Former Gural JCC Executive Director Joel Block recalled the trip that he and Dr. Mark Ramer took to Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012.
“One snowy morning, Mark woke me up because he wanted to go to synagogue,” Block wrote in a Facebook post. “We made our way through a blizzard past (as Mark would later tell it) vicious attack dogs to find the synagogue padlocked. Mark of course talked his way past security, and we joined 10 men for morning prayers. Mark was giddy, making friends with all the congregants. By the end of the service, he was treated like the revered parent who was visiting for the holidays. Everyone wanted to be near him . . . God only knows how much money he sent the synagogue when he got home. His generosity was unbounded.”
Ramer, an Atlantic Beach resident, died suddenly in Manhattan on April 9. He was 71.
His endeavors touched many, including more than 600 people who attended his funeral service at his synagogue. “The Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach mourns the untimely loss of its beloved president and dear friend, Dr. Mark Ramer,” the synagogue wrote on its website. “Mark was a true tzadik, a giant, an incredible leader and one who was beyond pious and modest. His guiding principles permeated everything he did and everything he did set an example for all of us who knew and loved him.” In Judaism, a tzadik is considered a righteous person.
Described by Block as a “people person,” Ramer was born on April 22, 1947, in Wajbych, Poland, where his parents were liberated after World War II. He was in a Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society camps in Venice, Italy, and then Haifa, Israel for three and half years before coming to the United States in 1966. Six years later he graduated from Queens College, and in 1976 from New York University’s dental school.
Fresh out of school, he was working at a Group Health Insurance dental office in Manhattan, where he spent most of the day talking to a young hygienist working to put herself through school. Two months later they met again at an NYU dental conference party. “I spoke to him all night,” recalled Dr. Naomi Ramer, who, after a 10-year courtship, married Mark. “I asked him how you get into dental and he said, ‘Call me Monday and I’ll tell you.’ I called him and he said, ‘Put dental school on hold. What are you doing Saturday?’ And we were together ever since.”
The couple lived in Woodmere and then Atlantic Beach, and they had a Manhattan apartment as well. Naomi is an associate professor of pathology and dentistry and the director of oral pathology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She is also the program director of the hospital’s newly accredited Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Residency Program.
“It was a wondrous 43 years,” she said. “He was so easy to please. He said, ‘I have the greatest wife. She makes me oatmeal every morning.’”
After a 10-year career in dentistry in Rego Park, Queens, Ramer turned his attention to real estate, and in 1986, he and partner Michael Saperstein established a private firm in Manhattan that invested in multifamily residences that had high growth potential, unsold co-op shares, condominium units and mortgage notes.
As successful as Ramer turned out to be in business, his love was philanthropic causes. He served as president of the Jewish Center in Atlantic Beach; the Jewish Community Center Global, a network of more than 1,200 JCCs worldwide; and the Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School in Lawrence (now the Brandeis School). He served on the boards of the JCC of the Greater Five Towns (now the Gural JCC), the Jewish Education Project (previously known as the Board of Jewish Education of New York) and the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York.
“He was an incredible man,” Stacey Feldman, the Gural JCC’s associate executive director, wrote on Facebook. “[He] cared so deeply for people and did so much to improve their lives.”
Ramer paid for Passover Seders for Holocaust survivors in the Five Towns, Far Rockaway and Long Beach. At those Seders between 2010 and 2013, he invited photographer George Bogart to take photos of the survivors, including his father, Leon Ramer, to document a diminishing cohort. “I love the fact they are black and white; there is so much expression,” Ramer told the Herald in 2013. “It is a wonderful thing that we have this. It is pretty touching.”
In addition to his wife, Ramer is survived by his father, Leon; two daughters, Yael Friedland and her husband, Adam; and Ilana Bass and her husband, Jordan; a son, Adi; and four grandchildren.
“He is one of those people who comes around once in a lifetime,” said Block, adding, “Mark did the most he could do.”