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May 31, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 31, 2013 PAGE 4A Great love My Aunt Rita Levy died last week. Of all the siblings in her family, she was perhaps the least well known. Her sister Dorothy (Dottie) Morrell was considered the gatekeeper to the Orlando Jewish Community for many years. greeting and introducing new residents to those who lived here, and the cultural series at the Jewish Community Center was named after her. Sister Florence (Flossie) founded the Neighborhood Law Center in Orlando that served the poor and indigent for many years. Bea Ettinger began the Center for Continu- ing Education for Women, now run out of the University of Central Florida. And my father Jerrywas many things to many people: a popu- lar attorney and civil rights advocate, twice president of the Jewish Federation. president and one of the founders of Temple Israel, key to the establishment of the Kinneret Towers. But if you asked people about Rita--the Jim Shipley The legacy of Roman Blum Roman Blum died a few weeks ago. He was business during the day and a good friend to 92, and hewasn'twell. He died avery rich man. all in the evening. According to estimates from his accountant One wonders why, such a man, whose first and lawyer, somewhere in the area of 40 mil- thoughts after the horror of Auschwitz was lion dollars. A nice area. Roman Blum left no to re-populate the Jewish world never gave a family. His wife died a few years ago. serious thought to that world after he would Roman Blum was a Holocaust survivor. He leave it. But, apparently he did not. said he was from Warsaw, but t~e few records As Roman Blum grew older his lawyer, a fel- found about his early life say he was from low survivor, kept asking him to make a will, Chelm. Those of you who know Yiddish folk to do something with his wealth. No family. tales will appreciate why Roman Blum did not No favorite cause or charity. Just friends and want to be known as someone from Chelm. the business. Roman Blum's wife was dead. According to what records are available, he Roman Blufn was old. His lawyer and friend lost a wife and daughter at Auschwitz. Prob- pleaded with him to do something. ably his parents as well. But, Roman Blum The last time his lawyer met with him he survived. After Auschwitz was liberated, he asked again for Roman Blum to take the time found himself in a displaced persons camp-- to think about his legacy, his money. The those sad and horrific places where those who lawyer was headed for vacation. He recalls had lost everything were thrown until they Roman Blum saying to him "when you come could "relocate." back, we'll get it done." There he met a woman who also had sur- The lawyer left for vacation and RomanBlum vived. In the confusion of the camp and the died. The house was sold, the paintings and uncertainty of what had passed and what furniture and tchotchke's allwent.The money was about to happen, Roman Blum became and the properties and the things thatwere left convinced that this woman and he were the all were carefully accounted for. A genealogist only Jews left on earth--that through some was hired to see if the Nazis left any trace of horrible but miraculous circumstance, they family in Europe. The estate waited. Nothing. had found each other. Now? This was a man who felt after surviv- Roman Blum felt convinced it was their ing the worse hell on earth ever perpetrated obligation to re-start the Jewish People. While on the Jews that it was his personal duty to there was no real love, these two survivors bring back the Jewish People from extinction. w~th no other family left, married. It is ironic Now, everything he coveted, everything he ac- then that they had no children, complished is to be given to the State of New Throughluck and perseverance, they came York. Ask your lawyer. That's the law when to the United States and settled in New York you have no will. What would Roma, p Blum in a community of other Holocaust survivors, do if he had made it another month or two? There, Roman Blum built a new life among We will never know. people he originally thought no longer existed. What we do know is that rather than being As Iwrote above, the irony of their marriage usedin somebureaucraticway toshore upsome to re-start the Jewish People produced no unknown and probably questionable policy, progeny. Nor, to the best of anyone's knowl- the legacy of Roman Blum could have been a edge was there anyone left from either of their reservoir holding precious water in the Negev. families in Europe. It could have been a scholarship program for So, Roman Blum beg~n to build a business, worthy Jewish kids studying ways to make life He did something he was not allowed to do in better in the world. It could have been--well, Poland before the war. He bought property, so many things. But this is not to be. He developed property. He was, according to If there is a heaven and if Roman Blum