THE BOSS AND GRANDMA BEE
by Joshua M. Sklare
Irving and Rebecca Sklare were for me the standard bearers of goodness. I doubt that they had thought a great deal about the matter during the course of their lives. They were too busy doing good to ponder its theological and philosophical underpinnings. To them, goodness was like breathing air, something they did naturally and without much fanfare.
Irving Sklare (1893–1976) was known by many, including his three sons, as the Boss. And with deference to both George Steinbrenner and Bruce Springsteen, he more than deserved the title. It is true that the moniker developed naturally enough from his position at the Lippman Lumber Company, where he was the manager with direct authority over the eight or ten men who worked there. It is not unusual, particularly in the American South, to refer to one’s work supervisor by that name, but it was not strictly because of the power he wielded that people called him the Boss; the moral authority that he commanded was what made the title such a good fit.
Irving Sklare did not start life out destined to be a boss. In fact, from his humble origins on Chicago’s West Side, it seemed an unlikely possibility. He was the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who had arrived in America only a year and a half before his birth. His father, Abraham Sklare, was a physically imposing and deeply religious man who struggled to earn a living throughout his entire life. His mother, Toby Gruzd Sklare, came from a small town in north central Lithuania. Irving was very attached to her his entire life. Their home was sparse in physical and material comforts but rich in the Jewish ethical tradition in which Abraham and Toby Sklare had been steeped.