Blauer one of 'wise men' of community
By Paul Haist
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"When I'm at a meeting with Henry and he's nodding thoughtfully as I speak, I feel like I'm on the right track. If he seems perplexed, I always stop and ask him what he is thinking."
That's how David Fuks describes the role Henry Blauer plays in his life.
Blauer, a longtime Portland accountant and leader in the Jewish community, will be honored May 12 as the recipient of this year's Rabbi Joshua Stampfer Community Enrichment Award. This will be the fifth annual presentation of the award.
"Henry Blauer is one of the wise men of our community," said Fuks, the chief executive officer at Cedar Sinai Park, the Jewish senior-living campus in Southwest Portland where Blauer chaired the development committee.
"His ability to speak incisively on issues of concern, his financial acumen, his ethics all help to set a standard and a tone that the rest of us want to measure up to," said Fuks.
The Stampfer Award is presented annually by five Jewish communal organizations that Rabbi Stampfer created or in which he played long-term key roles or both. Those groups are Congregation Neveh Shalom, where Stampfer is now rabbi emeritus; the Institute for Judaic Studies; the Oregon Jewish Museum; the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center; and Camp Solomon Schechter.
The award is meant to honor individuals who have enriched and enhanced the life of the Portland-area Jewish community, after the model of Stampfer, who was the first recipient of the award.
Charles R. Schiffman is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Portland, where Blauer is a past president and a longtime member of the board.
Schiffman called Blauer "a gift to Portland."
"He has enhanced our community by the generosity of his time, his material resources and his expertise," said Schiffman, describing Blauer as "a repository of wisdom that many have drawn from."
Milt Carl, who was last year's recipient of the Stampfer Award, said he simply could not say enough about his longtime friend.
"Of all the people I've had the privilege of working with here--and I'm native-born-- I've never known a person like Henry. He has not only dedicated himself to the betterment of the community in all areas, he has been consistent in terms of ongoing practice," said Carl. "Henry has been there every year over the last 50 years."
That was a sentiment echoed by John Moss, executive director of the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation. Blauer is an at-large trustee and co-founder of OJCF.
"He is one of those rare individuals who has never burned out," said Moss, who called Blauer "a model" and "mentor" in his life.
Blauer's rabbi is Emanuel Rose at Congregation Beth Israel. Rose called Blauer "a dear friend."
"Above all else, Henry Blauer is an ohev Israel, a lover of the Jewish people," said Rose. "He's demonstrated that (fact) by his total, unswerving devotion to his synagogue, where he long served on the board and as a president of the congregation, as well as with the Jewish federation and its agencies. He has been an ardent and generous supporter of every aspect of the functioning of this community."
In addition to those posts already mentioned, Blauer has served on the boards of the Oregon Chapter of the American Jewish Committee, the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, the Friendly Rosenthal Foundation, the Robison Jewish Home, the First Hebrew Benevolent Association and the Jewish Review. He also is a past chair of the Jewish Federation of Portland's endowment fund.
Outside the Jewish community, Blauer has shared his skill and experience on the boards of the United Way of Columbia-Willamette, the Tri-County Community Council (the former planning arm of the local United Way), the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and the Portland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Born in Poland in 1920, Blauer came to America at age 6. He grew up in New York City, where he graduated from City College in 1941, just in time to join the Army and be sent to the South Pacific in World War II.
After the war, he chose to settle in Portland, where his sister was living. Here, he met Gerel Green, whom he married in 1954. They raised four daughters--Janis, Shoshana, Nancy and Karen. Today, the couple also has six grandsons.
Blauer built a career as an accountant, starting in Portland with Ben Sussman, a firm that evolved into Blauer, Geffen and Mesher. During his career, Blauer became a director of the Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants and served on the board of the Oregon Accountants of Public Interest.
In business, Blauer has earned as much respect as he has as a communal leader. One associate said of him that "his friends became his clients and his clients became his friends."
No one can know Blauer better than his wife Gerel, a Portland native who chose a young Jewish man from back east.
"For a fellow who was transplanted from the East Coast into my community, I have great pride that he has taken up the cause of our community," said Gerel Blauer. "He took responsibility in the Portland Jewish community with a passion."
She made special note of the fact that her husband's recognition as a source of wise counsel includes all generations.
"He's given respect not only from the older age groups, but the younger ones too," said Gerel Blauer.
She praised her husband for his commitment to his family.
"He's been surrounded by women all his life, what with four daughters. It's not an easy position to be in. He was greatly outnumbered. But he was always devoted to his family."
She recalled the maxim, behind every successful man stands a wom-?-an, but she took exception to it.
"I stand next to him," she said. "I am not behind him, I am with him. We are a good team, and I take great pride in the fact that he is still serving our community."