Remembering a gentle man

Remembering a gentle man

A dear friend to many in this area has died, Abraham Melezin, the grandfather of Alix Wall, a former managing editor of the Standard. Abrasha, as he was known to his friends, lived in Teaneck for many years before moving, with his wife Rachela, to New York. He was 98 years old and died on Oct. 1, the second day of Rosh HaShanah.

As Alix wrote to her literal and virtual mishpocha, “It’s so fitting that he passed during the Days of Awe, as I have spent my entire life in awe of him.”

I’ve culled her old articles about her very special family – and my own memories – to share a sense of him. But the facts seem so cold without his warmth.

A gentle, loving, wise man, he was an emeritus professor of geography at City College. He was also a survivor of Stutthof and he lost his wife, Shulamit, and 3-year-old son, Zarek, during the war. He kept himself sane, Alix reported, by tracking “the Allies and Russian army as they advanced to liberate Nazi-conquered territory” on a map hidden in a hole in the wall.

Abrasha had known the Krinsky family before the war, and when he learned that Rachela Pupko Krinsky – whose husband had been taken away by the Gestapo, never to return – had also survived Stutthof, as well as Kaiserwald, he went to Lodz to see her. (Rachela had been in the Paper Brigade in Vilna, which saved Jewish cultural documents from the Nazis.)

Rachela’s daughter, Sarah, who was about 7, had spent the war years in hiding with her nanny. The story as I heard it was that – still not comfortable with calling Rachela “Mother,” after having been separated from her for so long – Sarah said, “Lady, I think you should marry this man.”

The Melezins had a long and lovely life together, and to know them was a privilege.