Gilbert Katz

Gilbert Katz 8/14/1917-12/06/1986

Family- Parents: Lena and Morris; Siblings: Bernard, Helen, Evelyn, Dorothy, Albert, Maurice

Gibby Katz told North Carolina Jewish Historian Leonard Rogoff that as a child he got "beat up three times a day just because I was a little waif of a Jew boy." Perhaps this was an incentive for him to learn to fight. He later became a collegiate wrestler and eventually joined Durham's semi-professional football team, the Cardinals. A day after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted. He attended Duke University but worked all his life as a butcher.

He was well known to the community as the regular gabbai and occasional cantor. He was close friends with Sam Daniels. They loved going deep sea fishing and their times out on the boat were known as times of great fun and teasing. He was also known as a great dancer and singer, according to Howard Margolis.

A lifelong bachelor, Katz was a member of a mostly gentile old-boys club that hung out at The Palms restaurant.

Rabbi Steven Sager remembers his thick Southern accent. He had a voice that reverberated through the synagogue when he served as gabbai. Jewish children, after leaving the services, delighted in trying to mimic his voice.

He was very devoted to his mother and cared for her in her old age. He was upset when he didn't have a minyan for his mother's yahrzeit.

A large man, "broad of beam," Katz was very physical and active -- always ready to twirl little children. He wanted to share his physicality; at one Beth El board meeting, he offered to teach Jewish children to wrestle so that they could protect themselves if they were being bullied.

Katz served as the default president of the congregation in 1974 after Gladys Siegel was turned down because members weren't ready for a woman president. Nevertheless, in his later years, Katz relented on the subject of women's participation in services, and despite his Orthodox upbringing, agreed to give women a greater role.