Rabbi Chaplain Abraham Avrech, First Yahrzeit

My father, Rabbi Abraham Avrech. An Army Chaplain in the 42nd Rainbow Division, my father served this great nation through World War II, The Korean War and Vietnam. Retired as a full Colonel, my father often speaks of his Chaplaincy as the most important and fulfilling of his long and distinguished Rabbinic career.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Avrech. An Army Chaplain in the 42nd Rainbow Division, my father served this great nation through World War II, The Korean War and Vietnam. Retired as a full Colonel, my father often spoke of his Chaplaincy as the most important and fulfilling of his long and distinguished Rabbinic career.

My father, Rabbi Chaplain Abraham Avrech passed away on March 15, 2014, which in the Jewish calendar translates into the 13th of Adar. Thus, this is the first Yahrzeit, memorial, without my father’s physical presence in this world. My father was 94 years old.

He is gone, but he is certainly not forgotten.

During Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s historic address to Congress yesterday, I pondered the astonishing trajectory of my father’s life. Born in a tiny impoverished Polish town, my father and his family emigrated to the Goldeneh Medinah, the Golden Country, where they found the liberty to live as Jews and Americans.

My father reveled in Americanism, even as he lived the life of a Torah Jew, and a religious Zionist.

Like most New York Jews, my father was a lever-pulling Democrat for most of his life. But in his later years, he realized that the Democrat party had changed into something all too recognizable: a crypto-socialist organism.

My father was appalled by Obama and could not quite believe that America elected such a man to its highest office.

As we head into Purim, the holiday in which Jews remember an ancient Persian regime that sought to annihilate the Jewish people, I will read Megillat Esther and proudly remember my father: a pious Jew and a proud American.

My father was born in Yanuv, a small town in Poland, June 4, 1919. He is the child on the left. His grandmother holds his hand. His older brother Chaim is to the right. Chaim passed away many years ago, but he was also in the Army and served in the Pacific. My grandmother, Miriam, is the lovely woman on the right.

My father was born in Yanuv, a small town in Poland, June 4, 1919. He is the child on the left. His grandmother holds his hand. His older brother Chaim is to the right. Chaim passed away many years ago, but he was also in the Army and served in the Pacific. My grandmother, Miriam, is the lovely woman on the right.

 

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.

 

My grandfather, Rabbi Samuel Avrech, came alone to America, worked hard and sent money back to my grandmother, Miriam. She came to America with my father and Chaim and struggled to achieve the American dream. My father always said: “We had no idea we were poor. Everyone we knew was poor. But we were happy.” My father was quickly Americanized, becoming a fanatic baseball player. In this photo, taken in 1948, my father touches home after hitting a home run for his Brooklyn team.

My grandfather, Rabbi Samuel Avrech, came alone to America, worked hard and sent money back to my grandmother, Miriam. She came to America with my father and Chaim and struggled to achieve the American dream. My father always said: “We had no idea we were poor. Everyone we knew was poor. But we were happy.” My father was quickly Americanized, becoming a fanatic baseball player. In this photo, taken in 1942, my father touches home after hitting a home run for his Brooklyn team.

 

My father conducts High Holiday services during the Korean War.

My father conducts High Holiday services during the Korean War.

 

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 vicious 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.

 

My father in a helicopter, 1956. As you can see, there is a coffin bolted to the chopper. My father never talked about the dead. He did tell me about young soldiers about to go into combat who talked to him about their fears. My father is a good, compassionate man who also counseled non-Jewish soldiers in the absence of a Christian chaplain. “We were all in it together,” said my father modestly.

My father in a helicopter, 1956. As you can see, there is a coffin bolted to the chopper. My father never talked about the dead. He did tell me about young soldiers about to go into combat who talked to him about their fears. My father was a good, compassionate man who also counseled non-Jewish soldiers in the absence of a Christian chaplain. “We were all in it together,” said my father modestly.

 

My father's GI siddur, prayer book. It is bound in leather and the pages are gilded to protect against wear and tear.

My father’s GI siddur, prayer book. It is bound in leather and the pages are gilded to protect against wear and tear.

 

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.

 

This is my father's headstone. On the top left hand corner you can see a veteran's medallion sent by the VA to be affixed to my father's headstone.

This is my father’s headstone. On the top left hand corner you can see a medallion sent by the VA to be affixed to the granite. The inscription on the headstone reads: “A crown has fallen from our heads, Rabbi Abraham son of Rabbi Shmuel.” The quote we chose with which to honor my father’s memory is from Genesis, 23:6. “You are a prince of God in our midst.” It is Jewish tradition for visitors to place a rock on the headstone to signify that they have paid their respects to the dead.

 

Here's a close-up of the medallion.

Here’s a close-up of the medallion.

May HaRav Avraham ben HaRav Shmuel’s neshama have an aliyah.

And G-d bless the United States of America.

This entry was posted in Abraham Avrech, America, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish Holidays, Judaism, Obama Watch, Purim and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

7 Comments

  1. Robert J. Avrech
    Posted March 6, 2015 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    We thank everyone for your kind and generous sentiments.

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  2. Alemaster
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Patriot! His legacy blesses the entire Avrech. respectfully, Alemaster

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  3. LukeHandCool
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic tribute. And, as always, decorated with amazing pictures. God bless your father.

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  4. Michael Kennedy
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many kids know of the World War II song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition?”

    The officers of the USS New Orleans arranged a meeting with the press and the real story of this famous World War II quotation was finally revealed.

    Chaplain Forgy made it through the war, returned to a civilian ministry and died in Glendora, California, in January 1972.

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  5. kishke
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    May his neshamah have an aliyah from all the mitzvos and maasim tovim done by his descendants.

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  6. DrCarol
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    What a marvelous legacy your father left for your family! It’s priceless.

    May G-d comfort you in your loss.

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  7. bassetgrrl
    Posted March 4, 2015 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for these wonderful words and pictures of your dad. What a loss, but what wonderful memories he left for those he loved and who loved him. May his soul have an aliyah. And may he be a ‘gitte betta’ in these troubled times.

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