My father, Nathan Shor, of blessed memory, was a man of honor and respect. Every part of his life was seen through that prism. He was born in Albany, New York, but as a first generation American, his outlook was completely influenced by his European parents, grandparents, and other relatives. He lost his father when he was only 19, and had to assume many family responsibilities way before his time. He became the substitute father, even walking all four of his sisters down the aisle in place of his father at each of their weddings! Yet I never heard a word of complaint from him. If it was the respectful thing to do, he simply did it.
In addition to that, he was a great teacher. He made sure that his children understood the world he came from: the world of European Jewry transplanted here to America. He saw himself as a last remnant of that world, and he was determined to preserve it and make sure his children knew about it as well.
As I’ve shared in previous columns, Jewish music and culture were an integral part of our family. My father listened to every Jewish radio program he could find. He loved Jewish music, and would listen even to the most acid rock from Israel. If it was Jewish, he liked it!
He had a big stereo console and was always playing the latest Jewish records. We even drove toward Baltimore on Sundays so he could hear A.D. Glushakow’s Yiddish Radio Hour. Because he was in the motion picture business, he got Yiddish movies for the Hebrew Home, and because we had a 16mm sound projector at home, we had Yiddish movie night for all who wanted to come. Whenever there were Jewish entertainers or a Jewish program on TV, he made sure we saw it. With the advent of the VCR, he would tape everything Jewish and save it.
I would not have been able to sing as a choir singer or later, as a chazzan (cantor), or host a Jewish radio program without the length and breadth of knowledge that he gave me. People used to ask him, “Where did he learn to sing like that?” He would say, “From me.” There is a lot of truth in that answer. He may not have realized it but he was a great teacher. The radio program is now in its 38th year, and with the involvement of my son Benjamin, the Shor Jewish music legacy goes on mi’dor l’dor, from generation to generation. Nothing would have made my Dad prouder.
My Dad was a man of great honor and respect. Respect, he always taught me, was the most important thing in life, and no inconvenience or expediency could change that. He treated everyone the same. He revered his mother, and honored his wife and family. He never took off the sergeant’s stripes that he twice wore for this country. Our years of working together in the movie theaters brought a special closeness to our relationship.
My Dad loved stories; so, in tribute, here is one from his childhood:
Dad was born in Albany, New York. He didn’t come to Washington until he was a teenager. During the Depression, everyone in the family worked during to try to keep things afloat. Dad was about 11, selling newspapers on the trains in Albany. He would sell papers until the train whistle blew and then get off the train.
One time, he missed the whistle and the train began to move. Next stop on the line was Kingston, 60 miles south of Albany. Dad was in a panic, very upset and trying to figure out what to do.
Just at that moment, a mountain of a man asked him what was wrong. Dad told him of his predicament. “Well, first thing, let’s have a paper,” the man said. Dad gave him the paper and he gave Dad a 20 dollar bill, an immense amount of money at that time. Dad almost fainted.
Then the man said, “What’s your name, son?”
“Nate Shor,” Dad answered.
The man stuck out his hand and said, “Max Baer, heavyweight champion of the world. Nice to meet you!” Now Dad was really ready to keel over. Max Baer took Dad to the conductor and said, “This is my friend, Nate Shor. You see to it he gets back to Albany!”
Although it has been 14 years since he passed away, the impression my father left on people has not faded. Many people still speak of him with great fondness and admiration for the type of man that he was.
Recently, I ran into a old friend of his, and this friend said to me, “You know, Larry, I got to hand it to you. You were a damn good son.”
I told him that I appreciated his kind words. Knowing my father as he did, he then gave my father the compliment he would have treasured above all others. “Yes, you were” he said. “But there was nobody like your father.”
He was right. I am honored to be Nathan Shor’s only son.
T’hei nishmoso tzurur bitzrur ha chayim. May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
NEXT TIME: The Bluebird of Happiness
By Larry Shor