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 email@example.com. Read previous columns here.
Acerbic advice columnist in Miami
Kay Rosenfeld, whose acerbic but warm-at-heart “Dear Bubbe” advice column in a Florida Jewish newspaper gained her fame in the Miami area, died Dec. 21 at 69.
Rosenfeld was born Kay Susan Robbins in Brooklyn, N.Y. A longtime resident of the Miami area, she had written an advice column at University of Michigan but shelved a writing career for marriage and children. Following her 1971 divorce she worked at a family business and then became a court reporter. In 2000 she began the column for the Jewish Star Times and then transferred it to a local supplement of the Miami Herald.
“Bubbe Says” drew heavily on Rosenfeld’s personal experiences “with men, kids, dieting, hairdressers. She dished out grandmotherly wisdom with a sassy edge.”
This response to a letter from “the other woman,” one of many posted online after her death, gives an example: “Big on leftovers, are you? … ‘Cause that’s what your married swain is giving you: the time and energy left after he’s taken care of everybody else. I hope you’ve made other plans for birthdays, holidays and most evenings because he’ll be occupied with who and what really matter to him.”
She was rarely serious, but waxed eloquent after the illness and death of an estranged business partner. Rosenfeld said she was “bitter” but she had rekindled the friendship: “Why is it that it takes a tragedy to remind us of how precious and precarious life is?”
“Bubbe” was a real grandmother of two and lived in North Miami Beach.
Author called ‘Moroccan James Joyce’
Edmond Amran El Maleh, a Moroccan author once described as the “Moroccan James Joyce,” who lamented the loss of Jewish communities in his homeland, died Nov. 15 at 93.
El Maleh was born in Safi, Morocco, and spent many years in France as a journalist and teacher. He began writing in 1980, at 63, when he began traveling between France and Morocco.
He was widely admired in Morocco and was lauded by Moroccan King Mohammed VI in 2004. El Maleh received the Golden Palm Award for his contribution to Moroccan Contemporary Art at the Marrakesh Contemporary Art Biennale shortly after his death.
El Maleh published eight novels featuring an overriding theme described as “the fruit of a Jewish and Arab memory, which celebrates the cultural symbiosis of a Morocco that is Berber, Arab and Jewish at the same time.”
As was the case with Abraham Serfaty, a Moroccan Jew whose recent death was noted by The Eulogizer, El Maleh was no fan of Zionism or Israel. His criticism of Zionism centered on what he saw as its role in negating the meaning and traditions of longstanding Moroccan and Diaspora Jewish communities.
A blogger who attended El Maleh’s funeral wrote a detailed report that described Christian, Muslim and Jewish mourners, and said El Maleh was described as “a man rooted in his history, a history of Morocco.” The blogger cited El Maleh’s “support of the Palestinian struggle, and his desire that Palestinians and Israelis should live in peace.”
Diminutive actor, entertainer
Here’s an excerpt from a lovely piece about Sammy Ross, a diminutive actor from Baltimore who had a long career and was the “family leprechaun.” The article was sent to The Eulogizer by its author, Alan Feiler, managing editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times:
As a youngster, Leah Schwartz remembers going to family gatherings where her uncle, Sammy Ross, would always come up and joke around, doing anything just to make her smile.
“He’d say, ‘Yeah, I’m your short uncle, and here’s a magic trick. Here you go,’” she recalled. “He was a great uncle, always smiling and laughing and singing and entertaining us with his harmonica or accordion and magic tricks. He was just a fun guy, and he used his stature as a positive. He was inspirational — always happy with his lot and viewing life in a happy, positive mode. And he became famous.”
Mr. Ross died Dec. 11 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 87 and lived for several years at the Courtland Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pikesville, a Baltimore suburb.
Born Samuel Resnicoff and raised as one of three sons to grocery store-operating parents in East Baltimore, Mr. Ross — who stood approximately 4 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds — was a veteran entertainer who performed in vaudeville and appeared in several films, including “Top Man” (1943) with Donald O’Connor and Lillian Gish; “The War Lord” (1965) with Charlton Heston and Richard Boone; and “Trading Mom” (1994) with Sissy Spacek and Maureen Stapleton.
In the 1998 TV movie “Willa: An American Snow White,” he portrayed Billy Bugg, a dancing dwarf.
Among the legendary acts with whom Mr. Ross performed over the years were Lawrence Welk, the Three Stooges and Jackie Gleason at such famed venues as Radio City Music Hall and the London Palladium. He also performed with USO troupes in Europe and Asia during World War II.
During the 1940s he was a member of the classic act Borrah Minnevitch and His Harmonica Rascals, a replacement for the impish Rascal Johnny Puleo.
For 27 years Mr. Ross — in tuxedo and green bowler — enjoyed a regular weekend gig playing a leprechaun at the Irish Pizza Pub in Laurel, a town between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., telling jokes, singing songs, making animal balloons and playing Irish tunes on piano. He performed there under the stage name of Johnny O’Pal, often with his son, Michael.
Notably, during the 1940s he was a member of the classic act Borrah Minnevitch and His Harmonica Rascals, a replacement for the impish Rascal Johnny Puleo.
Sometimes, he said young patrons asked, “‘Where’s your pot of gold?’ like they’re gonna knock me over, like the Mafia or something. So I say, ‘It’s in my heart,’ which is true. That pot of gold is kindness, being good to other people.” (Click here for a 1997 profile of Ross the leprechaun in the Washington City Paper.)
…In his eulogy at Mr. Ross’ graveside service at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation cemetery on Belair Road, Dr. Howard Salob said of his uncle, “His life was a life of miracles and dedication. … Throughout Sammy’s career he was the consummate entertainer and made sure people enjoyed themselves. Sammy was our family’s leprechaun as well as the world’s leprechaun, and we shall miss him.”
Write to Feiler (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a copy of his entire article.