Aharon Tuzman, who would later take the name Arnold on the shores of America, was born in the village of Zaklikow, Poland in 1915, the fourth of five sons of Symma and Mordechai Tuzman.
Determined. Resourceful. Passionately devoted to his family. These qualities were already blossoming in the eight year old who took to the streets of Zaklikow with a basket of warm zemalach—the sweet buns made in his family’s home bakery (a large oven)—to sell them and make a few groschen for his family.
After the Nazis invaded Poland, his mother, already widowed, told Arnold to flee his native village to save his life. Bribing an old farmer with two bottles of schnapps, Arnold and his brother Maier crossed the Polish Russian border buried in a hay wagon, covering their mouths so they would not scream out when Nazi border guards, wielding pitchforks as prods, stabbed the hay.
Arnold’s indomitable will to survive kept his brother and him alive in the Siberian labor camp to which they were sent as prisoners. When a call came for able-bodied men to serve in the Polish Russian army, Arnold volunteered immediately. Rising to the rank of Chief Quartermaster, he saved not only his and his brother’s lives, but also provided life-restoring supplies to countless Jewish survivors of concentration camps.
Arnold was still in uniform when on the heels of V-day, he was asked to give a ride to a beautiful young woman. Suspecting his passenger was a Jew (who did not recognize him as one), Arnold asked if she knew the Hebrew blessing recited by women upon lighting the Sabbath candles. When tears filled Esther’s eyes in response, Arnold had more than his answer. He married Esther Knobel in 1946. At the end of 1947, the two immigrated to the US, crying in each other’s arms as they passed the lady with the torch.
Unstoppable, Arnold moved from shoulder pad maker to buttonholes, to chicken farmer, door-to-door roofing and siding salesman, deliveryman for Frank’s Beverages soda and seltzer, and self-taught stock market maven on his way to becoming proprietor of the Jenkintown Window Cleaning Company. In 1961, he relocated his family from a chicken farm near Vineland, New Jersey to the Philadelphia area, where he remained a part time resident, eventually trading the cold for golfing in Pompano Beach, FL.
From his early days in the “golden land of America,” Arnold made charitable giving a priority— no matter how limited his resources. A chicken farmer with little to his name, he lined up his children just before sundown every Friday to put coins in a tzedakah pushka, a small tin box hanging on a nail on a wall. Once a month, the family emptied the box together, carefully counting the coins so Arnold would know just what to write on the check that would fly in an aerogram to an orphanage in Israel.
Over time, Arnold and Esther became devoted benefactors of Boys Town Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University, Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life, as well as countless other Jewish and non-sectarian organizations. Toward the end of his life, Arnold became particularly interested in supporting the work of interfaith organizations.
Arnold’s unwavering commitment to help others help themselves continued throughout his lifetime.
Arnold Tuzman died peacefully at Warminster Hospice of Abington Hospital on December 12, 2013, surrounded by his family chanting the sacred Sh’ma prayer as he took his final breaths. Arnold is survived by three children, nine grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
A larger than life presence in his family and friends’ lives, Arnold will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.
ARNOLD AND ESTHER TUZMAN HOLOCAUST EDUCATION FUND
To share the blessings of life and prosperity granted them was a guiding principle in Arnold and Esther’s life together. Both believed that for people to care for each other is our greatest responsibility; to give, a duty —and a joy—rooted in Jewish tradition.
In 2009, following the death of Esther, his life partner of 63 years, Arnold endowed The Esther Tuzman Holocaust Education Fund at Gratz College.
Now, upon Arnold’s death and in tribute to Arnold and Esther’s unfathomable courage, their commitment to their roots, and to “never forgetting,” the Tuzman family is proud to rename the fund, the Arnold and Esther Tuzman Holocaust Education Fund.
The Tuzman endowment serves to underwrite the costs of the Arnold and Esther Tuzman Memorial Holocaust Teach-In, a program of studies hosted by Gratz College, aimed at providing public and private school educators the tools needed to effectively incorporate Holocaust education in the classroom curriculum.
Contributions in loving memory of Arnold can be sent to the Arnold and Esther Tuzman Holocaust Education Fund, 7605 Old York Road, Melrose Park, PA 19027 or online at https://secure.gratz.edu/page/contribute/main.