Slomovic constantly worked behind enemy lines. And he was good at it. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion himself met Slomovic and gave him a bottle of vodka before one particularly dangerous mission, which involved sailing behind enemy lines -- a bad move, since Slomovic and his comrades proceeded to drink the bottle while on the high seas. In the end, the group was too seasick and drunk to complete that mission. But there were many more like it, and Slomovic was part of them, Sten gun in hand.
With the end of the war, Slomovic decided to immigrate to the United States to reunite with the remaining members of his family. He had only a sixth grade education, and he worked as a day laborer and night watchman to make ends meet. In order to support his wife, he began working as an apprentice to an electrician. Then he went out on his own, literally walking the streets looking for construction jobs on which to bid. Within a few years, he was running a full electricity store with many employees, each of whom he treated like gold.
Slomovic became a pillar of the Los Angeles Jewish community, supporting local schools and synagogues. He opened an assisted living facility. He became trustee of the Jim Joseph Foundation, a billion-dollar endowment aimed at forwarding Jewish education. He gave tremendous amounts to charity. And in the meantime, he brought up two children and a bevy of grandchildren.
When Slomovic passed away on Sunday, he left behind thousands of people he had touched in some way. His pride in his Judaism and his Americanism never wavered and never waned. His practical optimism -- even though he was dying of cancer, he always thought of the future -- was awe-inspiring.
He was the ultimate American -- a man of few words, hard working and full of unbridled energy. He was absolutely unafraid, having faced down death from both the barrel of a gun and in the smoke of a chimney spewing human ash. He faced poverty and homelessness. Having seen it firsthand, he understood the nature of evil, and he understood the power of good.
The key to life, he said, was simple: "You have to be happy with what you have, but you also have to get satisfaction out of achieving." Slomovic believed in leading by example. He was happy in his life, and he was ambitious to his final breath. The last words of his memoir tell the tale of this Jewish and American hero: "I wish I had more time to do things because there's so much misery, so much poverty, so much to do. I would've liked to have done more."
Some people allow the world to change them. Some people change the world and don't let any obstacle stand in their way. The world needs more Jack Slomovics. I know this much -- I will certainly miss him, even if I only had the privilege of knowing him for a moment.
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