Jun 30, 2004 — We are assembled to pay tribute to a deeply cherished relative, friend, co-worker and brother who has been called to his eternal reward after 82 years which means he attained and surpassed the age of Gevura – of strength and heroic achievements. That could be offered as a simple description of a truly outstanding man whose life was both complex and complete in fulfilling the noble objectives which David H. Zysman set out for himself. He achieved these on behalf of his own destiny and his role in forging the enlarged identity of the Jewish people. Born in Poland in 1922, his father named him David, which is a name described in Samuel I, Verse 18 as follows:
“I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlemite who is skillful in playing and a mighty man of valor and prudent in speech or, if you prefer, prudent in worldly affairs, and a man of good presence. And G-d is with him.”
What better description could we offer than this for our David Zysman. Indeed the name, Dovid — means beloved, an apt adjective to describe this gentleman who was a fine colleague and a genuinely cherished family member who also cared deeply about his loved ones and was always concerned about them.
The name Zysman itself, means “sweet man,” and in Hebrew the word for sweet is “Oraiv” — which can also be translated as an individual who is a “responsible” person, who feels his sense of responsibility toward others as well. It is this concept which gave rise to the adage, “We are all responsible for the well being of one another” – an attribute essential for all of us to grasp if we hope to survive as a people.
David Zysman was the typical wandering Jew in those days of WWII. As an infant nurtured in Poland while still very young, his family moved to Germany then to France, briefly to Cuba, Panama and then to Shanghai, China where he spent his teen years. Here he worked under the tutelage of the famous Khedoorie family while working in school to attain an undergraduate degree, and even a Masters degree which enabled him to secure a job as an assistant principal of the Jewish school in Shanghai. When a group of us visited Shanghai several years ago, Prof. Xiu gave me a book entitled, “The Jews of Shanghai” with David Zysman’s photograph in it when he was lecturing about that period of history when he lived there.
From Shanghai, David went to Atlanta, GA and then to Chicago. All of this made him very excited about the outlook for world Jewry when the State of Israel was established in 1948. Now the normative dreams of a young, dynamic man for the survival and flourishing of the Jewish people in a land of freedom from the kinds of tyranny they had just experienced in Europe and Asia filled him with enthusiasm.
Upon arrival in Atlanta he started working with UJA in small countries and worked up to larger posts, eventually heading up the Israel Bond communities campaign which he helped to establish together with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. He was put in charge of Chicago and later New York from which he coordinated all Israel Bond activities for some 35 years. He was dubbed with the title, “Mr. Israel Bonds” because, together with several key lay leaders, he raised billions of dollars for Israel Bonds.
David’s personal life was not all peaches and cream. He suffered the loss of a wife and a son who died at age 12. Nevertheless, he forged friendships in the community, by consecrating himself to the important tasks at hand. His vigor and passion made him a great success and it is known that he worked closely with David Ben Gurion and all his successors as prime ministers of the Jewish State – all of whom respected David’s loyalty and sincerity of purpose.
It was that kind of charisma and success that caused him to be recommended to assume the continuation of the $100 Million Campaign at YU after the banks had been paid the initial $35 Million in 17 months to save itself from bankruptcy under Dr. Lamm’s leadership along with Ludwig Jesselson, Herbert Tenzer, Ronald Stanton, and others on the YU Board of Trustees and others of us in the YU administration. In this era, he put YU on the map of higher philanthropy in the university world and we have been able to sustain the level of giving he instituted.
At his retirement, he was awarded an honorary doctorate and was further recognized by the naming of the DAVID H. ZYSMAN HALL formerly known as the Main Building – a block-long Moorish structure that is on the style of New York’s historic landmarks. In it is housed the YUHS for Boys and the main sanctuary — Lamport Auditorium, as well as the largest Bet Midrash Study Hall on the Wilf Campus. Among his great achievements at YU were the establishment of the Sy Syms School of Business, in which he played a major role.
Others spoke about the closeness of David Zysman to his family. I can only comment on his warm feelings for YU and RIETS as reflected in his will where in his own words he states, “The forgoing gifts of my residuary estate reflect my deep love for Yeshiva which has become the focal point of my talents and interest in the later years of my life.” Indeed, that love for YU was deeply engrained within his heart and mind and was warmly reciporcated. It was his foremost desire that Dr. Lamm should deliver his eulogy at his burial which will be fulfilled tomorrow in Israel at 2:00 pm at the Eretz Ahaim Cemetery in Bet Shemesh in the YU Alumni Section.
Indeed, all of the members of the Zysman family and all of us who are his close friends, can find comfort in the knowledge that whereas in David Zysman’s life he wandered from city to city – each stop was only temporary – at an ohel, a tent – a temporary dwelling.
Now his remains are laid to rest in the Holy Land, the ultimate destiny for every Jew. The fact that he himself selected the Bet Midrash and the Sanctuary of RIETS to be the place of his major remembrance at YU shows that he understood that it was no longer an ohel that he would be associated with.
RAther, his name was forever to be associated with a sanctuary – a holy place – a Bet Midrash – a holy study hall where the eternal message of our Torah and the beauty of Jewish living will be perpetuated in his “mishkan” – a permanent sanctuary. “How goodly are thy tents O Jacob — your permanent dwelling places, O Israel.” It is there that his memory will be recalled for all time to come. May his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.