I'm sorry about not writing yesterday. I was too bummed.
Sam Dimenstein died early Tuesday morning (June 26). Sam had been in the hospital after falling at home and weeks later being diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, bleeding beneath the cover of the brain.
Sam, who was in his mid-80s, was a good and honorable man, a smart man who was a mover and shaker in his world. He had been a cattle dealer like his father, a man who gave of himself, asking neither recognition nor favor. He was the kind of guy of whom we don't have enough in today's world.
One of the ways Sam gave of himself was to his synagogue(s). He started out in one synagogue, Sheveth Achim Anshei Lubavitch on Factory Street, in the former Jewish section of New Haven on and near Legion Avenue.
This area was a victim of former mayor Richard C. Lee's urban-renewal mania of the 1960s. The thriving neighborhood was leveled to make way for the Route 34 connector. It's still sitting there, a wide grassy strip that is Route 34. The connector is there, funneling traffic from I-95 but ending with an off-ramp many blocks east of the former bustling residential and commercial area.
In the early 1950s, Sheveth Achim merged with the Bikur Cholim synagogue and 50 years later would end up on Marvel Road in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven.
That's where I met Sam, when my wife and I took our first halting steps into the synagogue in 2002. Sam and his wife, Doris, were among the first to welcome us, to make us feel at home in the synagogue and its community.
Sam's hand guided me as I rose in the synagogue's hierarchy. He was always gentle, suggesting instead of prodding. In different words, he always said he had my back. I'm going to miss his guidance and his sense of history.
Sam, thank you. Rest well in heaven, close to the Holy Throne.
You probably noticed that I skipped over a lot of Sam's early life. That's because I couldn't possibly tell it with the feeling that he did.
Jews whose families hail from a certain area tend to stick together. In trying to research Sam's background, I came upon Sam's retelling of his youth as part of a Web site put together by people who came from the area of Vilna, Lithuania. It's known as Vilnius now, but to Jews, it'll always be Vilna.
Please take a few minutes to read Sam's tale, as told to Mort Horwitz, the former editor of the Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim synagogue bulletin.
You'll be the richer for it.
Until next time....