At a 2006 90th birthday party and musicale, Jerry Ben-Asher celebrates with his wife, Nessa.
Photo courtesy Bob Cowen
May 29, 2008
Jerry Ben-Asher, who for 36 years wrote “Music Notes,” his New Jersey Jewish News column offering reviews of orchestral and chamber music concerts, died Sunday. He was 91.
Ben-Asher, of Short Hills, led numerous organizations devoted to cultural and Jewish interests, including groups centered on his greatest passion, music.
At a 90th birthday celebration and gathering of the Livingston Music Group — which he had founded and chaired for 50 years — he was lauded for his tireless dedication to spreading appreciation and love of classical music to a wide circle of friends and members of the group, which regularly meets to hear and discuss performances of notable musicians.
Israeli pianist Orli Shaham, the featured performer at that fall 2006 musicale in honor of Ben-Asher, played a musical tribute to the guest of honor.
“For close to four decades, our readers have delighted in and learned from Jerry’s insightful and informed reviews,” NJJN managing editor Abby Meth Kanter said this week. “With his depth of understanding and highly refined sensibilities, his columns showcased a profound knowledge of music, composers, and performers in a manner that was accessible and full of feeling.”
Members of the Livingston Music Group, said Kanter, regarded Ben-Asher as a master teacher and mentor who for half a century guided them and arranged — with his wife, Nessa — for opportunities to hear and explore the finest music played by accomplished musicians.
A founding member of the board of directors of two music schools — the Suburban Community Music Center and the Newark Community School for the Arts — Ben-Asher was also a member for 10 years of the board of trustees of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
Gifted with a strong and beautiful baritone voice, Ben-Asher was a former member of the Masterwork Chorus, with which he sang Handel’s “Messiah” and other masterpieces in Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. In his youth, he was a French horn scholarship student of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
A former president of the Jewish Education Association of MetroWest, he was one of the founders of the Suburban YM-YWHA and JCC MetroWest, chairing their arts committees and serving on their boards of directors for more than 40 years. He also was a founder of Bet Yeled School, a former non-congregational cooperative Hebrew school in Newark.
He was employed for more than 60 years as a chemical consultant by West Penetone Inc. Before joining Penetone, he was a union organizer during the Depression.
Born in Jersey City, he later lived in Newark, Union, and Livingston. He graduated from Rutgers University and later studied history at Columbia University’s graduate school.
His wife, a child theater star, was born in Poland and survived the Warsaw Ghetto. They met at a concert at the West Orange YM-YWHA, and were married in 1968.
In addition to his wife, Nessa Sylvia Zakrzewski Ben-Asher; he is survived by four sons and their wives, David Ben-Asher and Sandra Dick of South Orange, Daniel and Michele Ben-Asher of Lawrenceville, Jonathan Ben-Asher and Barbara Quackenbos of Maplewood, and Alex and Renee Zakrzewski of Los Angeles; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his first wife, Florence Ben-Asher.
Services were held May 27 with arrangements by Menorah Chapels at Millburn, Union.
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