Dr. Jeffrey Blum, who was as skilled at making his pediatric dental patients laugh as he was at leading Shabbat and holiday services, died Nov. 28 at the age of 59.
Hundreds of mourners from both those worlds — and more — turned out to pay tribute at his funeral on Nov. 30 at Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley, where the shul was nearly as packed as it is for the High Holidays.
His family and friends remembered him as a man who lived life with purpose, compassion and a terrific sense of humor.
His children eulogized him as a wonderful father and inspiration. And his best friend, Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman, talked of his aspirations from an early age.
“As kids, Jeff and I pretended to be rabbi and synagogue president on Shabbat mornings in my father’s study at Beth Hillel,” said Maltzman, whose father, Rabbi Marshall Maltzman, led the Wynnewood synagogue for three decades.
“After shul he would come over to our house with his toy dental kit and played dentist while I conducted funerals for dead birds. How many young boys aspire to become both a dentist and a synagogue president as an 8- or 9-year-old? Jeff knew what he wanted from life and he grabbed it.”
A graduate of Akiba Hebrew Academy, Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine who grew up in Overbrook Park, Blum indeed achieved his goals. He served as a president of Har Zion Temple but in recent years moved to Congregation Beth Am Israel, where he was a regular Shabbat-goer and frequently led portions of the weekly service as well as the concluding service for Yom Kippur.
He helped pay for his schooling by working as a Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor, playing the drums in a Jewish band and leading services as a shaliach tzibur at various synagogues.
As a dentist, “Dr Jeff” was like the Pied Piper whose ability to charm children led to a successful pediatric practice on the Main Line. His office was filled with toys and brightly colored walls painted with large and familiar characters. With his knack for imitation and funny voices, he managed to make his young patients laugh rather than cry in fear.
As Maltzman put it: “How many kids do you know who love their dentist?”
Blum, who met his wife, Cindy, at Camp Ramah, also devoted time to Dental Volunteers for Israel, where he helped deliver needed dental services for poor children in Jerusalem.
On Nov. 3, six months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and just a few weeks before his death, his family and friends raised $30,000 for “Team Dr. Jeff” at the Philadelphia Purple Stride Event for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his mother, Jean Blum; a son, Ethan Blum; daughters Abby Blum and Samantha Blum; and a brother, Rabbi Barry Blum.