is those of his friends who remain, charming, therewithhisfamilyandthosewhoknewhim, outgoing, a "lady's man"-and fun to be with. what would he say? What question would he As the business prospered, Roman Blum answer? "Roman, so you did good, nu? So keptbuying, seUinganddeveloping.Thestacks whatdid you leave behind, Roman, for those on his desk grew higher according to those felt were no longer alive? Tell us who visited his office. Roman Blum was all Roman Blum, what did you do?" THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'S ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 41 Press Awards INDEPENDENT JEWISHVOICE LORIDA SH NEWS Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. P~riodicals postage. paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, EO. Box 3007~2,. - Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER EO. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed-Ziegler Production Department David Lehman * David Gaudio Elaine Schooping * Gil Dombrosky * Caroline Pope original Rita Bornstein before my mother or the president of Rollins College--you heard no stories about community building or visionary leadership.Whatyou heardaboutwas love, and in particular, her lifelong love affair with her husband, my uncle Morton Levy, who died of cancer many years ago. There is no doubt that their relationship was a love for the ages, founded on depths and passion and strength that are uncommon nowadays. When" he was a soldier overseas during World War II he wrote her a letter every day, profound letters that spoke to their love in ways and words far closer to Keats and Shelley and Yeat] than any modern poetry. And after hearing it recounted again and again, by different voices with different expressions. I have pondered the meaning of great love a great deal, and while I have no great conclu- sions, I do have a greater understanding and appreciation for what it means to truly love. Rita's son Dan. his wife Jane and daughters Hannah and Sadie were over at our house one night to visit, and the subject of this monumental relationship came up. Hannah. a bright youngwoman of 21. made the comment that she understood what it meant to love so deeply, to which I quickly (really too quickly) responded. "No you don't." And while I may have been hasty in my interruption. I was right in my thought, for there is no way someone so young can grasp the depth of devotion.but even more than that. the necessary level of commitment and sometimes desperate work one must do to maintain a great love. When Ben Mfleck said, at the Academy Awards, that his relationship with wife Jen- nifer Garner was work. many people gasped. But he couldn't have been more truthful or accurate. For love to endure it can't be ignored, forgotten, or assumed. It must be exercised, By Andrew Silow-Carroll New Jersey Jewish News "Of making many lists there is no end, and much blogging wearies the eyeballs." Ecclesiastes doesn't say that, exactly--" but might have had the author lived to see the proliferation of lists ranking the. most influ- ential rabbis and. other Jews. The latest entry in an increasingly crowded market is the Jerusalem Post's "50 Most Influ- ential Jews." According to the newspaper, its honorees have "a proven record of incredible political, social, and cultural influence on the Jewish world and the world at large." Its top 10 inclu.des a mix of Israeli politicians (Yair Lapid, Benjamin Netanyahu), American po- litical leaders (Jack Lew, Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and business leaders (Sergey Brin of Google, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook). Luckily for the Post, you can't be sued for copying the idea for a top 50 list: The Forward has been compiling its own "Forward 50" for alm.ost 20 years (full disclosure: As an editor there a decade ago, I helped compile the list). Every autumn, The Forward looks for'Jews who "made the most significant impact on the news in the past year"; its 2012 list was headed by gambling mogur and political fund-raiser Sheldon Adelson, gymnast Aly Raisrnan, TV sensation Lena Dunham, haredi activist David Zwiebel, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. And The Forward itself has been overshad- owed by the Newsweek/Daily Beast list of "America's Top 50 Rabbis." Not to be outdone, The Forward fired back earlier this year with its own list of America's 36 "Most Inspiring Rabbis." Forward editor Jane Eisen writes that they chose rabbis who "touch the soul and create community." (I fantasize about compiling a list of"Least inspiring Rabbis." I file notions like that under "Ideas for Farewell Column.") Critics of these lists complain that they are unscientific. (As an alumnus of The Forward I can attest that our methodology was at least as scientific as a beer tasting at a frat house--that is, we had a certain expertise in the topic at hand, although our decisions were more than a little subjective.) But such critics are making a