May 29, 2024
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Rabbi Alvin Marcus, zt”l

The following is an excerpt from a Facebook tribute to the late Rabbi Alvin Marcus, zt”l, reprinted with the author’s permission.

Rabbi Alvin Marcus passed away recently at age 93. I will remember him as a gentle person with strong convictions, who led in a pleasant manner. Rabbi Marcus helped me edit my bar mitzvah speech and although he offered some modest suggestions, if my memories are correct, he didn’t stop to lecture me or go off on any tangents, a somewhat unusual feat for a pulpit rabbi or Jewish man in general. Despite being the rabbi of a large synagogue, he always seemed approachable even to a braces-wearing, somewhat awkward adolescent like me.

As an adolescent in my formative years, I saw that Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, FFBs and ba’alei teshuva, university professors and the kiddush club, teenagers and retired pulpit rabbis all coexisted under one roof at AABJ&D, fueled by C&C Cola, sheet cake and kugel. I’d often walk a mile and a half to AABJ&D on Shabbat, even though there was a minyan in a house a block away from me.

The late Alvin Marcus was born and raised in Union City, New Jersey. His father, Saul, was born in Iasi, Romania, immigrated to the U.S. in 1900 and was a plumber who owned a store called the West Hoboken Plumbing Supply Store. His mother, Sarah, was born in Czarist Russia.

A graduate of Yeshiva College and RIETS, Rabbi Marcus first appears in print as the rabbi of the newly formed Temple of Atlantic Beach (now Jewish Center), an Orthodox synagogue.

Two years later, he moved to Buffalo, where he was the rabbi at Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz, a synagogue that had just moved to Buffalo. In the words of a local historian, “At just 24 years of age, married and with an infant son when he arrived in North Buffalo, he brought a youthful dimension to his position at the Orthodox shul where services were traditional and conducted mainly in Hebrew.” Rabbi Marcus would respectfully work with rabbis from other denominations when appropriate.

Rabbi Marcus’ congregants included the Blitzer family, Holocaust survivors from Poland. David Blitzer, a survivor of Auschwitz, ran a deli two blocks from Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz, and Rabbi Marcus taught his son, Wolf, his bar mitzvah portion.

Rabbi Marcus was a moderate person, though not afraid to speak up for his beliefs. He was a peaceful man, an “Ish Naim Halichot.” However, when Oswald Mosley, a unrepentant English fascist and Nazi collaborator came to Buffalo, Rabbi Marcus joined a community initiative to vocally protest Mosley’s speech.

When Mosley came to the University of Buffalo on September 26 (two days before Rosh Hashanah), he was met by a protest of over 2,000 participants, led by 500 students and members of six synagogues, including many Holocaust survivors. Rabbi Marcus was included in this group.

Rabbi Marcus was quoted by the United Press International as saying, “200 persons in the group were victims of Nazism who served in the German concentration camps.” I don’t think it’s accidental that the quote from Rabbi Marcus wasn’t about his feelings or a dramatic statement, but about the Holocaust survivors who were there.

By 1965, Marcus was rabbi at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus, but moved in 1968 to a growing synagogue in West Orange known as Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David (AABJ&D). For the next two decades, Rabbi Hershel Cohen served as the rabbi emeritus and Rabbi Marcus as head rabbi. In the 1970s, as families left Newark and moved from New York City to the suburbs, the area began to thrive. “They were looking for an Orthodox community and they found us,” he said.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.


David Druce spent his adolescence in West Orange. A graduate of Yeshiva University and Bard College, he is a high school history teacher who has taught in urban schools in New York and Cleveland.

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