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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, October 7, 2022
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Remembering Alan and Dorothy Bronstein

Maria Cenk, Alan and Dorothy Bronstein (Courtesy of Maria Cenk)

Alan and Dorothy Bronstein dedicated their lives to St. Croix and to the St. Croix Jewish Community. Alan died on Dec. 7, 2020. He was 79. Dorothy died on Jan. 16, 2022. She was 81.

Alan and Dorothy were married in New York on May 22, 1962.

Tikvah Rosenholtz shared about her father, “Alan Joel Bronstein was born on February 11, 1941 in New York. My father was a grand master bridge player. He was playing bridge since his college days and he competed in many bridge competitions, nationally and internationally. My father was a very good athlete and an excellent tennis player. He competed in and won many tennis matches; he ran in the New York City Marathon twice; in the St. Croix Triathlon; and in many other races on St. Croix.

Alan Bronstein at Triathlon Finish Line (Courtesy of Maria Cenk)

“My mother Dorothy Joy Rubinsky was born on May 6, 1940 in Brooklyn, NY,” shared Tikvah. “My mother’s parents owned a pet store when she was growing up. She liked animals her entire life. As an adult in St. Croix, my mother would try to rescue animals when she saw them on the side of the road or just walking around. She would bring them home and either keep them or try to find homes for them. She brought some of them to the shelter.

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My parents adopted many dogs and cats over the years. After my brother died, my parents donated money to the St. Croix Animal Welfare Shelter and had the ‘Kitten Room’ dedicated in memory of my brother Matt,” she said.

Richard Bronstein was four years younger than his brother Alan, and for many years they played ball together. “Alan was such a great athlete at stick ball and other sports that the kids called him ‘Boomer,’” Richard recalled.

“Alan had a rich sense of humor. Many years ago when Ted Kaczynski, the ‘Unabomber’ was investigated by the FBI, Kacynski’s brother, David recognized a manifesto written by Ted that was published in the New York Times. David alerted the FBI and Ted was caught,” Richard remembers. “After that happened, I said to my brother, ‘Hey Al, if I was the Unabomber and you figured it out, would you rat me out to the FBI?’ His answer was really cool. He said, with a little glint in his eye, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Richard’s wife Ethel, Alan’s sister-in-law, recollects the summer their daughter Susan spent on St. Croix with Alan and Dorothy. Susan worked in Alan’s office and enjoyed a very close and loving relationship with her uncle. “I will always remember my uncle Alan as being a very generous person. I adored him. We truly bonded,” Susan said.

Bronstein and Rosenholtz families (Courtesy of Tikvah Rosenholtz)

Joshua Rubinsky, Dorothy’s brother, has many memories of his sister and brother-in-law. Dorothy and Alan were very kind to everyone and particularly to me, recalls Joshua. “As a young adult, due to immune issues, I was hospitalized several times. Each time Dorothy and Alan visited me to see how I was and provided any needed help for me.”

“In later years, Alan, Dorothy and I became close friends, in addition to being family. We called each other regularly and went together on a vacation to the Baltics and to St. Petersburg. Dorothy and Alan got lost in the Hermitage Museum and when they were finally found, they described it as being ‘no big deal.’ They drove the rest of us crazy not knowing where they were,” Joshua recalls.

Dorothy and Alan had a lot of tragedies and struggles, Joshua said, “but somehow, they just dealt with them and moved on most of the time.”

“Later in their lives, they became dog rescuers. On visits to their home, I would see a three-legged dog, a dog with an eyepatch, and sometimes three dogs on their laps. Alan was not into this initially, but Dorothy easily recruited him as a ‘save the dogs co-supporter.’ Each dog was another child of theirs that they loved and cuddled.”

Joshua shared, “their daughter Tiki and son-in-law Harvey and their grandchildren Jonathan, Amanda and Shoshana were the loves of their lives. God bless them. I miss them a lot.”

The couple is also remembered lovingly by many friends and colleagues and members of the St. Croix Jewish Community.

“Alan was on the board of the Jewish Community for as long as I can remember,” President Ellie Hirsh said. It was at least 40 years. Hirsch credits him for being the force for keeping the synagogue together and alive. “Alan often conducted services and wrote sermons focusing on current events and civil rights issues. He spoke at every child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Although he wasn’t a founding member of the Interfaith Coalition, he represented the Jewish Community on the board for many years,” Hirsch said.

Alan officiated at our wedding on Shoy’s Beach — securing Judge Silverlight’s presence to make it legal, Ellie Hirsch and Chris Finch said.

