Rabbi Chaplain Abraham Avrech, Fourth Yahrtzeit

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, z’l, passed away on March 15, 2014, which the Jewish calendar translates into the 13th of Adar. Thus, last night — Jewish holidays begin after sundown — commenced the fourth 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.

I ponder the astonishing trajectory of my father’s life. Born in a tiny impoverished Polish town, my father and his family emigrated to America 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 a crypto-socialist organism dedicated to subverting American exceptionalism, the Constitution, and home to anti-Israel, Jew-hating leftists.

My father was appalled by ex-president Obama; that a man who was a member of a Jew-hating church for over 20 years was elected to this nation’s highest office was, to my father, a ghastly subversion of the ideals of the America he loved.

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.

 

Welcome to Kelly's Kosher Kitchen. During the Korean War, while my father was stationed on an Army base overseas, he realized that quite a few Jeiwsh soldiers needed kosher food. Which was impoossible to get. My father tried to enlist the aid of the other Jeiwsh Chaplains in establishing a kosher kitchenb. The Reprmed Rabbi refused, telling my father that it was bad form to demand special religious priveleges. The Conservative Rabbi also oppossed a kosher kitchen. My father enlisted the aid of father Peter Kelly, his buddy, a Catholic Priest. Father Kelly was outraged that so many Jewish soldiers were not able to keep kosher. he was also outraged that fellow Jews, alleged rabbis, didn't care. Father Kelly knedw how to move army bureaucracy along and in just a few weeks, a kosher kitchen was etablished. In honor of this good and pious man, my father insisted on the name, Kelly's Kosher Kitchen.

During the Korean War, while my father was stationed overseas, he wanted to get kosher food for the observant soldiers. My father tried to enlist the aid of the other Jewish Chaplains. The Reformed Rabbi refused, telling my father that kashrut was an outmoded practice. The Conservative Rabbi warned my father not to ask for special privileges, it might cause an outbreak of anti-Semitism. Finally, my father enlisted the aid of his golf buddy, Father Kelly, a Catholic Priest. Kelly was outraged that so many Jewish soldiers were not able to keep kosher. He was even more outraged that fellow Jews, alleged rabbis, were less than helpful. Father Kelly knew how to move army bureaucracy along and in just a few weeks, a kosher kitchen was established on this far off army base. In honor of this good and pious man, my father insisted on the name, “Kelly’s Kosher Kitchen.” My father is in the foreground.

 

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.

 

Lielle Meital wishes all our friends and relatives a happy Purim.

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4 Comments

  1. Wein1950
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    As usual, you honor your dad with your eloquence and you honor our tradition of Kabayd Ha-Av. I still see him (circa mid-1970’s? at the JCH of Bensonhurst) pointing at your printed name, Robert, while beaming about “My son, the publisher!” No one could come between “Arthur Wein and his daily, crazed, JCH competitive swim workouts” except Rabbi Abraham Avrech, who would dispatch an emissary to go down to the pool to request that Arthur excuse himself to volunteer his presence in the Beit Knesset for the sake of making a minyan for those reciting Kaddish.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:40 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for the vivid memory.

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  2. Posted February 28, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    May his neshama have an aliyah.

    (I hope I’m using that phrase correctly, Robert. Forgive me if I haven’t…)

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      Perfect. Greatly appreciated.

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