On March 1, 2017, the third day of Adar, the world lost a special soul. Mr. Chaim Silber, known to many by his nickname Lobo, was niftar at the age of 70 after a yearlong illness. As we enter the month of Adar, when our simcha is supposed to be multiplied, we find ourselves mourning the loss of a giant of a man who brought simcha to so many people. A thousand people turned up to give final kavod to Chaim ben Klonimus Kalman, z”l.
Mr. Silber was born in New York and grew up in Crown Heights, attending Yeshiva Torah Vodaath through high school and then Brooklyn College. While attending the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, Mr. Silber was impressed with the IBM Pavilion, and after graduating college a few years later, he presented himself to the IBM offices in New York, applied for a job and was hired. After a few years, he went out on his own and founded HIS Equipment Marketing Co., which became a very profitable computer-leasing company. But his most successful enterprise was The Chaim Foundation.
While eulogizing Mr. Silber, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss stated that when generations to come look back on the second half of the 20th and the first half of the 21st centuries, one of the great people who will be studied will be Chaim Silber for all the extraordinary acts of chesed he did for others in need. Rabbi Weiss said that no one will ever know the number of widows that Mr. Silber gave a stipend to, or the number of sick people whom he helped with medical costs. As Mike Dube, of Sharing Seats, an organization that supplies sports and theater tickets to medically challenged individuals, said, “Mr. Silber was not only a giver of his resources, but also of his time. He never had an excuse as to why he could not do something. The most inspiring thing about him is the way he did it. This man was living his heaven on earth every time he was able to give.” Mike Dube is dedicating the next five Sharing Seats requests in Mr. Silber’s memory.
Jack Rudman of Teaneck, a close friend of Mr. Silber for over 50 years, and the one who gave him his nickname Lobo, due to his ferociousness on the basketball court, told the following story he heard during a shiva call. A gentleman from Montreal came to be menachem avel the Silber family and related this personal story. He and Mr. Silber had been classmates in elementary school, but had not been in contact for over 50 years. Five years prior, the man’s wife had become ill and came to New York for treatment. This gentleman had exhausted his own savings, and had heard that Mr. Silber might be able to help. He called him on a Friday. Mr. Silber told his old friend that he should feel as if someone is holding his hand through Shabbos, and immediately after Shabbos was over he would do whatever he could to help. He did.
Mr. Silber founded the Lobos softball team of Greentree Acres Bungalow Colony in the Catskills, part of the popular summer Orthodox Bungalow Baseball League. His team famously won many championships over the years. This led him to sponsoring teams in many sports leagues in the United States and Israel. Over the years he gave out thousands of Team Lobos shirts, hats, golf balls and toys to anyone who came to his bungalow. He especially loved putting a smile on the young children’s faces, telling each child to wear their Lobos hat and shirt proudly. And they did. A good friend and long-time resident of Greentree Acres explained, “When my kids, and now my grandchildren, came to visit the bungalow, the first thing they would do was run to visit Lobo.” On Sunday mornings during the summer, Mr. Silber could be found on the softball field, managing his beloved Lobos. The highlight of each Sunday was when the ice cream truck Mr. Silber had hired drove up. All the children, players from both teams, and even the umpire would enjoy the frozen delights, courtesy of Mr. Silber. He knew he was making memories for these children.
Mr. Chaim Fortgang, Mr. Silber’s friend since childhood, said in his eulogy that “Mr. Silber was CEO of a corporation that had many employees, none of whom are engaged in commercial activities. In addition to giving massive amounts of money to every conceivable Jewish charity, this enterprise functions as the last bastion of hope for lonely, desperate, sick, frail and needy. Mr. Silber had a special “payroll” for those people who were out of work and needed help, and this “payroll” grew and grew. Someone who was sick and needed a doctor, or help with a transplant, was assured they had come to the right place, and of course these people were put on that special “payroll“ as well. This chesed conglomerate that Mr. Silber ran provided its services in the most compassionate and giving way. Mr. Silber understood that beyond money, people in need have to know and understand that someone cares about them, and that someone is there for them to treat them with respect and dignity and like family.”
Mr. Silber, true to his name, Chaim, celebrated life with joy unparalleled. He spent most evenings each week at the many weddings to which he was invited, and could always be found adjacent to the chupah basking in the happiness of the young couple, and on the dance floor celebrating with his trademark Lobo dance. He was known to spend all day Friday each week calling many, many people to wish them each a Good Shabbos and inquire as to their well-being. His concern for his fellow man knew no bounds. He always would emphasize to young and old alike the importance of always taking the high road and making a Kiddush Hashem wherever one could be found. He left behind his signature Lobo cap and wore his black yarmulka to his chemo treatments for that very reason, so everyone would see how an Orthodox Jew behaves with dignity, compassion for his fellow patients in treatment and gratitude to the staff and caregivers.
He leaves behind his mother, Mrs. Rachel Silber, his beloved wife, Eva, his children Dani and Malkie, Esther and Sasha, Cookie and Nathan, 10 grandchildren, two brothers and scores of heartbroken friends around the world. Yehi zichro baruch.
By Bonnie Eizikovitz and Micah Kaufman