Dearest Sami,

I hear the laugh. I perceive the joy in your eyes. I sense the emotion when you cry at a conversation we are having about family or a description that you intuit is sentimental. I reflect on the ideas you shared and I too laugh if somehow a funny line comes up. I look at one of your last e-mails to me. You said that if I had not known any Spanish, you would have said “brucha tiheyi” but as the word “bruja” is pronounced the same way and means “witch” in Spanish, you felt you should not write that.

I see our first visit to your home in Bogotá, after meeting your dear wife, the enchanting and gracious Charlotte z’l in the tiny Kosher butcher shop. She too giggled and laughed. That resonance comes from deep within your souls, and I hear it well in your children Lillian, Evelyn and George.

Jules and I had arrived in Colombia three weeks after our marriage in New York, in 1963. I had so many questions. As modern Orthodox Jews, with sound religious and secular education, the Rohrs and the Lassners had much in common. I was born in France so we could speak French, and we found Hebrew as a thread that embroidered our talks. Jules spoke Yiddish, I did not , but after almost a decade there, I somehow managed to utter some phrases. When someone asks me whether I speak Yiddish, I explain that I learned my Yiddish in South America and add, “doesn’t everyone”……? Spanish was a given. The Rohrs spoke perfect German and I know my mother z’l with her Alsatian background would qvell that I understood some lines.

Sami Rohr receives the highest honor, sandek, at the 2009 circumcision of his great-grandson Avraham Zvi Sragowicz, at The Shul of Bal Harbour, Surfside, Fla.
Sami Rohr receives the highest honor, sandek, at the 2009 circumcision of his great-grandson Avraham Zvi Sragowicz, at The Shul of Bal Harbour, Surfside, Fla.

Your family, all the generations, as well as the spouses of the married generations give you so much pride. I am happy that we were together a month ago at Rebecca and Harry’s wedding and that you could celebrate at your new great-grandson’s Brit Milah.

I smile though I am so distraught at your passing when I see you, dearest Sami-le before me.

You knew what you believed in and you had high standards. You inspired others to meet them. Your sound thinking made those around you take another look at what had to be done. You analyzed so carefully and watched over details in everything you undertook. And you were right. You energized all the projects. You animated the various personalities. Sami, you were a teacher! Like a flame that lights another flame which in turn kindles another, you encouraged those involved to do better. You brought out the best in people and organizations. What a lesson you taught us all.

The images of that little synagogue where we first davened, and where you would stand close to Jules, glimmer in my mind’s eye.

I taste the Rohr stuffed cabbage at Sukkot. When I told you that I wanted to start a Sunday Talmud Torah, as a gift to the community, you quickly helped find a place and entrusted me with the teaching of your children. While I would teach one group of young ones, Jules would play basketball with another group in the courtyard. You took great interest in what we were doing. All your projects were mirrors of your great love for the organizations and people. And you did it all with a smile and with lack of vanity.

We returned to the States and the bonds forged “en la capital” stayed intact.

There were many discussions over the years including a “late into the night” one about higher education for women, which Jules and I encouraged, and thus your daughters are alumnae of universities! We had the special “zechut” of introducing Pamela to George. You asked, perhaps “insisted” is the better word, that we find someone for your George (“by George” we did). Needless to say that as a graduate of Ramaz, where our family studied, I am proud that Pamela is an alumna. You were impressed and you said it more than once. How gracious of you and you made sure all felt good about themselves.

My father z’l had strong ties to Chabad and I detect his fascination with you.

I know that others will speak of your astounding largesse, your intellectual pursuits, your creation of many Jewish communities and your starring role in the renaissance through Chabad of vital homes for any wandering Jew. I recognize the special literary prize given to writers, through the Jewish Book Council, named and supported in your honor by your children.

Mr. Sami Rohr, 1926-2012
Mr. Sami Rohr, 1926-2012

I know that. The lesson to take away is to walk humbly with Hashem and energetically march in His ways.

Sami, I admire you and your modesty. I don’t think I can e-mail you any more, but if there is a way to figure it all out, I am counting on you.

Send our love to our parents and to dear Charlotte.

We will be in touch.

Danièle Gorlin Lassner
Manhattan, August 8, 2012

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