Obit: artist Ernest Raab (died 2003)

Ernest Raab, an internationally renowned sculptor, artist, poet, writer, and Talmudic scholar, died Aug. 22. He was 77.

Among his many other works, Raab created the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and the monument to Raoul Wallenberg in Earl Bales Park, a bas relief at Beth Tzedec Congregation and the stained glass windows at Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Synagogue, as well as sculptures of Einstein, Churchill, Ben-Gurion and works in commercial buildings, other synagogues and hospitals.

Raab was born in Komarom, Czechoslovakia, one of seven children. His mother and father each had 12 brothers and sisters. Most perished in the Holocaust, along with Raab’s grandparents, much of his extended family, his teachers and his classmates. Only Raab and four of his siblings survived.

Rabbi Philip Scheim of Beth David, who gave an eulogy for Raab at his funeral, said, “For Raab, beauty was everywhere.”

Raab, he noted, also had a deep knowledge of Jewish sources. “His knowledge of Bible was thorough, as was his grasp of Rabbinic midrash and Aggadah.”

After the war, Raab settled in Paris, where he studied art. He later moved to Montreal and then to Toronto.

In 1999, Raab published his autobiography, Violin of Stone, which tells of his painful teenage years, his experience as a slave labourer, his escape from a work camp, his life as a partisan, his relationship with Chassidism and Zionism, and his struggle to find meaning in life and retain his beliefs.

“Ernest, like so many of his generation, survivors of the Holocaust, moved back and forth from the extreme cynicism and denial of God to all encompassing hope in the next generation and appreciation for God’s blessings,” said his nephew, Simon Raab. “Ernest’s life was this pendulum from despair to hope and back.”

Rabbi Scheim said, “Through Ernie’s life work, through his writing, his sculpture, his art, his personality, we have evidence of the eternity of the Jewish spirit.” He concluded that “Earnest Raab used his gift to remind each and every one of us of our need to work for a better tomorrow, of our potential to bring this world one step closer to godliness.”

Raab is survived by his daughter Sylvia and son-in-law Jean Francois; granddaughters Olivia, Alexandra, Celia, and Margaline; brother Alex Raab and sister-in-law Jenine Raab; and sisters Edith Werner and Lily Bernhaut. His sister Klara Reitman died two years ago. ♦

This article appeared originally in the Canadian Jewish News and appears here courtesy of the author. © 2003 by Cynthia Gasner.