The Death of Miriam Rosenberg
Richard J. Garfunkel
July 26, 2008
Yesterday, July 25th, two days before my 39th anniversary, I was informed of the sad news regarding the passing of Miriam Rosenberg, the mother of my great friend Alan. Miriam, who was every inch a lady, reminded me greatly of my own mother, Peggy, who died a little over two years ago as she approached her 99th birthday. Both Miriam and my mother represented a generation quickly disappearing from our midst that exuded class, style, and a high level of manners and decency. Both knew how to dress well, speak wonderfully and take care of their family. Their middle name was “responsibility.” Miriam grew up in Mount Vernon, and in 1928 was the first ever Bat Mitzvah in Mount Vernon. She was married to her husband Ben for 54 years and was always strongly committed to the Jewish community of Mount Vernon and the security of Israel.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Miriam a number of times. Alan grew up in the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon and since I lived across town near Pelham, our paths did not cross until we met at the YM & YWHA on Oakley Avenue. My first encounter with Alan was probably during the winter of 1959-60 when we contended over a ping-pong game. I was told he was the ping-pong champion of Mount Vernon, and I asked him “how was that possible since you have never beaten me.” From that inauspicious moment, a three game match for the “new” championship of Mount Vernon ensued. All three games went to the limit of 22-20 or above, and frankly I am not sure who won the best of three. It was after that titanic struggle and many basketball games at the “Y” we became friends. Of course, I was a bit wilder than the even-tempered Alan, but we still got along. One of my great memories of our friendship was when we attended the NIT championships, which featured NYU, his school, and the eventual winner Brigham Young University. Alan took me in the locker room and I met their two stars, the famous Mal Graham, the great basketball star from White Plains HS and Bruce Kaplan a terrific player from Brooklyn’s Madison HS. Over the years we have attended baseball games at Yankee Stadium and basketball games at the Madison Square Garden, the Meadowlands, and the County Center.
Eventually I met his mother, when I barged into his apartment one morning to the chagrin and surprise of his housekeeper, who warned me that he was still asleep. That didn’t deter me and after I rustled him out of bed, I got my first lesson in the Jewish ritual of laying tefillen. For some reason, I had never seen that practice even in a book. But after his prayers, he showered, dressed and his mother invited me to have some breakfast. Around this time I also met his father Ben, who was a well-known CPA and worked for the State of New York. In his room, one could readily see the nexus of Alan’s passion for collecting sport’s memorabilia. I can easily recall seeing all of the Willie Mays pictures on his walls. If one visited his office in Manhattan or Scarsdale or his basement in New Rochelle, one could marvel at how his collection has grown exponentially. It is like being in the Hall of Fame of every sport, and I never tire viewing his treasures.
At times I would see Miriam at Alan’s home and again when I was invited to attend Alan’s second Bar Mitzvah, about ten years ago, at the new location of Congregational Brothers of Israel (CBI) on Crary Avenue. By the way, in Mount Vernon’s first synagogue was built, in 1892, and it was the Congregation Brothers of Israel. CBI eventually found a home on 8th Avenue and First Street, and remained there for many years until 1980. They had a number of rabbis, and Alan’s grandfather Morris J. Rosenberg, served as an acting rabbi there in the 1930’s. He also read Torah there from 1910 through 1952. CBI eventually moved from the south side of Mount Vernon and up to a year ago or so it resides in a former church on Crary Avenue and next to the old Sinai Temple location, which is also now a church.
Alan and his mother had a marvelous relationship and from my perspective there was never a more loving and concerned son. After the passing of Alan’s father a number of years ago, and the period of paralysis and death of his brother Lenny, Alan was a great supportive force for his mother. This special relationship was quite evident during our last meeting over the weekend of our high school’s 40th class reunion. I had the distinct pleasure of eating lunch with Alan and his mother at the Marriot, and I was quite impressed with her memory of me. She was in her late 80’s at that time, still quite sharp, elegantly dressed, and wonderful company. My wife Linda eventually joined us and had the same impression.
For the last three years Miriam was a resident of the Hebrew Home for the Aged, and Alan was always there for her. His dedication and concern should be an example for all to follow. One can also find her obituary in Saturday’s edition of the Journal News at www.lohud.com .