Remembering Abraham Zelmanowitz: Devout and Charitable

Abraham Zelmanowitz lights a menorah during the Hanukah of 2000. He is wearing a suit and tie and a hat and standing next to a window.
Abraham Zelmanowitz lighting a menorah during Hanukah 2000. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, gift of Jack and Evelyn Zelmanowitz.

Native New Yorker Abraham J. Zelmanowitz lived in Brooklyn with his brother and his brother’s family. Abraham played chess and loved music, everything from opera to the Beatles.

Jack Zelmanowitz recalled his brother Abraham as a thoughtful family man. “He was thinking of other people all the time—familywise, friendwise, and every which way,” said Jack in a StoryCorps interview recorded at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Jack emphasized that Abraham thought of his nieces and nephews as his own children, and Jack’s grandchildren as his own grandchildren.

Abraham was also devoted to his parents, especially later in life. When his mother and father were alive, Abraham, an Orthodox Jew, thought nothing of walking three miles each way to visit them on the Sabbath.

In the oral history clip recorded by the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Jack emphasized his brother’s generous spirit:

“He made a lot of friends. And he was respected in the community. He was respected in the synagogue. He was orthodox, pious, a good human being, very charitable. People didn’t know the things that he did for poor people and for unfortunate people. He’d never spoke about it. He never broadcasted it like people do. He was one unique human being in every phase of life. I don’t know—there’s a million stories to be told.”

One such friend who witnessed Abraham’s kindness firsthand was Ed Beyea, with whom Abe worked for the 12 years that he was employed by Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield as a computer programmer. Beyea used a wheelchair, and after the North Tower was struck by hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, Abraham made the heroic decision not to evacuate the building without Beyea.

In death, Abraham has been celebrated by President Bush and people around the world for remaining with his friend and colleague.

But to his family, this sacrifice was typical of Abraham’s loyal nature. “Had it been a casual acquaintance, he would have done the same thing,” said Jack. “He could never turn his back on another human being.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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