Ariel University in Israel remembers Alexandre Raab
“I would say act like a man of thought, and think, like a man of action.” Henri Bergson
Ariel University mourns the passing of our dear friend, Alexandre Raab. Alex was more than just a friend of Ariel University; he was an inventor, business innovator, and an outspoken supporter of Israel. Alex was born August 9, 1924 to Serena Abeles Raab and Simon Raab in Komárno, Czechoslovakia. Sadly, both of Alex’s parents, his grandparents and 2 of his 6 siblings perished in Auschwitz and other death camps, as did most of their extended families.
Alex’s life was filled with triumph, loss, dedication, action and love. During the war, Alex fought with the Partisans against the Nazis. He spoke often of his experiences during the war and the lessons learned, which he applied to all aspects of his life. However, he was a humble man who did not speak of his own heroism. Over the years, many stories emerged through family and friends of his courage, creativity and effectiveness as a Partisan fighter. One such story was shared with Raab’s family by an individual who experienced Alex’s extraordinary abilities first hand. He told how Alex, alone and at great personal risk, had rescued him from a Nazi prison. Alex and his fellow Partisans had become aware that the Germans had captured their friend. They knew it was only a matter of time until this man would be transferred from prison to a concentration camp. Knowing the fate that would no doubt await his friend in the camps, Alex was determined to rescue him. Although the group had decided the rescue mission would be too risky, this did not deter Alex. He obtained a German uniform and forged an official letter demanding the release of the prisoner to his custody. Impersonating a German officer Alex entered the jail where his friend was being held captive and demanded his release. When the jailers refused, Alex began to shout and waved the official letter in his hand, threatening action by superior officers if they did not comply and demanding the prisoner’s release. The Nazi guards eventually surrendered their prisoner to Alex. Upon his release his friend was overcome with joy and emotion at seeing that Alex had come to rescue him, almost giving them both away. Alex maintained the charade, and so as not to arouse any suspicion, dealt his bewildered friend a hard blow before dragging him off. Within minutes they were beyond the prison gates and on their way to reunite with their Partisan comrades.
After the war, Alex completed his education in France. Acting as the Dean of an agricultural college set up by a Jewish agency, Alex trained young Jewish refugees in the skills they would need as they made their way to Israel. While there, he met and married the love of his life, Jeannine. In 1953 Alex, Jeannine and their young son, Simon, immigrated to Canada where the family grew with the birth of three more children: Andre, Serena and David. Alex founded White Rose Nurseries in 1954 and oversaw its growth into one of the most advanced horticultural growing operations in the world with facilities in Canada, the U.S.A. and in Israel, and one of the largest retail garden center chains in North America. In 1991, Alex sold White Rose Nurseries and, together with Jeannine, he dedicated his retirement to pursuing his varied philanthropic and horticultural research projects in Canada and Israel.
Alex’s love for his family, his friends and his community was unwavering. He believed in the fundamental goodness of humanity and the importance of family unity above all. He taught his grandchildren a valuable lesson on one of their many outings into the forests of their family farm. As they prepared to light a campfire, Alex asked each of the children to break a single stick, showing them how individually the sticks were easily broken. Then he held many sticks together and showed the children that once bundled together, the sticks could not be broken. He explained that together as a family they were strong, while alone they were vulnerable, and that they must always be there for one another.
Alex was a private man who never forgot the terrible experiences of his past but who nevertheless lived a life full of love and kindness. He felt that his greatest revenge for the overwhelming losses he and his people suffered in his early life could not be achieved through hatred or violence but through the creation of a loving, generous family, committed to doing good in the world. He saw his wealth in his wife, children and grandchildren. He was a man who wanted very little for himself but who always wanted the best for his family, friends and his community.
During dinner with his family shortly before he died, Jeannine asked Alex if he wanted or needed anything. Alex responded “No.” Looking round the table at the children and grandchildren, who lovingly called him, “Pappy“, he was at peace. Jeannine then responded, “Surely you must need something?” Alex said, “All I need is you”, to which Jeannine responded, “But you already have me”. Alex replied with a twinkle in his eye, “That’s why I don’t need anything else”.
On October 13th, 2015, Ariel University paid tribute to Alex’s memory during the university’s annual staff awards ceremony. Gathered in the auditorium of the Raab Building dedicated in the memory of Alex’s father, Simon, University leaders shared stories of Alex’s life and paid tribute to his generous support of Ariel University and the Raab family’s love for the State of Israel.
Alexandre Raab will be remembered for his compassion and loving nature, his many accomplishments, his contributions to his community, his far reaching philanthropy and his commitment to the State of Israel.
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