We lost two great Jews over the last week whom I was glad to have known and consider my friends.
Last week, Fran Laufer passed away at age 96, and a few days later Eugen Gluck was taken from us at age 92.
Both Ms. Laufer and Mr. Gluck were survivors of the Holocaust. They determinedly rebuilt their lives and produced children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren as a testament to their resoluteness to live and to make a major impact on the Jewish communities both here in the U.S. and in Israel.
Both these people were more than personalities I encountered and with whom I struck up long-lasting connections. Both Ms. Laufer and Mr. Gluck knew my parents and had special relationships with my father when he was a writer and columnist in the New York Yiddish press for almost a half-century.
Mr. Gluck’s connection to my father came about as he and Yaakov Katz (“Ketzalah”) were establishing the city of Beit El in the 1970s. In those days the required publicity meant that you went to see Rabbi Nison Gordon who was widely read through his weekly columns in both the Day Morning Journal and then the Algemeiner Journal.
Almost every time I would meet Eugen Gluck he would reminisce about the time he and Katz came to see my father in our Brooklyn home in order to relate to my dad the progress of the building and establishment of his beloved project — Beit El.
I don’t remember those visits, as I may not have been there at the time. But I do indeed recall the first time that I met Mr. Gluck at his office at the Armitron Watch Company in Long Island City. It was 1986, and he and his wife, Jean, a’h, were the guests of honor at a dinner that benefited a hospital in Jerusalem with which I was associated in a public-relations capacity. I sat across from him at the time discussing the format and mechanics of the upcoming event. He was interrupted by a steady stream of phone calls about a whole host of things.
He was 57 years old at the time, and as I sat there I immediately felt a sense of awe from the authoritative dynamic that he exuded in a rather nonchalant fashion. He spoke to some of the office executives on one line and then took a different call from his stockbroker, asking the broker in Yiddish about different stocks and other investments. One of the questions he asked was, “Vos macht gold, un vos macht silver.” He was in charge and always on top of everything. I’ll always remember that.
At the time, the annual Beit El dinners were in their infancy and I wondered to myself why he would undertake a dinner like this for the hospital while he was busy building a fledgling community and yeshiva in Israel. But he did do it and mobilized his corporate office and personal staff to get the dinner done. He drew 1,600 people to the dinner, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dinner of that magnitude since then.
In the aftermath of that event, we probably attended most of the Beit El dinners that have taken place around Chanukah time for the last three decades at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. For many of those years it was at these dinners that we had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Gluck for the only time that year unless we would meet at another similar type of event. The welcome we always received from him was exuberant and enthusiastic. He would hug us and kiss us and tell us how great it was to be together. Just being with him in a room like that, even though there were 1,200 other people, was both satisfying and fulfilling.
His passing will obviously leave a void for his family, of course, but also for his dear friends and for his literally thousands of friends in Israel and around the world. I can say this much: In all likelihood, the next world is not the same anymore — because Eugen Gluck is now there. May his memory be a blessing.
Over the last 10 or so years, Fran Laufer lived here in the Five Towns. That meant that on occasion I would meet her on Central Avenue, or around the time of the annual Rivkah Laufer Bikur Cholim luncheon event she would appear unannounced in our office, also located on Central Avenue. She was there to discuss with me the type of ads or coverage she wanted for the event in this newspaper.
Like with Mr. Gluck, I respected her for the additional reason that years prior to this, she would interface with my father on very much the same subject matter, which I found intriguing. Of all the times that I met with Fran there is one meeting in particular that I can always easily recall and play back in my mind.
Ms. Laufer came up to the office and she was not pleased about something. She walked into my office and recounted that she had been in my office the week before to bring me a copy of the luncheon invitation and had asked that we create the ad and that I create a story based on that information. For whatever reason, we made the ad but I did not get around to doing the story.
Fran Laufer walked into my office and stood opposite my desk. She placed the invitation in front of me once again, referenced the fact that there was no story in the paper, and said to me, “I did not have to go through this with your father.”
I sat there, a little stunned. I probably said something like, “What?” And so she repeated the same thing, with the verbiage slightly altered. “I did not have this with your father.”
I thought about it for a moment and then thanked her and told her that I didn’t realize I was competing with my dad, who had passed away some 20 years earlier. I took to heart what she said and, going forward, when working with people who had worked with my dad I was more mindful of what they expected from me, and though I was not sure I would be able to live up to those expectations, I tried.