Al Jacobs, tailor and musician, 1924-2017

Mourners in foreground comfort each other as those in background reluctantly add dirt to Al Jacobs’ grave.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – Alfred Jacobs was an unassuming man, yet his graveside service at the Home of Peace Cemetery on Friday was packed with more than 100 friends, fellow congregants, and the rabbis of two neighboring congregations – the Conservative Tifereth Israel Synagogue and the Chabad of East County.

Jacobs, 93, who died December 28 after a short illness, was eulogized by four members of his family as well as by Rabbi Joshua Dorsch of Tifereth Israel Synagogue.  Chabad Rabbi Rafi Andrusier read a prayer in Hebrew.

A son, David, told of Jacobs’ life in England before and during World War II.  As a boy, his passions were cricket and soccer, until he got his first accordion at age 12.  Jacobs played it at his own bar mitzvah in London, and the following year, with a friend who also played accordion, he won a talent contest, leading him to perform at local concerts. At age 15, Jacobs joined a traveling variety show, with which he entertained British troupes both in the United Kingdom and at the war front.

After the war, Jacobs immigrated to the United States about the Queen Elizabeth.  U.S. Customs officials were suspicious of his accordion, thinking he had brought the instrument to sell.  To prove that it was his personal property, he played several songs for the agents and appreciative fellow immigrants.

Not long after his arrival in New York in 1948, he met Florie and they were married the following year. Jacobs and his wife, who predeceased him, were married 66 years.  The family lived originally in New York City, but moved to Pocatello, Idaho, after Jacobs saw an advertisement in a musicians’ magazine for a “musician/ tailor,” admittedly an odd combination.  Inasmuch as Jacobs father, and numerous uncles as well, had been tailors and Jacobs had been trained in the needle-trades, he was, ahem, tailor-made for the job.

There was only a small Jewish community in Pocatello, so Jacobs took the initiative, serving as a lay rabbi and cantor.  His wife became president of the Sisterhood, and his children, David and Olga, became active not only in youth events but in planning and participating in fundraising shows.  One of the first shows they produced, said daughter Olga Worm, was Fiddler on the Roof, in which she got to play Yenta the Matchmaker.

Jacobs also served as president of his Kiwanis Club in Pocatello, during which time he led a successful fundraising drive to purchase a defibrillator for the local hospital.

After 12 years in Pocatello, the family moved to San Diego, where Jacobs opened a tailor shop.  In a small strip shopping center off Mission Gorge Road, near his shop, was Bekker’s Catering.  This led to the marriage of Olga Jacobs to Oscar Worm.  For some years, the two stores anchored other ends of the shopping center and granddaughter Lara, who today is an attorney, remembers going from one grandpa to the other to obtain money for candy.  Both sets of grandparents were soft touches, she recalled.

As a tailor, Jacobs was a very fast worker, sometimes able to finish a simple job within minutes of receiving it, according to family members.  His musical passions included not only the accordion, but also the piano, and he loved to rehearse his granddaughter Marla, who appeared in numerous musical revues. In a poignant moment, Marla sang “After All These Years” at the funeral.

Jacobs penned a memoir recounting his life, which was published in November 2016 on San Diego Jewish World.  Here is a link: 

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected].  San Diego Jewish World’s eulogy series is sponsored by Marc and Margaret Cohen in memory of Molly Cohen, and by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg.

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Copyright 2017 San Diego Jewish World

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