gallin Remembrance of Synagogues Past - The Lost Civilization of the Jewish South Bronx

Joan's Eulogy

Seymour Perlin
Memorial Service
19 November 2010
Joan Perlin © 2010

When I started to get my thoughts together about my father I titled my work with just one word: DADDY. As years went on, I started to refer to my Dad as “grandpa” even when talking to my mom or my sister.

My father was the ultimate Dad because he was the ultimate person. He, like my mother, worked hard for us kids. We didn’t hear about the difficult parts of their lives. My parents were always just there for us. That’s what I felt every day of my life. Dad gave and gave.

When I was in kindergarten I would lie on his big, strong chest and watch Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood while Mom made dinner. There were the weekly trips to Waldbaum’s to do the grocery shopping, just Daddy and me. In later years it was just Liz and Dad. Then it was Grandpa and Jill. He was the picture of efficiency, going up and down each aisle. He’d give me a dollar to get pizza or a hot dog from the kosher deli. I learned how to pick the best produce on those trips, a skill Liz, Jill and I still have.

When Mom was in grad school Daddy made what I’ll loosely call dinner for us kids. Vegetable soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. He was no cook, but he did his best. I remember one Halloween night waiting for my mother to finish some work downtown at Fordham. I watched the trick-or-treaters and Daddy and I sat and ate pie in a dessert shop.

When I grew up, things seemed to just happen the right way for me and for all of us kids. I would find out many years later that my father had intervened before disaster had a chance to strike.

Daddy took me to Bear Mountain to watch the ski jumpers and walk around the lake. In the car, I’d put my stocking feet practically inside the heater vent to warm up. I still escape to Bear Mountain, now with my kids and remember, for myself and for them, the place the way it used to be.

Daddy’s drive to remember life as it used to be became a huge part of his life. There was the historical society. But he went in his own directions: cataloging the synagogues in the Bronx, sharing growing up in his insulated world, the shtetl in America, pushing and insisting that the history would not be lost. He enlisted Sandra to be his editor. The patience of Sandra is beyond words.

I am now a teacher. I try to make connections with the kids at school. I look for the good in everyone and try to pull out the best in them that I can. If I make a teenager think about his potential, then I have made a positive contribution to his life. Daddy did that with so many people: with the clerks in the stores, with his students at school, with everyone. During the holiday season, Daddy found a way to give every kid in his school a mesh gift stocking filled with candy and the like. I wondered where the money came from. I just accepted that somehow Daddy made this a priority and understood that the kids at his school needed to have some kind of Christmas and feel cherished and important.

I understand the importance of remembering who we are and where we came from. The world changes but there are deep roots to who we are. Each generation gives, like Daddy gave. My three children appreciate the drive Daddy had to live every moment. When my kids were in nursery school, Dad was the only one who was semi-retired. He went on trips to the apple orchard and the farm with a bunch of 2 years olds when my boys were little. Their school came to expect him to join the class every year. He picked them up for me from kindergarten in Yonkers. If he could fit something into his schedule he did. He was extending his role as father.

Daddy thought of us, always. He struggled, just a week or so ago, to communicate that Jill should get a summer internship in theater. Could someone help her with that? Mom told me that when she told Jill that Daddy had just died, the first thought Jill had was that Grandpa was always thinking about her and all of us.

The ultimate tribute and remembrance of Seymour is to pass on his love of history, his passion for living, even to his last day, and to continue the legacy of being a great parent.

Daddy, you and Mom made the best team.

We miss you Dad.