Philip Sieradski, 74
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Philip Sieradski, 74

Remembering the commander of Teaneck’s JWV

An honor guard prepares to ceremoniously remove the American flag from Philip Sieradski’s casket. (Menachem Daum)
An honor guard prepares to ceremoniously remove the American flag from Philip Sieradski’s casket. (Menachem Daum)

An honor guard blew taps at the Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus last week.

It was the funeral of Philip Sieradski, the long-time commander of Teaneck’s Jewish War Veteran chapter, who had served in Vietnam. Two uniformed soldiers removed the American flag draped over the coffin and carefully and ceremoniously folded it into a tight, compact triangle.

Sieradski, 74, was born to Polish Holocaust survivors Daniel Sieradski and Riwa Milikovsky in 1946 in the displaced persons in Landsberg am Lech, Germany, which had been the site of the largest concentration camp in that country. The elder Sieradski had been taken to Chelmo, where his wife and five children were murdered. Ms. Milikovsky and her three sisters survived Ravensbruck.

“We have no records of the life before the war,” Philip’s son, Daniel Sieradski, said. “His father never wanted to talk about it. His mother’s memories were very vague.”

When the family arrived in New York, they first lived on the Lower East Side. Philip’s father owned a hot pretzel factory; he baked pretzels that were sold in subway stations. From a young age, Philip would help his father in the bakery, getting up at 4 a.m. to work before going to school and returning to the bakery after school.

The family moved to Brooklyn; Philip graduated from Samuel Tilden High School two years early. He graduated from Brooklyn College and earned a masters at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

In 1968 his draft board classified him as 1A; that meant that he would be drafted, and it also meant that no one wanted to hire him. So he enlisted, thinking that his knowledge of German would get him sent to Germany. He was wrong; instead he was shipped to Vietnam. There he was a radio operator in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was wounded in action and received a Purple Heart, when a fellow American soldier tossed a grenade in his tent, intending to kill his commanding officer, who also slept there. (The commander survived). Dr. Sieradski had shrapnel embedded in his groin for the rest of his life. He also earned a Bronze Star for valor and two army commendation medals.

Back in America, he got a job as assistant director of the student center at Brooklyn College. His first day on the job, he met a student, Jeanette Friedman. Eventually they married; their romance lasted until his death, just days more than 50 years later.

For a while, Dr. Sieradski was an adjunct English teacher at Brooklyn College; he also earned a doctorate in higher education administration at NYU.

Philip Sieradski, 1946-2020.

Then, when his father-in-law, Volvie Friedman, who was world vice president of Agudath Israel, was on his deathbed, he told Phil to take over his father’s bakery so he could support his family. (By then, the elder Mr. Sieradski owned the Peter Pan bakery in Queens.) He did as he was told.

In 1976 the family moved to Teaneck and opened the town’s first kosher bakery, Phibbleberry’s Bakery, while continuing to run Peter Pan in Queens.

Later, he and Jeanette edited Lifestyles Magazine, and for a time he was executive director of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

With his wife, he ran the Wordsmithy, which edited and published the memoirs of survivors and other books, including the biography of Rose Mattus, the founder of Hagen Dasz ice cream.

His work for the Jewish War Veterans was “a huge part of his life,” his son Daniel said.

He was a longtime member of JWV’s Post 498 in Teaneck, where he served as commander for 30 years. This earned him a New Jersey Distinguished Service medal.

“He used to go the Veterans Home in Paramus and visit with elderly vets. He ran bingo nights for them,” Daniel said. “Every Memorial Day he would go to Cedar Park and replace the flags on the graves of veterans.”

Dr. Sieradski died at home in Paradise Valley, Pennsylvania, in the Poconos, surrounded by his wife and children.

“My father was a very charitable man,” his son said. “He took care of a lot of people who were in a bad place and needed help. He let a lot of people into his life and home when they were in dire straits. He was always concerned about the wellbeing of others.”

He is survived by his wife, Jeanette, his children, L’via Weisinger, Aviva Fort, Aliza Greenberg, and Daniel Sieradski, 12 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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