Category Archives: Honorable Mentschen

Jack Twyman is Dead by Harvey Braunstein

Jack Twyman died this week.

(He could shoot the basketball onetwothreefourfive….

….and how do you like your browneyed boy now, Mr Death).

Only now am I remembering and beginning to understand the words of the poet, eecummings, which I read so long ago.

Jack Twyman was 78, I thought he was older.

I am old enough to remember him in short shorts in black & white.

He played for the Rochester Royals of the NBA in its early days.

One day in March, 1958 his teammate, Maurice Stokes, in reaching for the ball, went over the head of one the Minneapolis Lakers.

He landed on his head, finished the game and days later went into a coma.

He never truly recovered.

His brain was damaged.

Jack Twyman took care of him.

Not like a teammate, but rather like a brother.

In fact, Jack Twyman defined, or rather redefined just what brotherhood ought to be.

The NBA in those days was its own Club of Men.

There was the Boston Celtics’ Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.

There was the NY Knicks’ Carl Braun and Sweetwater Clifton

There was the Fort Wayne Pistons’ George Yardley

There was the St Louis Hawks’ Bob Petit and Cliff Hagan

There was the Syracuse Nationals Dolph Schayes and Al Bianchi

There was the Minneapolis Lakers’ George Mikan and Slater Martin

There was the Philadelphia Warriors’ Paul Arizin and Tom Gola

And of course, Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes of the Rochester Royals.

They and others were the basketball heroes of my childhood.

But what defined Brotherhood and separated it so distinctly and permanently from a simple Club of Men was the ethic and the actions of Jack Twyman.

He cared for Maurice Stokes in every way he could until he passed away in 1970.

By which time Maurice was finally , finally, able to communicate to his “brother Jack” by typing the words,    ” Dear Jack, how can I ever thank you.”

When I was a senior in college, one of my roommates, Don Paige from Detroit, told me, “Friendship is finding 6 men to carry your coffin.”

Funny isn’t it, what you remember of your four years in college.

The more time I spend with the FJMC, the more I discover and am reinforced by the reality, for me in any case, that Brotherhood has increasingly less to do with Jewish Men in Jewish Life.

Rather it has to do with finding those elusive 6 men and forging strong and unbreakable bonds with them.

And if the day ever comes when I will need a Jack Twyman in my life, then I will know who to call and who will come.

And the reverse will also be true.


Filed under Hearing Men's Voices, Honorable Mentschen

No Time for Hospitals? by Harvey Braunstein

Recently, while visiting White Plains Hospital, I became aware of the fact that an individual can no longer simply “visit the sick” without information about a specific individual that you are visiting. For instance, if you are going to visit, say, your own synagogue’s congregants; members of your community who are ill, you will not get that list.

HIPPA regulations (health privacy) have changed things.

You need to register as a “Bikkur Cholim” group. To my knowledge, our synagogue for instance,  does not have such a group or such an initiative.

I recently ran into someone who used to be a congregant at my shul  (Westchester Jewish Center). “You haven’t seen me because we are no longer members. We haven’t been members for 2 years now.” “Why,” I asked. “Because when I was sick in a hospital in Manhattan, the rabbi never came to see me. The reality is that people who are sick and are not visited by their rabbi feel cheated and devalued. And they never talk about it. They just either drop out of the synagogue and synagogue activities or, one day, they simply leave. Unfortunately, particularly in a large metropolitan area, the Rabbi can’t be everywhere, and more importantly, can’t visit if they don’t know that you are hospitalized and where

We as laymen are not substitutes for Rabbinical Comfort.

But that shouldn’t stop us from visiting the sick. With a little effort we, too, could create a recognized Bikkur Cholim group. With a bit more effort, we could remind our own people that THIS is a part of what Brotherhood does and represents.

There are a few questions here:

1.How have you approached the challenge of visiting the sick.