category error. The lists shouldn't be judged by the standards of social science, but of cultural criticism. The lists are essays, meant to capture a moment in Jewish history as illustrated by the individuals who seem to be making that history. Jon Stewart is named to a lot of these lists, not because he is a paragon of Torah Judaism or a Defender of the Faith, but because he represents the sensibility of a sizable Jewish liberal demographic. Rabbi Sharon Brous may not be a household name, but the innovations pored over. considered or it will go dormant and ultimately fade. Whether we talk about a love of God. or our homeland or faith, the one thing I know. the one thing I am certain of. is that no love is easy. No love comes without effort. Even the spectacular love between my Uncle Morton and Aunt Rita must have had its ups and downs, its workload, its conscious struggle to maintain. There must have been stressful times and depressing times, times of separation and disconnect, but in the end they never wavered in their resolve to be together, and that is why, when people spoke about my Aunt Rita at her funeral and service, they spoke with admiration bordering on veneration. And it is why I can say, beyond a doubt, that I understand what it means to have a great love, because I have one of my own. I have only been married once, and that is all I will be married. This week, as my wife approaches a landmark birthday, I look up to her with awe and devotion and appreciation for all that our love has been, both good and bad. easy and difficult. We married when she was a young woman of 22 and I a grizzled old 29. and it took us many years of serious, hard work and innumerable daily experiences and joy and suffering and a constant commitment to being together to make our love what it is. This is the tip of the iceberg, the barest words I can offer to describe my love. born of friend- ship and passion, blood and sweat and stains and scars and cast in ribbons of steel and ice. To my best friend and lifelong love, this is all I am, and all I am is yours. And those are the goodwords. The opinions in this column are those of the writer and not the Heritage or any other individual, agency or organization. Send your thoughts, com- ments, and critiques to the Heritage or email she has brought to her southern California congregation are emblematic of what's hap- pening at independent congregations around the Jewish world. And what do these lists mean by "Jewish" anyway? Zwiebel is an easy call, since he is an Orthodox Jew who litigates on behalf of the fervently Orthodox Agudath Israel of America. But Lena Dunham? Despite a Jewish mom and a Jewish boyfriend (a Schechter grad, yet!), her work on the HBO "series "Girls" may not strike the average viewer as particularly Jewish. Maybe it's a question of wavelength: Something about an overeducated, underemployed, aspiring writer named Hannah living in Manhattan sets off our Jewish radar. When I worked on the Forward 50, we'd invariably have a debate over Alan Greenspan, who as chairman of the Fed was undoubt- edly among the most influential people in the world. But despite his name and a face that belonged on the bima on Friday nights, Greenspan barely identified Jewish ly, and was apparently more familiar with the works of Ayn Rand than Moshe Rabbeinu. ompare him to Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew serving as the president's right-hand man. In the end, we had something like the Rule of Two: Subject Identifies Jewish, Others Identify Subject as Jewish, Subject Achieves in a Distinctly Jewish Way. If two apply, you qualify. That's why Greenspan never made the list, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger did. Invariably, the lists reflect the ideology of the editors who make them. Another new list maker is The Algemeiner, a conservative Jew- ish weekly that published "The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life 2013." Its list is heavier on political and social conserva- tives than the Forward list (for example, all of its "Religion" picks are Orthodox men),'and the very word "positively" in the title seems to be a dig at some of the other list makers. Magazines and websites love lists, because readers tend to. Some lists carry an air of au- thority, like U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" (although even there, many criticize the criteria). Some, like Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" or "100 Best Al- bums of the Nineties" are just there to start arguments. That's not a bad thing, because arguments help clarify the things we care about. A lot of people don't sweat whether Abe Foxman or Alan Dershowitz is the more influential leader, or if Larry David is a Jew- ish icon or a shanda for the goyim. But the future of the community depends on those who do care, even if just a little. Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Between columns you can read his writing at the JustASC blog.