On Tuesday I attended a memorial service at Congregation Beth El for my good friend and neighbor, Seymour Fromer. Seymour passed away Sunday, Oct. 25 at age 87 after a lengthy illness.
Having been neighbors at the Berkeley Town House for more than 25 years, I thought I knew this man. How mistaken I was!
Oh, I was well aware that he was founder of the handsome Judah I. Magnes Museum on Russell Street and created the Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks—Jewish Gold Rush Cemeteries in the California Mother Lode.
But I had absolutely no knowledge of his other accomplishments until I read his obituary in the morning newspapers, which made my jaw drop over his involvement in organizations such as Lehrhaus Judaica, the Jewish Film Festival, and the National Jewish Book Center, etc., etc.
The Seymour I knew was a modest, unassuming man who served on the Board of Directors at the Berkeley Town House, where he lived until his death.
Always calm and conciliatory in the midst of contentious discussions at board meetings, he brought civility and good judgment to the meetings, which doesn’t always happen at such affairs.
I learned evem more about Seymour at his memorial service, where an overflow crowd paid tribute to their friend and mentor.
It was a lighthearted service, with opening remarks by Rabbi Yoel Kahn, and a moving talk by his daughter, Mira Z. Amiras, a professor of Comparative Religion at San Jose State University. Also attending were his grandchildren, Michael Zussman and Rayna Leonora Savrosa.
Throughout the service emphasis was made of Seymour’s love of art, his lifelong collection of paintings and artifacts, which resulted in the Magnes Museum becoming the third largest Jewish Museum in North America.
He was totally dedicated to the promotion of young Jewish artists and days before his death spoke animatedly of a new show by an unknown artist.
I certainly didn’t know that, in l955, he presented a Darius Milhaud opera, David, with Milhaud conducting the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl.
Dear Seymour, if I had known what a true Renaissance man you were, I probably would have curtsied when we met in the garage. How privileged I was to have known you!