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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.