Remembering the Flame of David Pincus



Editor's Note: David N. Pincus passed away last week at the age of 85 after a long bout with leukemia. He was the retired chairman of Pincus Bros.-Maxwell, a clothing manufacturer. His funeral service was held on Friday, Dec. 23, at Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El. The following is part of the eulogy by his rabbi.

I met David Pincus as a congregant, over 20 years ago. As I said goodbye to him, I mourned the loss of a close, personal friend. David passed away on Dec. 21, the first day of Chanukah.

Although each night of Chanukah commemorates part of the miracle of the holiday, there is something special about the first candle. The first candle is the one that pierces the darkness. Think of the power of a single flame, a flame which in its simplicity and beauty dances gently, illuminating the path before us, drawing people together in the darkness, providing a modicum of warmth, just a bit. A single candle is all it takes to remind us that there can be beauty, light and warmth even where there is darkness. David's life can be likened to the light of the first candle, the one that dispels so much of the darkness.

To speak of the life of David Pincus is to speak of a wide range of causes and projects. He had a love of art, an eye for greatness before others could see it. His art collection is the envy of museums and collectors throughout the world. His philanthropic work extended throughout the world. He helped establish clinics in Harlem for children with AIDS, as he did for children in South Africa and in the Dominican Republic. Locally, David brought joy to children through funding the refurbishment of the Smith Playground in Fairmount Park and built a playground located near the corner of Christian and 15th Sts. in South Philadelphia.

For many years David has provided the motivation, resources and energy for a project, started by his brother Nathan, originally called "The Rabbi's Fund," now called "The Pincus Fund."

The Pincus Fund has become an important source of support for dozens of soup kitchens throughout the greater Philadelphia area. These kitchens, located in churches and recreation centers, are run by the unsung and selfless heroes who take upon themselves the responsibility to nourish and care for the underclass, those whom the rest of us might prefer not to think about.

Despite David's worldly perspective, he was a deeply committed Jew and Zionist. Although he thrived on reaching out to all kinds of children of the world, Jewish children always occupied a central part of his being. Early on in our acquaintance, he introduced me to the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled. Through David, I and many others have established ongoing relationships with that remarkable rehabilitation center, which proudly displays the Pincus name on many of its buildings.

Finally, there was Penn State Hillel. Motivated by his love of Penn State (class of '48) and his concern for Jewish students on campus, David purchased property in a prime location in State College for a new Hillel building. It was David's fervent hope that he would live to see the impressive building that we shall surely build. Sadly it was not to be.

The flame in the life of David Pincus has gone out but that flame has left an indelible impression upon all who knew him. David showed us how to extend a hand to those who needed our help, to illumine a path of healing and help. David reminded us that we, too, can use our lives as one would use a candle, to bring warmth and light and smiles and joy to a world too often dominated by darkness. u



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