The family of Zelman Bokser is very sad to announce that Zelman died of cancer on November 30th at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. He was 67.
Zelman was the son of Sylvia and Willie Bokser and the brother of Izzy, aka Mindy, Bokser. He is survived by his wife Danny (I Ling Huang) and her son Allen (Wei Sheng Meng), who recently arrived in this country from Taiwan, as well as by Izzy.
Zelman was a brilliant, curious and quirky fellow with a kind heart. A musician by training and inclination (he had a doctorate from the Eastman School), he was a violist, a composer and a conducter.
He taught and conducted at the college level for years and then spent several years in Taiwan. He returned as a practicing Shinnyo En Buddhist active in his temple life and spent the last approximately 20 years teaching in the NYC school system. He brought violin programs to elementary schools in Bushwick and Sunset Park in Brooklyn and most recently was a music teacher and conducter at the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, which Allen currently attends.
Zelman loved travel, music, good wine, good food and good company. He was devoted to his family and was happy to attend family events – particularly if they provided the aforementioned wine, food and company. Zelman made the world a better place. He was much loved and will be missed.
Please join us to honor him with a Buddhist-Jewish tribute to his memory at Sherman's Flatbush Memorial Chapel, 1283 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11230 this Tuesday, December 4th at 11 a.m. The chapel service in Brooklyn will be followed by a graveside service in Queens at Mount Hebron Cemetery.
"You can shed tears that he is gone,
or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone,
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on."
And I totally agree about “brilliant, curious, quirky fellow, with a kind heart.”
How did I know Zelman? Very well actually. We rented a townhouse apartment for six months in Conway, Florida from November 1975 to May 1976. Conway is about 8 miles south of Orlando, Florida, and we were both members of the Florida Symphony Orchestra. (I play violin.) We got along famously, it was a great matching, and we had a lot of fun and laughs. And impact on each other.
He was an avid bird watcher, and Florida is a birders heaven. I’ve never in my life seen someone so excited to see a great blue heron... he was totally ecstatic when he saw one...
I enjoyed birdwatching as a kid, it was taught to me by my grandparents, however, life gets in the way of such interests sometimes, and he rekindled my appreciation in birdwatching. Thank you Zelman!
When we first started apartment sharing, it was a decision we both made very soon after meeting, he approached me with the idea, and I said sure....but we really didn’t know each other. We had our jobs and a love of music in common, and everything else was unknown.
So, after we moved in together we were taking a walk together and talking about things we liked, and I quickly discovered he was pretty much oblivious to pop culture. (Other than NBA basketball and the Knicks). I was a polar opposite, I was steeped in pop culture, had a few hundred rock, folk etc albums and was an avid movie fan etc.
The conversation I remember like it was yesterday to illustrate what I mean went like this: he asked me what my favorite movie was and I replied “Dr Zhivago” to which he immediately replied “Oh, I’ve never seen any of those James Bond movies!”
He had been so involved in educating himself and learning his art, that he pretty much walled himself from pop culture. To his credit, he was very open to experience the “decadent pop culture”, and by the time we parted ways, his favorite TV show was Starsky and Hutch! It was a lot of fun to show him things he had missed...
He was a curious individual indeed, and open to explore things that were out of his comfort zone.
And if I remember rightly, I think I met Izzy and parents briefly, I think they came to visit....
We lost touch after that one season was over, I moved on to play in the Winnipeg Symphony, and before internet it was harder to keep in touch. But I think back on our time together with only great memories. The world has lost a great guy, and I hurt for family and friends who must feel a very great loss. He was way too young to leave the party of life!
Bill Hassay Jr.