“Dorothy, as a librarian, always carried a book she was reading – even to the synagogue. She was kind and thoughtful and a huge support to Alan’s involvement in the synagogue.”

Dorothy Bronstein 80th birthday party (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Ellie and Chris shared their memories of Alan and Dorothy as avid hikers who loved sharing stories of their adventures. They supported the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center and loved their rescue dogs, they said. Ellie remembers their strength and positive outlook even as they experienced hardships and tragedy. In their quiet way, they helped many people in the true tradition of Maimonides. Through their dedication and love for their faith and the St. Croix community, they contributed much, the couple said. “They are truly missed.”

Dorothy Bronstein and her beloved pets. (Courtesy of Tikvah Rosenholtz)

The St. Croix Hiking Association has been around for more than 20 years, President Catherine Prince said. She remembers Alan and Dorothy Bronstein’s participation for many of those years. “It was always a pleasure to travel with them. They were always in the flow. They were older than most members, yet they always kept up on our hikes.”

Marina Leonard, a member of the St. Croix Jewish Community, remembers, “Alan loved this island so much. He is very much the reason I stayed here after I arrived and he helped me get my first job. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to get to know him and Dorothy. Alan was always trying to be as helpful as he could and Dorothy always had a smile on her face. That’s how I’ll remember them both.”

Joyce Hickok was employed at Alan Bronstein Consulting LLC. “In addition to running a CPA firm, Alan served the community by being a bankruptcy trustee. He was an expert witness for many law firms. He was an employer who managed to keep the company running through many, many years. Whenever I saw her, Dorothy was always pleasant and interested in how I was doing,” Hickok said.

Drs. Yigal and Elizabeth Ehrlich knew Alan and Dorothy for 15 years on St. Croix. “They were dear friends to us from the very beginning, and helped us in our move from New York to St. Croix. Alan was instrumental in introducing our son, Ari, to financial institutions here on the island, which resulted in Ari’s great success and happiness here,” they said in a joint email. “We will forever be grateful to Alan for his kindness and sincerity. Dorothy was the kindest, sweetest person that one will ever meet. Both Alan and Dorothy would entertain us by recalling adventures they experienced on their numerous trips around the world. In particular, Alan was excited to tell us about his most recent travels to Greenland and Iceland, and recited their topography, geography, and history in exquisite detail, without hesitation. We loved hearing from them both, and we will miss them very, very much. May Alan and Dorothy’s memory be a beautiful blessing to us all.”

Olassie Davis is the St. Croix Hiking Association educational chairperson. Davis researches the activities, and most of what the association does, “falls on his shoulders.” Davis remembers the Bronsteins as being avid hikers, who were strong in their desire to “hike until they dropped.”

The association members hiked throughout the island and they also traveled to other Caribbean islands like Trinidad, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Puerto Rico and Grenada. Davis vividly remembers their trip to Grenada where their hike was a wet and slippery 2,000 feet. “We cautioned Dorothy to stay at the bottom because of the hazardous conditions. Dorothy continued the climb and kept falling down, She continued to get up and start again, only to fall down again. She was a fighter. She never gave up. This happened in 2011 and Dorothy’s strength of character still sticks out in my mind,” Davis said.

Matt Bronstein
(Courtesy of Tikvah Rosenholtz)

Davis recalls an incident with Alan when they hiked to Bodkin’s Mill on St. Croix. “The mill is the highest on the island, about 993 feet above sea level. From there we could see 13 mills all over the island. There is more than one route to reach the top and the group was all together climbing when we noticed Alan was missing. He took off on a different route and got lost. We later connected, but everyone was amused because Alan didn’t listen to the tour guide. He went off on his own, using his self-determination.”

According to Davis, Alan was the first bookkeeper and assisted the Hiking Association by doing their tax records for many years, faithfully, and without charge.

Rabbi Marna Sapsowitz remembers Alan and Dorothy. “In 2012, I applied for the position of ‘snowbird rabbi’ to St. Croix’s Jewish Community from my home in Olympia, Washington, some 4,000 miles away. My colleague, Rabbi Marjorie Berman, told me, ‘Oh, then, you’ll be meeting Alan Bronstein.’ And indeed I did.”

Alan gave his heart to the tiny, unlikely St. Croix Jewish Community. For many years, he served as the address for things Jewish on-island. He called the meetings, led the services, managed the funds, fielded questions, and welcomed visitors and newcomers, Sapsowitz said.

