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The Eulogizer: tap dancer, Jewish war veterans

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Jerry Ames, 80, tap dancer

Jerry Ames, a longtime “contributor to the art of tap dance,” and a teacher and choreographer “known for his airy, balletic style and eclectic approach,” died Feb. 7 at 80.

In 2006, Ames received a Flo Bert Award for lifelong contributions to tap dancing. He was a co-author of “The Book of Tap: Recovering America’s Long Lost Dance” (1977).

Ames performed as a solo artist around the world, and established the Jerry Ames Tap Dance Company in 1976. It was one of the first regular troupes devoted exclusively to tap. Ames and his company were known for their “ecumenical approach to tap, melding it with waltzes, Irish jigs and Spanish music. Ames’s approach was based on his desire to ensure tap’s survival.

“Tap can’t depend on nostalgia,” he told The New York Times in 1976. “It is innovative. There must be room. We can’t just lament tap dancing as a lost art.”

Ames also was immersed in black culture. He was the only white dancer on the bill for "Tap Happenings," a series of jam sessions of traditional tap dancing in New York in 1969 that morphed into a successful off-Broadway show, “The Hoofers.”

Ames was born Jerome Howard Abrams in 1930 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Queens. He changed his name in an era in which many performers hid their Jewishness. He began ballet lessons at 4 and was dancing professionally at 15.

Honoring Jewish war veterans

In the wake of a report that the last known World War I veteran in the United States, Frank Buckles, had died at 110, the Eulogizer began noticing just how many Jewish World War II veterans we have lost recently. Many were affiliated with the Jewish War Veterans of America, which devoted its most recent newsletter to profiles of Jewish service members who have fallen in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Here are just a few of the recent Jewish war veterans to pass away:

Philip Burgher, an Army veteran of World War II, died at 89 on Feb. 27 in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Howard R. Johnston, 86, a retired lieutenant colonel, died Feb. 26. He spent 23 years on active duty, and was a combat veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He was a senior aviator, qualified in fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and a certified flight examiner. He was born in Bruce Lake, Ind.

Eugene L. Moore, 92, died Feb. 25 in Boynton Beach, Fla. He was a past commander of the Department of Florida Jewish War Veterans and volunteered at the West Palm Beach Veterans Administration hospital. His family asked for memorial contributions to go to the National Museum of American Jewish Military History.

Julius Bronstein, 85, a veteran of the Army in World War II and a Chicago police officer for 34 years, died Feb. 28.

 

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