April 17, 2024
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Remembering Irving Borenstein, z”l

Irving Borenstein passed away peacefully in the early morning of April 2, 2020, at the chronological age of 95, but the biological age of 40. The cause of Irving “Srulka’s” death was congestive heart failure, from which he had been suffering since January 2020. Irving’s life history is a paradigm for the American Jewish experience in the United States from the pre-WWII era to this date. Irving was born to Polish immigrant parents, Abraham and Shayndl Borenstein, in the then-Jewish Brownsville section of Brooklyn on September 9, 1924. Irving’s father died when he was just 15 years old, and that made Irving a full-time operator of the family grocery store. But even with that pressure, as a teen Irving was an activist Zionist and advocated Jewish Palestine as the Jewish national homeland.

At 17, with the rise of the scourge of Nazism in Germany, Irving successfully lied about his age and joined the U.S. Army. Irving was assigned to artillery, and was seriously injured in France and remained a member of the Disabled American Veterans for his entire life. But, his injuries did not deter him. At age 22, Irving was in a unit that liberated his soon wife-to-be, and as the only Yiddish speaker in his unit, he came to work in and manage a 60,000 person displaced persons camp. It was there that he met Miriam Hoffman, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp who lost her mother to the gas chambers. Irving and Miriam were civilly married in Germany in 1946, but under their Orthodox Jewish tradition, lived apart until they were religiously married by Irving’s brother-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Weiss, in Brooklyn. Irving, fondly known as “Red” immediately opened hardware and house furnishing stores in Williamsburg and Boro Park called Tiv Tov Stores. Tiv Tov was the first store in the United States to have a mikvah for dishes inside the store and approved by the local rabbi, known as the Satmar Rebbe. Irving and Miriam had 3 children, Hindy, Avi and Dovie. Dovie was tragically stricken with familial dysautonomia, and despite the extraordinary love and attention showered on Dovie by his parents and siblings, he passed away at the age of 35 in 1990. After five years in Williamsburg, Irving and Miriam moved to a two family house in Sheepshead Bay. In 1960, the Borensteins moved to a new area being developed in Brooklyn, Mill Basin, where Miriam still lives at age 97. In 1981, At age 56, Irving “retired” from Tiv Tov and became a matriculated student at Brooklyn College, making up for his lost opportunity as a youth. He graduated Brooklyn at age 60 and entered graduate school at Wurzweiler School of Social Work (YU), and at age 62, graduated as valedictorian with a master’s degree. Aside from Tiv Tov, Irving was an active real estate investor in the New York metropolitan area and true to his nature, he was beloved and admired by his tenants. Irving was also a prolific philanthropist, as he dedicated his life to a myriad of Jewish causes, most notably Flatbush Park Jewish Center in Mill Basin where he led the shul in every major lay capacity, and familial dysautonomia research. Irving was blessed with multiple gifts. He had high intelligence, a fast and genuine wit and the ability to look at the good and bright side of every person and situation. Irving’s greatness was to take these gifts and use them for good. Irving was devoted to family, klal yisrael, his shul and indeed everyone he ever met, Jew or Gentile. And he used his gifts to empower and ennoble all the people with whom he interacted, and especially his family and beloved wife, Miriam. Irving was interred at Wellwood cemetery in West Babylon, New York, in a socially distanced graveside funeral with a minyan, on April 3, 2020. Rabbi Chaim Marcus of Springfield, New Jersey, Rabbi Yisroel Perelson of Flatbush Park Jewish Center and Rabbi Avi Weiss, Riverdale, New York, presided. Irving is survived by his wife Miriam, his children Hindy and her husband Michael, Avi and his wife Sharon, his grandchildren Assaf and Tovah and Amy, Alec and Lea and Amanda and Yonatan, and great-grandchildren, Michael, Cal, Elisha, Yehuda, Jack, Gavi and Max. Irving Borenstein was a hero. He was part of the “greatest generation.” He gave so much to so many people. The world has lost one of the greats, someone who simply is irreplaceable. Srulka/ Saba/Dad/Red will be loved and missed forever in the hearts of all who knew him. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Donations may be made to Familial Dysautonomia Foundation familialdysautonomia.org or to Flatbush Park Jewish Center www.FPJC.org.

By Avi Borenstein

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