Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Arnold Loeb: more than a meat maven, a nice man

     In 30 years of writing obits, I have never phoned a bereaved family and been asked to come over the house to talk as they sit shiva, or observe the weeklong mourning period.
     Yet when the daughters of the deceased made the request Monday, I immediately agreed. This was no ordinary man, after all, but Mr. Arnold Loeb, owner of the Romanian Kosher Sausage Co. at Touhy and Clark.
     Yes, I had already eaten lunch, I thought ruefully, driving over. A mistake. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine the spread: The corned beef. The pastrami. The salami. The tubs of chopped liver. Romanian chopped liver. Shivas are normally awash in food. But this. Perhaps, our business complete, I could assemble a heaping plate to take home. Would that be bad form?
     Daughters Katharine Loeb and Karen Levin met me and took seats on mourning chairs, with the widow, Lynne Loeb. Orthodox Jews in mourning cover mirrors in the house — you aren’t supposed to think of yourself. They sit shiva on special low chairs, a symbolic returning to earth. (Job 2:13: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights ... for they saw that his suffering was very great.”)
     For all the shivas I’ve attended, I’d never noticed the chairs. Nor picked up on another tradition. I looked at the bare table and made a remark about cold cuts. Chutzpa.
     “The tradition is, people are supposed to bring us food and serve us,” Katharine explained, good-naturedly. “It’s their turn to feed us.”
     Ah, I thought.
     Arnold Loeb’s father, Eugene Loeb started the business in Bucharest, Romania, making sausages in his mother’s kitchen.
     “Much to her dismay at times,” Karen said.
     The Loeb family survived World War II intact — Romanian Jews fared far better than Jews in, say, Poland. In 1946 the family moved, first to the Dominican Republic, sending their only child ahead to Chicago, where he had uncles.
     Arnold Loeb, 83, who died Feb. 27 of pancreatic cancer, went to the Illinois Institute of Technology and became an electrical engineer. 

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  1. One of my regular lunch foods is the Romanian Salami on rye bread. Almost an addiction. And check the refrigerated cases on the left as you come in; their potato salad is outstanding. The Jewel on Howard Street in Evanston carries the salamis, hot dogs and a variety of other Romanian products. The Hungarian on Oakton in Skokie also has the salamis; I haven't really looked for other items there.

  2. Marvelous tribute to a great man. I would have loved to have known him.


  3. Sixty years ago, my grandmother lived four blocks east, next to the Howard 'L' (Red Line) tracks, back when a supermarket and then a discount department store occupied the building on the northwest corner of Touhy and Clark. I grew up a few miles away, and as an adult I lived about twelve blocks north of Romanian. Passed those steel letters and red bricks countless times.

    Yet, in all those decades, and the thousands of trips past the store, I never went inside. I'm not even sure if I ever realized it was a kosher meat market. My loss. I really missed something good. My condolences to the family, and thanks for the the image of that sign, Mr. S. It's nice to know that no matter what else happens, much of Rogers Park hasn't changed.

  4. It was just a building I passed many times never realizing the nature of this business. I thought it was a wholesaler, not a neighborhood deli. Pastrami and potato salad sound good to a winter exile in Ft. Myers, another reason to anticipate summer in Chicago.


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