It could be said of anyone. If you did not know someone in his prime, you cannot get a picture of him from his old age. Still, in the case of the late Ralph Auerbach, it would be extraordinarily difficult to capture this outsized personality in words even if you knew him only in his prime.
Words and phrases like “dedicated,” “strong,” “assertive,” “telling it like it is,” “getting the job done” do not begin to capture the unique power, perseverance, cut-to-the-quick, no-nonsense, fiery and fierce way that Ralph Auerbach, indeed, got the job done.
He believed in Israel, believed in fundraising, believed in the federation, and sold all three together in a way so aggressive that he has — and had — no compare. Somehow, from out of that rough exterior, also flowed jokes. Somehow, covered — and not covered very well — by that rough exterior was a heart of gold.
Ralph Auerbach came by his commitment to community via heredity. His father, Abe Auerbach, headed any number of philanthropic and shul projects. Ralph Auerbach’s children, also via heredity, have carried on this multi-generation legacy.
Ralph Auerbach never gave up. His body may have been confined to a wheelchair, the ravages of age may have dulled his demeanor somewhat. But his explosive passion for people, for community, for Israel — for doing the right thing — remained perfectly evident until the end.
We must take note of the incredible dedication of his wife Carolyn to her husband’s care. Just to watch her keep Ralph out and active as long as possible was itself an inspiration.
Ralph Auerbach represented a generation, a style of friendship, of comradeship, of solidarity, that is symbolized by many words in his life. Navy. Soulmate. Involved. Straight-shooter. Loyalty. Honesty. Inspiration. Impatience with inaction. Impatience with disloyalty. Zest for life. Delight in daylight; delight in primary colors, in the gorgeous diversity of this universe.
It is entirely superfluous to say that those who knew Ralph Auerbach will never forget him. If anyone has trod the stage of our community in recent times who is unforgettable, it is Ralph Auerbach. May his family be comforted. May his memory be a blessing.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News