2.What do you want your club to do and be that adds legitimate value to both your life and the lives of your congregant family.

3.What do you want your FJMC to do and be that will both supplement your ability as an individual and as a Brotherhood to make a difference in the life of your community and your sense of what is the right thing to do (that isn’t being done).

4.If you were asked by your Brotherhood to be a part of a Bikkur Cholim team that visits sick people that you don’t know, would you say, “Yes, I will.”


Filed under Honorable Mentschen

Stepping up to the Plate by Rabbi Charles Simon

What do you think about when you hear someone described as “a mentsch”? I immediately think of one who is respected in the community, who does good deeds, upholds the values of his family and his people and so on. Yet there is one crucial aspect of being “a mentsch” that I think is often overlooked and that is his ability and willingness to reach out and be available to others as a mentor.

Many times when people speak about the rabbi in their community, they refer to them “my rabbi” or sometimes as “my spiritual mentor.”  It doesn’t matter if they belong to a synagogue, once belonged to a synagogue or if the rabbi in question doesn’t have or desire a synagogue; people still ask the same question. “Would you be my rabbi? Would you be my mentor?” There are indeed times when everyone needs a mentor. Continue reading


Filed under Hearing Men's Voices, Honorable Mentschen

You Have Probably Never Met Anyone Like Me by Jacob Artson

You have probably never met anyone like me who can’t speak but can communicate by typing on the computer.  I am an example of how someone can be impaired in one area but have great strengths in another.  That is true of most people, but it is true in the extreme about people with autism.

When I was diagnosed at age 3, I couldn’t speak or move my body properly, and 15 years later I am still extremely impaired in both areas.  But if success is measured by being a mensch and helping make this world a better place, then I would classify myself as a success.  You can be the judges.

When I turned 6, my family moved to LA in search of opportunities for me.  Our journey took us to many purported experts, but they all saw me as merely my extremely impaired verbal and motor abilities and assumed my cognitive abilities must be similarly nonexistent.   After several months, me and my parents came to the last place on our list — the “autism doctor.”  I am not really sure what I was expecting,  but Dr. Ricki looked nothing like I expected.  She wore a fashionable sweater with a colorful necklace.  But mostly I noticed her smile.  I had been to so many doctors at that point I couldn’t even remember all their names or specialties.  But not one had ever smiled at me like Dr. Ricki.  She kept smiling, watching and waiting for me.  For the first time in my life, I was able to smile back. Continue reading


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An Honorable Mentsch by Stan Greenspan

There are some men whom you encounter as a child who have a tangible impact on your life that you never forget. Hillel Diamond was this man in my life and the lives of many boys in who came of age during the 1960s in Toronto. Continue reading


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My Little Brother by Ken Turkewitz

I did something a little unusual today.  I spoke to my little brother for the first time in about 16 years.  Well, maybe it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.

The story starts when I was 22, just about to graduate from college.  Following in the footsteps of my older brother, I signed up with the local Big Brothers Association.  (I didn’t know at the time that there was a Jewish Big Brothers.  By the time I got through being qualified as a Big Brother, I wasn’t prepared to go back to square one to start over with the Jewish group.)

I met Bobby when he was seven years old.  As with most Little Brothers Continue reading


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Mundelein Man Becomes Fitness Trainer At 80

By BURT CONSTABLE (reprinted with permission from the Daily Herald)

This column is supposed to be about how Mundelein’s Burton Fischman earned his certification as a professional fitness trainer at age 80 and now is teaching a fitness class at Vernon Hills High School. That’s admirable and inspiring and all that, but there is so much more to this guy’s life.

Fischman had a career as a distinguished college English professor with master’s and doctorate degrees. His basement office and library boast plaques from his peers at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., several teaching awards, heartfelt presents from students and the grave rubbings from the final resting place of Mr. and Mrs. William Shakespeare. So you’re thinking maybe he’s a tad bookish, perhaps even nerdy. Continue reading


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