    Eighth: June 5, 2011
    Yossi Klein Halevi: "What is Expected of a Survivor People: Lessons My Father Taught Me." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 18MB)
    Seventh: June 13, 2010
    Dennis Prager: "Happiness is a Mitzvah, Not an Emotion." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 80MB)
    Sixth: June 21, 2009
    Rabbi Steven Pruzansky: "Conformity in Jewish Life: Vice, Virtue or Affectation?" Blog Post | Audio (mp3 64MB)
    Fifth: June 15, 2008
    Rabbi Dr. Gil S. Perl: "What Was the Rosh Yeshiva Reading: Intellectual Openness in 19th Century Lithuania." Blog Post | Audio (mp3 70MB)
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