Holocaust survivor Samuel M. Frankel was remembered by his children as “philanthropic and generous,” as well as for his strong commitment to Jewish education organizations. A longtime Shaker Heights resident, Frankel died July 26 at age 96.
“My father’s commitment to Jewish education was really what led him … to be the main donor and person responsible for building the Cleveland Hebrew Schools’ campus out in Solon,” said Donald Frankel of Shaker Heights, one of Frankel’s sons. “Even though that wasn’t long-lived, because of just population shifts, that was a project he championed and worked for several years to raise the money and then to actually get the (Jewish) Federation (of Cleveland) to construct the facility.”
Ann Abrams of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Frankel’s oldest child, said her father, who was a longtime member of Park Synagogue. He brought stones from Jerusalem to use in the Solon campus building.
“In the building, (due to) his love for Jerusalem, he brought in Jerusalem stones to be the whole front facade of the school,” Abrams said. "He had such a strong love for Jerusalem that he said ‘this Hebrew school needs the Jerusalem stone’ and he brought it back.”
Frankel was born in Lodz, Poland, and lost his entire family in the Holocaust, including four sisters and a brother who died during liberation. He immigrated to the United States in June 1949, settling in Cleveland at the advice of the military captain who interviewed him to be admitted into the country. He met his wife, Rina, a fellow Holocaust survivor, in Israel in 1954 after visiting the country for the High Holy Days. The two became engaged within five weeks and married in Israel within two months of meeting, remaining together for 65 years until his death. Israel remained a constant fixture in Frankel’s life, as his children said he celebrated many life milestones in the country.
His youngest daughter, Sharon Koltin of Chicago, said her father considered his family “the best revenge” against the Nazis.
“I asked him, ‘Didn’t you ever really want to take revenge (for what the Nazis did?),’” Koltin said. “He said, ‘No. My best revenge is the life that I’m living and the legacy I’m going to leave behind.’ That was his revenge. A life well-led.”
Another daughter, Marilyn Oif of Beachwood, said her father didn’t begin to discuss the Holocaust until the children were older and mostly out of the house. However, when he did begin discussing what he experienced, he shared his story frequently with area schools.
“There’s a program ... called Face to Face and they bring in children through all different school systems, primarily not Jewish ones and he would speak to them,” Oif said.
Frankel was an electrical contractor and eventually started his own company, El-O Electric, that at its height employed more than 250 people. He also was highly active in the local Jewish community, serving as president of Cleveland Hebrew Schools and on the board of the Federation and the Maltz Family Foundation. He was honored with the King David Award from Israel Bonds and was committed to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where a perpetual endowment he established provides scholarships to five Ethiopian students. He also was a founder and contributed to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and he was honored to recite the Kaddish during Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration in Washington, D.C., in 2012.
Frankel is survived by his wife, Rina; children, Ann (Marc) Abrams, Marilyn (Kenneth) Oif, Steven (Dan) Frankel, Donald (Lori) Frankel, Sharon (Allan) Koltin; grandchildren, Mara Abrams, Chad (Laura) Abrams, Faren (Jimmy) Bickerstaff, Shaina (David) Leb, Alana (Sasha) Telesman, Benjamin Oif, Jack, Brian, and Julia Koltin and Marc Frankel; and great-grandchildren, Jayden and Hudson Bickerstaff, Hailey and Ivy Abrams, and Ari and Maya Leb.
Services were held July 28 at Park Synagogue East in Pepper Pike. Interment was at Bet Olam Cemetery.