F is for Franklin

I asked Eric Ross what his middle initial F signified. He responded that he adopted his middle name, Franklin, to honor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like many other refugees from Germany and elsewhere before the war, he volunteered to serve in the United States Army under its Commander in Chief, FDR. The most famous soldier in this category was Henry Kissinger, who served in U.S. intelligence, an experience which helped him later in his career.


I bring this anecdote to light because we have read of the many accolades garnered towards Eric, both for his great business acumen and philanthropic accomplishments. But, first and foremost, he loved his adopted country, which help defeat the Nazi regime that killed many members of his and his beloved wife, Lore’s family.


Like him, thousands of his contemporaries came to this country penniless, not knowing English and made ends meet by taking on menial jobs. But through his prodigious efforts, Eric built a large business, Alpha Chemicals and Plastics in Newark, which employed hundreds. After he sold his business, he dedicated the remainder of his life to philanthropy.


Eric was a conspicuous example of a “survivor” who made it big. Too often, the emphasis is made on survivor’s victimhood, rather than on the successful careers they undertook and the philanthropies they supported. Along with raising families, it was the ultimate revenge against Hitler.


Of course, Eric and Lore were great supporters of Jewish causes and efforts to help Newark. Their support for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, St. Barnabas Hospital and (within the Jewish community), UJC MetroWest Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, the Jewish Community Center and Rutgers Hillel among others was legendary.


I remember the evening Eric and Lore hosted a meeting of our Achim ($100,000 and over) UJA event, at which Charles Bronfman was the guest speaker. Charles mentioned a dream he had of sending college students for a ten-day trip to Israel as their birthright. The dream became a reality with over 250,000 having participated in this very program, supported by UJA dollars. Eric chaired the Achim Division for years, and he and Lore endowed their annual UJA gifts. Subsequently, two of the attendees at this Achim event, Leon and Toby Cooperman, endowed Birthright Israel for MetroWest.


My dear friend, Jimmy Schwarz, past president of the Federation and Solomon Schechter, was very close to Eric and Lore. He informed us of Eric’s terrible fall in Europe, which resulted in his passing.


As I reflect over the years, I feel like the character, Zelig, portrayed by Woody Allen, who had a peripatetic presence at extraordinary historical events. I was privileged to have shared those moments with Eric and Lore, whether in Florida, New Jersey, Washington D.C. or elsewhere. More recently, Gail and I were at his 91st Birthday.


He loved Temple B’nai Abraham, and the sanctuary is aptly named after Eric and Lore. I hope you will all join me in honoring the legacy of Eric Franklin Ross on October 10, 12:00 p.m., at Temple B’nai Abraham to thank him for his service to our country, our community and the Jewish people.


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