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Avremel’s Way

Barbara Bensoussan

Avremel Zelmanowitz was a quiet, mild-mannered man, content in his role as beloved brother and uncle. He attracted little notice as a programmer, and his fundamental goodness was not recognized beyond his immediate circles. Until he found himself alone with a colleague in a burning building. And then, as the building came crashing down, his loyalty and consummate kindness created an explosion of kiddush Hashem so powerful it fell out of the lips of presidents and ricocheted many times around the globe.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Zelmanowitzes are patriots from way back. Their summer cottage near Scranton boasts a large American flag hanging off the front porch, and you can’t miss their home in Flatbush — it’s the one with a flag outside the door. There’s also a flag attached to the rearview mirror of the car parked in the driveway, and taped to the windows of both the house and the car are a grainy, computer-printed photograph of a middle-aged man with the legend: REMEMBER ME.

It’s ten years after 9/11, but the crater at Ground Zero has proven eminently more easy to fill than the hole that was left in Yankel and Chavie Zelmanowitz’s hearts when Avremel Zelmanowitz, Yankel’s brother, perished in the inferno. A computer programmer with Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield who worked on the 27th floor of the North Tower, Avremel was a quiet, mild-mannered man who was content in his role as beloved brother and uncle, and never would have dreamed of seeking public recognition.

While Avremel attracted little notice as a programmer or community figure, his life and death illustrate the paradox behind the Jewish concept of tzniyus: that the most shining inner qualities of an ehrliche Yid are precisely those that remain discreetly hidden away in the private realm. In Avremel’s case, the depth of his fundamental goodness was not recognized beyond his immediate circles until he found himself alone with a colleague in a burning building. And then, as the building imploded, his loyalty and consummate kindness created an explosion of kiddush Hashem so powerful it fell out of the lips of presidents and ricocheted many times around the globe.

 

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