Thank you for the cover story on Simon Konover, zt”l (“Simon Konover: 1922-2015,” Oct. 30, 2015). As your reportage well documents, Simon saw his personal success as a stepping stone for bettering society. Though his life merits a volume rather than just pages, you aptly placed the emphasis where he would have wanted it: on his deeds of loving kindness.
With several others in Greater Hartford and beyond, Simon redefined philanthropy. He was an activist, always personally available, willing to act as well as to give, to apply the incisive intellect that had made him successful in business to altruistic enterprises. He leavened each project with humor.
During the years I was privileged to direct the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies (1986-1998), Simon often hosted the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Visitors, a group of visionary leaders who regularly transformed ideas into reality. Substance, however, was never synonymous with solemnity. Each meeting was leavened with Simon’s wry, self-deprecating wit, a quality that gave every goal human warmth and meaning. Simon, of course, had known the nadir of humanity, but his demeanor reflected the happiness that life can give and the pleasure that comes with making other people’s lives joyful.
Some who read this letter may be surprised by the abbreviation zt”l after Simon’s name. It is no mistake. The acronym stands for “zekher tsadik livracha,” (may the memory of a righteous [tsadik] be for a blessing). The phrase is commonly reserved for a deceased rabbinic scholar of exceptional learning and piety, but Maimonides defines a tsadik as one whose merit surpasses his faults (Mishneh Torah, Sefer Madda, Laws of Repentance 3:1). By his constant commitment to his fellow human beings, Simon Konover met and far exceeded that definition. The Talmud says that the departed righteous are accounted alive (TB Berakot 18a). Simon’s legacy of caring for others and the infectious joy he felt in living stand as beacons in our world and continue his life through all who knew him and those as yet unborn who will benefit from his deeds and his example.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Ph.D.
Jonathan Rosenbaum is president emeritus and professor emeritus of Jewish Studies, Gratz College in Elkins Park, Pa.