Walter G. Wasser

In Tribute to Julius L. Lassner z”l: An Open Letter to Danièle Lassner

Our daughter, Rena, showed me the obituary notice from the Ramaz School in New York the other day. Reading the announcement about the passing of your dear husband Julius brought back wonderful memories of the times I spent with the Lassner and Gorlin families. I felt inspired to write something to commemorate Julius’ memory.

There are unique individuals who stand out as truly great men. When these giants leave us, the loss is truly palpable.

Julius Lassner was such a man.

Even though it has been more than thirty-five years since I last saw Julius, I remember him as if it was just yesterday. He was known to be a man dedicated to both his family and his community. He served the synagogue as its President, and was a respected community leader for many years. He followed in the footsteps of another equally great man, your father (his father-in-law), Boris Gorlin.

Julius was a mensch and a gentleman. He set an example for all of us to follow.  As a young man I looked up to him, and he became a role model for me. You and your parents were role models for me as well, and the influence of all of you has lasted throughout my life.

I moved into the Upper East Side community in July of 1979. I was just twenty-six years old, and single.  Julius was serving as President of Congregation Orach Chaim then, alongside the dynamic Rabbi Kenneth Hain and the Senior Rabbi Simon Langer.

The shul was nearly 100 years old, but it felt like a young place, due to  the leadership of Julius and the active participation of his extended family, which of course included your parents,  Boris and Liselotte Gorlin.

At the time I was young, inexperienced and appropriately nervous about the immense responsibilities of medical residency and fellowship at Mount Sinai. I had been in New York City for a number of years, having left my parents’ home in Maryland in 1970.

My years in New York until then had been spent at YU, Albert Einstein, and Maimonides, all places where I felt religiously quite comfortable. Mount Sinai was a different type of place entirely.  It did not offer me another cocoon of a religiously observant environment.  Mount Sinai presented many challenges for me both medically and socially.

During that challenging time Julius’ friendship, his kind smile, and his warmth towards me  really meant a lot to me. Danièle, you, and Julius extended your warm hospitality to me and to many others as well.  You invited me to your home a number of times for Shabbat.

I also have especially fond memories of your wonderful parents, Boris and Liselotte, may they rest in peace. It seems just like yesterday that I was with them, even though I know they have been gone for quite some time.

I remember going to their home for Shabbat dinners.  The family and guests would gather in the living room before dinner, for Kiddush and a few light hors d’oeuvres.  We would leisurely recount the interesting events of the week. Only after everyone had relaxed,  had eaten a few morsels, and spoken a bit would we start the formal dinner meal.

I felt very much like a בן בית  in your parents’ home. Your father Boris, who was also was a past President of the synagogue, always would drag more than one hungry young person home from shul. Your mother, of course, was the hostess extraordinaire. She graciously welcomed all guests. To top it off, she was a terrific cook and baker.

Your parents had grown up in France and their very personalities reflected their French roots. Your mother was an expert on French language and culture, and your father reflected very much his country of origin. Much of the art and objects in the home were French;  many of the wines and the liqueurs they served were French and even the recipes seemed to have a continental flavor.

They were a real team and everyone loved them!

I know that the Gorlin family members continue their family traditions wherever they are.  Now I live around the corner from Jacques and Susan Gorlin in Jerusalem.  I see Jacques every morning in shul. Seeing him reminds me of your beautiful family legacy.

In closing, I pray that the חסד and the mitzvah of community service performed by these unbelievable individuals, your husband and your parents, continue to be a source of inspiration for you and all the extended family for many years to come.

About the Author
The author is a specialist in nephrology and internal medicine and lives with his wife and family in Jerusalem.