Helping Others Make the Connections that Inspired Him
Herb Druker always felt a deep, passionate connection to the cultural aspects of Jewishness, even without a strong tie to Jewish religious traditions. That dichotomy not only shaped his relationship to Judaism, but also helped foster his love of the Yiddish Book Center.
“I had a strong Jewish identity as a child,” Herb recalls, “especially to the music. That had a tremendous impact on me. So there was always that contrast, in terms of not feeling the need to go to services, yet feeling intensely Jewish throughout my life.”
While growing up in Brooklyn, his views were oftentimes in contrast to other members of his family.
It wasn’t until he met his wife, Dorothy, that Herb began to adapt his connection to Jewish culture to her orthodox background.
“Joining a synagogue was important to Dorothy, and so I went there on all the High Holy Days,” he says. “I had been bar mitzvahed, so I could follow most of what was being said, but Dorothy didn’t insist that I follow the rituals. I appreciated that a lot.”
Herb’s interest in Jewishness continued to have a profound impact on his life as he grew older. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, he listened to radio broadcasts of services by Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin from Congregation Keneseth Israel outside of Philadelphia. As non-religious as he was, he found the sermons to be “intellectually magnificent,” and appreciated the history and culture of what he heard.
He had a similar experience when he first visited the Yiddish Book Center—discovering the same powerful connection to Yiddish and modern Jewish culture that he had always been drawn to as a child. Yidstock, the Center’s yearly festival of new Yiddish music, in particular has kept Herb coming back to the Center after Dorothy’s death, now with his partner, Carol Raspler.
“There’s something in the music that reaches inside of me,” he says. “It’s like coming home in that sense. I have a real sense of something so familiar.”
It was in that spirit that Herb made a donation to fund the Center’s new—and much-needed—sound and projection system by means of an IRA Charitable Rollover which counted towards his required minimum distribution (RMD) and was tax-free. That he could both honor Dorothy’s memory and ensure that everyone can experience the same cultural programs that have inspired him felt like the perfect way to come full circle. Little did he know, however, that other connections existed.
“My father actually met my mother up here in Springfield or Amherst,” Herb says with a smile. “Carol—she’s quite the genealogist—helped me find that out by looking through city directories. So coming back here,
it literally does feel like I’m coming home.”
For information on how you can establish a named fund at the Yiddish Book Center, please contact Zvi Jankelowitz at [email protected] or 413-256-4900, ext. 117.
From Kvel, the development newsletter of the Yiddish Book Center (Fall 2017)