He was a very accomplished man but his greatest accomplishment was being an incredible and involved dad to the four of us. He passed away 6 month ago and its still hard to believe that he is not coming back. He lived a full life and we were lucky to have him till 91, but as those who have experienced loss it is never enough time no matter how long it is.
My niece got married in Aug and the day before my dad passed on May 21 he told my brother on the phone “I am coming to the wedding dont you worry ” because that was the kind of man he was, always putting us first.
My grandfather on my moms side lived till 102, so I guess we always thought my dad would live that long too.
It’s the little things you miss the most, like calling him on the phone and asking him a question on any topic. He always knew the answer or whom to call to help. He was like google but better and who needed google we had my dad.
My dad also always cut out personalized articles from the NY times or Wall Street journal that he knew we would each enjoy. It was a different article for each one of us depending on our interests. Did you know the president also has articles cut out for him:) He even sent articles to his grandkids. We were the light of his life and he was a shining light for us that we miss every day.
I also remember how many times he packed up my apartment and moved me. I also know for a fact that not only did he help his children pack and move, but he also helped my cousins move and many others. Now that I look back on it and I think about all that work he did to help us, it is mind blowing. Moving and packing and unpacking is one of the hardest things to help someone with, yet he did things like that all the time with a smile and tirelessly.
I hope I remembered to thank, him but who knows I was so young.
I wanted to share something written about him. ——
My brother bought my Dad one book during his lifetime; it was titled “the greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw. I don’t think he read it. He really didn’t have time for such narishkeit! (silliness) He was probably the first of many Boro Park residents to “not watch Television”! Interestingly, when my parents moved in to Boro Park in 1955 they were the first family on the block with a Sukka, because Boro Park ended on 16th Ave. But that’s what he was. He was part of the greatest generation; the quintessential Jewish American WWII veteran, family man, community leader, political organizer, Shul President, and our family’s role model.
He grew up in Williamsburg during the great depression, a time that had a tremendous lifelong impact on him and people of his generation. He went to Yeshiva Torah Va’daas and when he was eligible, he volunteered to join the US Army in WWII, as he said many times “to get his own bed”!.
He was part of the American force that entered Nazi Germany and we were told just a few stories about those days, including his sleeping right through an overnight artillery barrage; contracting serious frostbite right before The Battle of the Bulge, and being mistaken for a Landsman by a Greek Medic who thought Parnass was short for Parnassus, and who probably saved his life by countermanding orders to return to the front immediately.
After the war, walking down Bedford Ave in his uniform on Shabbos (Saturday ) afternoons in Williamsburg, he was quickly noticed by my mother Agnes, and as they say, the rest was history. He completed Brooklyn College on the GI Bill, and he graduated with a degree in math and a desire to go into Engineering.
But there were no jobs for shomer shabbos (Sabbath observing) men in those days in Engineering, and he was unwilling as always, to compromise. He took a job in the NYC Housing Authority and quickly rose up the ranks to ultimately become the Manager of both huge housing projects independence towers and Williamsburg plazas in Williamsburg. Not only was he back home in the neighborhood, but he knew how the system worked and made sure that poor frum Jews had equal access to this housing. In fact, He went to Rav Henkin and got the first Heter (dispensation) in America for a Shabos elevator, (Sabbath Elevator) which he then somehow got the city of NY to install.
These were phenomenal achievements, and was a significant factor in the continuing growth of Jewish life in Williamsburg during those days, and why it did not degenerate into a slum as so many other old Jewish neighborhoods did. Our phones were always ringing off the hooks, people always calling My Dad to help their family get apartments, and he always did his best to help, but always staying within the rules. If they weren’t eligible, they weren’t getting an apartment from Norman.
Slowly, the recognition of his talent, due to his running the two most successful projects in the city, led to a promotion during the Lindsay administration to clean out the welfare hotels that were then a blight on the city. Many people told him not to take that job, that it’s a recipe for failure. But my Dad was up to the challenge and successful he was, and this was an important step in the beginning of the rejuvenation of New York City.
Years later because of his cumulative accomplishments and good works he was appointed by the Mayor of NY to be Vice Chairman of the New York City Housing Authority, a position he kept until his retirement.
But my Dad could not stay home, and be idle. So he spent a few years as a Travel Agent and then a real estate consultant. My Dad enjoyed his retirement as long as he was healthy, could keep busy, and help run the Shul (synagogue)
His last job, in fact was at age 87, where he was working for the census bureau as a Yiddish translator.
“But by far, my father’s greatest accomplishment was as a Dad to us four kids. From taking 4 sweaty kids to the beach on a Sunday, to lacing up our ice skates on a Saturday night at Abe Stark rink and to teaching us how to bowl and telling us to keep our wrists straight.
He took us shopping to May’s department store and stood outside with his newspaper. He packed us up for sleepaway camp spending hours ironing on our name labels. He would spend his lunch hour shopping for the toiletries we needed going from drug store to drug store for the best prices. He worked 3 jobs when we were growing up and still had time to do all these things. And even as adults – whenever we had a problem he was the first person we would call and he always had a solution or knew someone who had a solution. He was our biggest champion and supporter through good times and bad and we will miss him so.
Norman our dad lived a full and accomplished American and Yiddishe Jewish life! He was, one of the last of the greatest generation!
He will be sorely missed by all his friends, the community, his brother and sisters, his nieces, and nephews, and his wife, his children and grandchildren.
Thanks to my Israeli family for this poem
חיים יפים היו לו
יום יום עזר לזולת
ידע להתמודד עם כל בשורה
משמחת או מרה
נתן צדקה לנזקקים
חיוך היה תמיד על פניו
והספיק המון בחייו
משפחתו מוקירה את זכרו
He had a beautiful life
He rushed to help all
He knew how to cope with every situation happy or sad
He gave charity to those who needed it
Smile was always on his face
Very accomplished in his life
His Family cherished him