100th birthday. birthdays

B’nai Moshe to celebrate members’ big birthdays.

Most weekday evenings and Shabbat mornings, Congregation B’nai Moshe can count on Hyman Fox of West Bloomfield and Zoli Rubin of Walled Lake to help make a minyan.

This summer, as the two reach the milestone of turning 100 years old, B’nai Moshe has planned a party for them on Sunday, Aug. 12. The congregation will toast the centenarians with a full sit-down dinner, a one-man band, a slide- show tribute and other surprises.

“We have a unique situation here of having not one but two dedicated congregants turning 100 in the same summer,” said Henry Averbuch of Bloomfield Hills, who organized the party with a few other synagogue members. “We wanted to recognize them and celebrate their lives and show appreciation to these two men who have, for years, been so dedicated to our daily minyan.”

Rubin, who was born June 2, 1918, said, “I’m hoping I hear some good dance music, like the kind I danced to with my [late] wife Agi.”

When it comes to their longevity, Rubin and Fox, who still both drive themselves to shul, chalk it up to luck, eating well, long, happy marriages and staying involved in congregational life. Over the decades, they have seen many changes to the Jewish community: the consolidation of synagogues — Fox belonged to Beth Achim and Adat Shalom before joining B’nai Moshe — and the inclusion of women in ritual congregational life.

“I don’t mind the women [counting] at minyan,” Rubin said. “Sometimes I think they know more than the men do.”

Hyman Fox
Hyman Fox

Fox, a retired accountant born in Philadelphia Aug. 19, 1918, is a World War II veteran who served in France and Germany. He attributes his long life to plain luck and good genes.

“Maybe it is the fact that for 30 years my wife [Rose] and I stuck to a vegetarian diet,” said Fox, a retired accountant. “Nowadays, I eat meat once in a while and I eat chicken. Or maybe my luck of living this long is in my genes, as my brothers lived until their late 80s or early 90s.”

Fox spoke fondly of Rose, who passed away in 2010 after 63 years of marriage.

“We had a wonderful family life and marriage,” he said. “We were very compatible, and we did everything well together, including arguing.”

They had two children, Mayer and their late son Aaron, who died of cancer at age 26. Aaron had once been a youth adviser at the now-defunct Congregation Beth Aaron. Mayer was an anti-aircraft fighter in the Israeli Air Force. Mayer’s daughter Eryn, named for Aaron, just completed her second year of medical school in Israel and will do her residency in the U.S.

Now retired from his accounting practice, Fox still lives on his own. He says he has kept up with his computer skills but admits “my cell phone gives me trouble.”

Agatha Katz and Zoli Rubin, both Holocaust survivors, met at a party in Detroit after World War II. In those first post-war years, Rubin said finding work was difficult but he eventually found a job at Midwest Woolen Co. on Randolph Street. When the store needed a cashier, Rubin told his boss about Agi and she was hired. The couple were married in 1951.

They had three children: Vicki, Amy and Randy, who died at age 51 in 2016. Rubin has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Zoli Rubin
Zoli Rubin

Rubin attributes his long life to a promise he made to himself during the Holocaust “to defeat Hitler by living.” He also lives healthfully, not drinking or smoking. He said he only tried cigarettes once in his life, picking up a cigarette butt off the streets in his native Kapusany, Czechoslovakia, at age 10.

“My father caught me with the cigarette, and that was the end of that,” said Rubin, the youngest of 11 children. “I never smoked again after that.”

Ironically, cigarettes kept Rubin alive during a death march. He carried a box of cigarettes, tossing them at SS soldiers to keep them from paying attention to him as he walked back into the crowd of marching prisoners.

In his testimony given to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Rubin said he lost 70 members of his extended family. Fortunately, he was able to salvage a family photo album and bring it to America. The album’s photos are in excellent condition and contain portraits of his parents and siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

“Even though I went through so many troubled times,” Rubin said, “I promised I would stay alive and I guess that worked for me.”

To join the 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, birthday celebration and dinner at B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield, call (248) 788-0600.

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Stacy Gittleman is an award-winning journalist and has been a contributing writer for the Detroit Jewish News for the last five years. Prior to moving to Metro Detroit in 2013, she was a columnist and feature writer for Gannett's Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY. She also manages social media pages for other local non-profit organizations including the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. Contact her with breaking news and feature story ideas that impact Detroit's Jewish community at stacy.gittleman@yahoo.com