Today is my grandfather’s 101st birthday. Abdo Sultan was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York on April 5, 1920. His parents immigrated from Syria and lived in poverty during his childhood. He used to sell ties on the subways to make money. Eventually, he started his own retail stores in New York and moved with his wife and 5 children to Midwood, Brooklyn. He was a founder of Beth Torah Synagogue and Sephardic Bikur Holim in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, instead of celebrating with him, we are mourning his loss on the first day of shiva for his passing. Even without him here, we are celebrating his life: his close bonds with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren; his founding of community institutions that flourished under his leadership; his 67-year romance with the love of his life, my grandmother; and most of all, the lessons of perseverance and appreciation of life each and every day since she passed.

One of Grandpa’s favorite stories is how, 60 years ago, he had to knock on neighbors’ doors to get the requisite 10 men to make a minyan on the Sabbath. Today, that same synagogue has members numbering in the thousands. His biggest regret before he died was being unable to attend synagogue during the pandemic. “Is it open yet?” he would ask every day to his visitors. He loved to pray with his congregation. Today, and always, we will pray for him. May his memory be a blessing.

Source: Gitta Kaplan