Dorothy Rubinsky
(Courtesy of Joshua Rubinsky)

“Alan was also an avid bridge player, trivia player, and hiker. He and Dorothy loved traveling. They loved their children, their grandchildren, and their little rescue dogs.
Alan and Dorothy sustained much personal loss and trauma in their lifetimes. Yet, they kept going, continuing their involvement in many facets of the St. Croix community. Their absence leaves a hole in both the Jewish community and in the larger island community,” Sapsowitz shared.

Helen Engelhardt came to St. Croix in 2005 to contra dance and fell in love with the island. A week later, she purchased a little house in the Reef condo on the east end with a view of Buck Island and, on a clear day, the blue hills of St. Thomas, she said.

“The following winter I called a number listed for Alan Bronstein, curious to know what B’Nai Or might have to offer me. After getting lost from following Alan’s Crucian style directions, I finally found it and met him that evening.”

“My favorite memory of Alan was the evening he took me to see the grave of Alexander Hamilton’s mother. Alan frequently talked about this gravesite, and how he would always take his students to see it, to inspire them, to show them the physical connection with the woman who came to this island seeking a safe place to raise her children. ‘She died tragically, leaving Alexander an orphan, but he was nurtured by the community and through his perseverance and abilities, and with their support was sent to live on the mainland to continue his education.’”

“I remember Dorothy’s sweetness and kindness at the services and at each other’s homes for films or dinners organized by Rabbi Marna Sapsowictz. Their deaths are a deep loss to our community. For one who had arrived so late in their long connection with St. Croix, I learned a great deal about each of them,” Engelhardt said.

Alan and Dorothy Bronstein (Courtesy of Joshua Rubinsky)

Maria Cenk, the Bronstein’s friend and neighbor at the Questa Verde condos, spent every night with them by the pool where Cenk and her husband, Dave, and another couple had apartments. We did that for several years, Cenk said. “When my husband passed, I developed a closer relationship with Alan and Dorothy. I stayed with them for a few weeks at their condo in New York when we were all in the city at the same time. Alan was a good and caring human being and Dorothy was too. She was loving and kind and always smiling. I will miss both of them,” Cenk said.

“From the moment I saw her, I knew she was someone special,” Susette Weissman remembers. “I had recently moved to St. Croix with my husband Al. I was alone most of the day while my husband worked. I felt alone and missed my parents who lived in New York City. I was also pregnant with my first child.

Susette wanted to make friends and join the Jewish community. She was introduced to Jay, a hospitable and welcoming member of the small congregation that met at his home for religious services. “I finally felt like I belonged!”

“The time for my child to be born came fast! The Jewish community was excited about the oncoming birth, almost as much as I was,” Susette said. “When I gave birth to a baby boy, they took care of all the arrangements, including getting a mohel and making cakes and a variety of delicious foods. While the mohel completed the procedure, Dorothy took me away from the event so I wouldn’t be disturbed by my baby’s cries.”

“That is the kind of friendship I had with Dorothy. Our friendship lasted many years until my best friend’s passing earlier this year. I cried and cried until I could cry no more! That is how much I loved her and miss her!”

Dorothy’s husband Alan was my business partner and friend, Susette shared.

Lisa Spery recalled that for a couple of years, there was an art show organized by Betsy Campen at the Canegata Recreation Center. “My contribution to the treats table was Vegan Gingerbread. I remember Dorothy would devour many pieces saying, ‘I’m vegan – it’s so good and there’s nothing else for me to eat!'” she said.

“I think I brought the recipe the next year as she was not the only person who enjoyed it,” said Spery.

Longtime friends Phyllis and Arthur Flug remember their friendship with the Bronstein’s beginning in1967. Phyllis tells the story of her friends Dorothy and Marilyn pushing their young children in baby strollers from Fresh Meadows to “our home in Jamaica Estates where the three of us formed a parade that toured Cunningham Park.”

“From that initial trip, our travels with Dorothy and Al grew geographically to include a European winter river cruise from England to Germany, a cruise to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef with St. Croix thrown in. We went skydiving in Denver, to many Broadway shows, and a sojourn through the Negev Desert in Israel. Our final destination was Manhattan.”

“Added to this lifelong journey were Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, graduations and weddings, and innumerable encounters that solidified more than half a century of friendship. The closeness that grew enriched not only our lives, but those of the next generation. We laughed, we cried. And now the sound of silence enforces the joy of that friendship.”

Alan and Dorothy are survived and beloved by numerous family, friends, and colleagues on St. Croix, in New York, and in many places across the nation.

 

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