October 15, 2021
Rudolph “Rudy” Horowitz is a 92 year old Holocaust survivor, architect and grandfather. Last week I met Rudy at his home in a retirement community called The Highlands, which is just a fifteen minute bike ride from campus.
When I entered his house, I was drawn to the many framed art pieces on its walls. The interior of his house reminds me of a colorful painting by Matisse. There are works that date back to the 50s and 60s, and he has shared stories of how he and his late wife acquired each work and even included his relationship with the artist in some cases.
I asked Rudy why he decided to write a book, to which he replied: “When I came to this country… we never talked about the past, we were looking to the future. In fact, it was not until the birth of his grandson and at the age of 80 that he wanted to put the past in writing. Thus, in 2013, Rudy published “Avoiding the Cracks”, a book formatted as a series of letters addressed to his future grandchildren. The book captures the experiences of Rudy, his brother, and both parents during the Holocaust and World War II. Rudy’s family obtained fake Chilean passports to escape extermination by the Nazis and were granted refuge under the Geneva Convention during World War II. Rudy’s Alma Mater, University of Michigan, recently told Rudy’s story.
Rudy noted that he is most proud of his contributions to society, most notably through his career as an architect designing buildings and facilities. His designs include American Airlines Admirals Club lounges at LaGuardia and JFK and medical facilities for New York University and New York State. In the early 1980s, he created an application for AutoCAD, a design and drafting software called GEOCAD. The application moved the architectural drawing from the drawing board to the computer, while maintaining the appearance of hand drawn sketches. GEOCAD has been marketed throughout the United States.
With the creativity of a retired architect, Rudy aspires to problem-solve and create. After his retirement, Rudy designed birthday cakes for his grandchildren and started the YouTube channel “Big Banana”, where he teaches people how to make his famous bagels and gravlax, among other crafts. More recently, as his eyesight has deteriorated, he has spent more time cooking and cooking. Everyone in his neighborhood knows Rudy for his homemade bagels, which he garnishes with cream cheese and his house salted salmon. He even made them for me the first day I visited him, but unfortunately I’m gluten free. During my many visits to his house, I have tasted his gravlax, his peach jam, his applesauce and his tea. Rudy is a great host and spending time with him has been inspiring. I noticed the discipline and dynamism with which Rudy approaches his daily life. It’s no wonder he has accomplished so much in his life. When I asked him how he felt about living in the Highland community, Rudy replied that he had met some of the smartest and most interesting people in this neighborhood. His only complaint is the lack of intergenerational link. Rudy has spoken at local high schools and colleges and hopes to speak to Bowdoin soon to further disseminate his story.
When I asked Rudy what matters most to him, he first recognized the transient nature of what matters to an individual as they move through different stages of life. “What matters to me and generally to everyone I know is different at different stages of life. It’s quite different when you get to my age and have most of your life behind you. What matters most to Rudy at this point in his life is the future of his grandchildren and the fight against racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism by sharing the traumatic experiences of his childhood. He is a non-believer and a supporter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Although Rudy does not believe in the afterlife, he appreciates the genetic continuity of life in the appearance, demeanor, and talent of his grandchildren.