Morris “Moe” Sack was born in 1926, and grew up in Malden. His parents were immigrants from Lithuania and Poland. His father worked as a carpenter, and his mother worked in a factory sewing buttons on caps. In 1944, he was drafted into the Army and he served until 1947. Moe holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston University and married Jean Reva Kaplan in 1952. The couple had two children, Steven, and Ilene. They settled in Peabody, and Moe served as an officer and active volunteer at Temple Ner Tamid and also at the Jewish War Veterans Massachusetts North Shore Post 220. Now retired, he worked for the Merchants Tire Company in Boston. He now lives in Salem.
You were born in Malden.
Yes, I was born on 88 Linwood St. in the Suffolk Square area on Dec. 6, 1926. I had an older sister, Ruth, and a younger brother, Martin; both have passed away. My father was a master carpenter – the most he made was $3,000 a year.
Could you tell us about Jewish life in Malden back then?
I had a very Jewish upbringing. I was brought up in an observant house, and my father never worked on Shabbos. I went to shul with my grandfather and my cousin on Shabbos. I had a private melamed, or teacher, by the name of Reb Slonim, and he taught a Hebrew curriculum and also prepared me for my bar mitzvah. My parents were immigrants, and spoke Yiddish in the house. I heard Yiddish on the streets in Malden – there used to be a Workmen’s Circle in Malden, and they all spoke Yiddish. It was a different time.
Malden was a very friendly place; the Jewish kids all grouped together but I had a lot of Gentile friends. There was some anti-Semitism in the schools. In junior high I had a gym teacher who gave Jews the toughest exercises to do and if we didn’t do them, he’d bawl us out. Overall though, it wasn’t too bad.
You were drafted into the Army during WW II.
I was age 18 so they drafted me – technically the war wasn’t over. The Germans had surrendered, but the Japanese hadn’t surrendered. I went to Camp Crowder near Joplin, Mo., for basic training and I went with the engineers at the time, and then I enlisted in the regular Army for a year and I was transferred to the military district of Washington and I served there for about three months. That was an officer’s post. And my claim to fame occurred at 2 o’clock one morning. I got up to unload General Eisenhower’s furniture because he was moving into the post. They gave him housing there. And I was stationed next to the barracks.
From there I was transferred to the medical corps and served another year in Fort Sam Houston, near the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas. We ran the message center, we handled the mail and the communications. I was very fortunate because many of the men who were drafted at the same time were in the Battle of the Bulge and never returned.
After the Army you went to college.
Yes, I received great benefits from the Army. I went to Boston University and got my bachelor’s degree in foreign trade, and then got my MBA from BU. I eventually worked for The Merchants Tire Company – they were the largest independent tire distributor on the East Coast. It was a Jewish-owned company, and they treated me very well. I stayed there for 36 years.
How did you meet your wife?
We met on a blind date in Dorchester. Her name was Jean Reva Kaplan, and she was from Mattapan. We married in 1952. She was a lively, intelligent person who worked at an insurance company and seemed to be worldly, and then later on I found out she could cook and bake, so that was an added feature.
After we got married, we lived with my folks in Malden and then we moved to Roxbury, and then to a housing complex in Malden, and from there we bought a house in West Peabody where we lived for 47 years. I’ve lived in Salem for the past 10 years. My wife passed away six years ago.
I have one son, Steven, he’s an attorney for the state; I have a daughter, Ilene, who is a food technologist, who lives in Gloucester.
After you moved to Peabody you became very involved as a volunteer and officer at Temple Ner Tamid.
My Jewish upbringing carried over when we moved to Peabody. We joined Temple Ner Tamid in 1962. The shul was in its founding stages, and I immediately got involved. We needed money, infrastructure, to make it go. And the main thing was getting members, so I began to recruit. There were a lot of GE workers in Lynn, Peabody, and Danvers; a lot of Jews from New York and New Jersey. A lot of Malden people came to Peabody because there was a building boom in the city, and it was a place where people could afford to live. I recruited many families to join Ner Tamid. This was before the building was built. We used to meet at Cy Tenney Park. They had a building that they allowed us to use, and then we went to the Northshore Mall where they allowed us to hold services. One of my proudest accomplishments was to bring Theodore Bikel, the singer, to Peabody in the 1960s. We had to send a limousine for him, and he gave a wonderful concert and we raised $10,000. My wife and I also went to Israel with the shul. I’ve been a member for 57 years.
Over the years, I served as vice president, president of the temple’s men’s club, served as chair of the temple fundraising committee, chair of the temple social committee, and on other committees. We were honored with the temple’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
You were also commander of the Jewish War Veterans Massachusetts North Shore Post 220 in Peabody. Why are you so passionate about veterans?
I felt that since the government took care of me that I should contribute something to my fellow veterans. I was active in the Peabody Veterans Council, I was the treasurer and then we put flags on the graves at the Jewish cemeteries prior to the High Holidays. I organized the groups that did it. We put flags on 500 to 600 graves of Jewish veterans before Memorial Day and before the High Holidays. I did that for many years. That was to honor the men who gave their lives for the country and each man that did deserved a flag. We even flagged a non-sectarian cemetery for the Jewish veterans who were cremated. I organized the teams – we placed them and then picked them up.
What would you and other World War II veterans say about the direction of our country now?
World War II veterans are dying at a fast rate. They fought for freedom and now it’s being suppressed; our Constitution and our rights are being abrogated. So many went through some very serious conditions and for them to see this now, they would turn over in their graves. They would say our country is now poorly directed and that a change of administration would be good for the country.