At some point during my youth I became aware that my mother’s side of the family had impressive Rabbinic roots. My grandmother Adelle’s sister, who I knew as Aunt Nettie, and her husband, Uncle Chaskel, lived in a non-descript two family home on Park Heights Avenue in Baltimore better known to the rest of the world for Pimlico Raceway than housing Nettie & Chaskel Panitz and Bub Adelle Rosenthal.
Years later, married and living in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, it dawned on me that our neighboring town, Paterson, was the home of Temple Emanuel, the pulpit of Rabbi David Panitz. It was an historic building and he was an iconic figure, and I felt embarrassed that I had never taken the opportunity to visit. I was blown away by the magnificence of the art deco structure originally funded by Jacob Fabian, one time partner of Hollywood’s Stanley Warner, by then in the 1990s a trace of its former self.
Looking skyward toward the brilliance of the stained glass dome, I was transported to an earlier time, when throngs of worshipers flocked to be inspired by Rabbi Panitz. Knowing the skill that our friend Jeffrey Packard utilized to adorn Houses of Worship with stained glass, I could only imagine the handicraft involved in creating the windows that framed the light that shone the brilliance of what once was.
These recollections resurfaced tonight when I received an email from Aunt Bunny in Baltimore about the passing of Rabbi Panitz’s brother, Bernard Panitz, born the same year as my father. Though Bernie was no lightweight when it came to Jewish communal activity, I had little idea until I read his obituary online that he attended high school at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in chemical engineering, and worked for DuPont for 41 years after serving in the U.S. Army during WWII.
The tight Yaniger Family Circle that spawned the Panitz legacy is open-looped these days, yet there are still ties that bind. The same holds true for Temple Emanuel, relocated to Franklin Lakes, NJ, but determined to graft its former grandeur onto its new self.