Survivor, Brith Sholom Executive Sid Bari Dies at 98


Sid Bari, Holocaust survivor, former Brith Sholom Foundation executive director and 50-year-plus member of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley died on Oct. 2. He was 98.

Sid Bari, a white man with right-parted white hair wearing a suit and blue tie, is pictured smiling.
Sid Bari was described by Har Zion Temple Cantor Eliot Vogel as having an evident joie de vivre. | Courtesy of Jon Bari

Following a fall and laceration to his face, Bari suffered complications from necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection. Through an extended hospital stay and four surgeries from Aug. 18 until his death, Bari was a fighter, according to his son Jon Bari.

“As painful as the last two months have been, we’ve  chosen to focus on celebrating his amazing and remarkably long and healthy life,” Jon Bari said. “That speaks to the grit and resilience that he imparted to us by example over the years.” 

Sid Bari was no stranger to grit or resilience. He fled Nazi-occupied Hamburg, Germany in 1939 and was one of the first recipients of open-heart surgery, completed by Dr. Robert Gross, considered the father of open-heart surgery, in the early 1940s.

Born Siegfried Bari in Hamburg, Germany, on Nov. 20, 1922 to Leon Bari and Frances Belzinger, Sid Bari and his brothers Fred and William loved to play with their next-door neighbors until their neighbors joined the Hitler Youth and were no longer permitted to play with them.

Leon Bari, a traveling haberdashery salesman, was “a canary in the coal mine,” according to Jon Bari, and through his travels, was able to sense the changing tide in Europe and plan his family’s escape to the United States.

With only enough money to send half of his family overseas, Leon Bari fled with eldest son Fred Bari in 1938, leaving Sid and William Bari behind with their mother.

“The family was split up, never knowing that they would see each other again,” Jon Bari said.

Over the next year, Leon Bari saved enough money for a $10,000 bond to reunite his family in New York. Sid Bari and his brother and mother came to America on the S.S. Washington in June 1939, narrowly escaping the beginning of World War II. 

Upon his arrival in New York, Sid Bari was diagnosed with a heart murmur, which prompted his eventual surgery.

Later in life, Sid Bari returned to Europe multiple times, including to Hamburg with his family in 2005. He took them to his childhood Bornplatz Synagogue, where he became a bar mitzvah and read the entire parsha of Toldot. 

He traveled to Spain and Germany through the American Cantors Assembly, where he heard performances of Western European melodies of psalms that reminded him of his youth. 

Sid Bari (center in the blue tie) with his family | Courtesy of Jon Bari

Har Zion Temple Cantor Eliot Vogel described Sid Bari as having an evident joie de vivre, even despite his challenging childhood.

“I don’t exactly know how he made peace with it, if you ever did entirely,” Vogel said. “His answer to the Shoah was devoting his life to building the Jewish community.”

Sid Bari was not only the executive director of the Brith Sholom Foundation from 1965 to 1995, but also worked for B’nai B’rith International in New York from 1962 to 1965 and helped build a Beit Halochem center for wounded and disabled Israeli war veterans in Haifa.

A lover of culture and arts, Sid Bari and his wife of 62 years Joan Bari frequented the Temple University Association for Retired Persons, now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

“He was the big man on campus there,” Jon Bari said.

The couple loved to attend museums and theater, including trips to see the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Sid Bari also was a deeply committed grandfather. While in the hospital, he insisted upon traveling with his family to Harrisburg, where his grandson Jax, 8, was being honored for having been featured in May on a segment about celiac disease awareness on “World News Tonight with David Muir.”

Though Sid Bari was unable to make it to the event, Jon Bari was touched by his father’s effort. 

As a child, Jon Bari loved to watch the news with his father, asking him questions about politics and economics during airings of “CBS News with Walter Cronkite,” a tradition that continues with Jon Bari and Jax.

In a letter to Muir, Jax wrote, “I watch you every night on ‘World News’ with my dad, just like my dad grew up watching Walter Cronkite with his father.”

Jon Bari not only will remember his father for his commitment to his family, but also for the joy he brought them and the greater Jewish community.

“His [Hebrew] name was Simcha,” Vogel said. “There was no coincidence there.”

Sid is survived by his wife Joan Bari (née Rotter); his children Dr. Merle Bari (Honorable David Shulkin, M.D.) and Jon Bari (Leslie); and grandchildren Daniel and Jennifer Shulkin; and Lexi and Jax Bari.

[email protected]; 215-832-0741


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