Seymour J. Abrams, a Chicago-area banker and philanthropist who inspired others to support Israel and Jewish education, passed away on March 12, Purim day, in Chicago. He was 90 years old.
Born in Chicago in 1926, Abrams was an ardent supporter of Jewish life and Torah learning in his hometown and in Israel, with a lifetime of involvement with dozens of synagogues, charities and educational institutions.
Yet he was perhaps best known for his knack of inspiring others to give generously as well. “Seymour didn’t just donate money,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf, dean of the Seymour J. Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School in Skokie, Ill. “He actively sought out others to support the school and countless other worthy causes he cared for.”
In the summer of 1990, Wolf brought Abrams to meet the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Abrams told the Rebbe that the financial institution he owned, Brickyard Bank, had a charity box inside and a mezuzah on the door, and was the only bank in Chicago to close on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
The Rebbe blessed him that many others learn to imitate his actions and quipped that he should not copyright the charity box. Taking the Rebbe’s words to heart, Abrams had 10,000 cardboard charity boxes printed, which were then distributed through bank branches throughout the Chicago area.
Although Abrams never married and had no children, Wolf notes that his name will forever be remembered by and linked to the thousands of students and alumni of Cheder Lubavitch, which was named in his honor in 1992 with the approval of the Rebbe.
“It is our wish,” says Wolf, “that the Torah learned by these students in the only local institution named for this special man will be an eternal credit to his soul.”