Friendships endure for 70+ years
Photo: Courtesy Randy Baker
From left, Pearl Utay Friedman, Irwin Kirz, Marcus Altman and Randy Baker gathered to cheer on Judy Glick Michlin, center, during Senior Follies performances in 2014.

By Deb Silverthorn

In Proverbs we learn, “a friend is one who sticks closer than a brother.” For a crew who first met on the school grounds and synagogues of the tight-knit Jewish community in South Dallas more than 70 years ago, the friendships have endured.

They’ve spent the last decade playing cards, enjoying meals and making the most of one another’s company.

“It’s so much more than the casual way the word ‘friend’ is sometimes used. We have been in and around each other’s lives since we were kids,” said Pearl Utay Friedman. She counts among her blessings her profound connections with Marcus Altman, Judy Glick Michlin (of blessed memory), Irwin Kirz and Randy Baker, Tricia Braumann Michaelson and Dr. Paul Michaelson (of blessed memory), Faye Abramson Polakoff and Howard Polakoff and Adrienne Engelberg Svidlow.

“We’ve had love, loss and laughter and we’ve clung to one another in pain,” added Utay Friedman.

Most of the group started out at Forest Avenue High School and then graduated from Hillcrest High as the Jewish community migrated north in the 1950s. They grew up with BBG and AZA, with Temple Teens and Young Judaea. They studied and prayed at the Hertze Chaikel Talmud Torah; congregations Agudas Achim, Shearith Israel and Tiferet Israel; and Temple Emanu-El. Today, most remain at Shearith, Emanu-El and Tiferet, having helped build those congregations and organizations throughout the community.

Photo: Courtesy Irwin Kirz 
Young Judaea members, circa 1955 at Congregation Tiferet Israel, gathered for dances and for theater productions. Front row, from left: Marcus Altman, Adrienne Engelberg Svidlow, Larry Annes, Joyce Brown, Louise Cohen; back row: Paul Michaelson and Audrey Jacobs Meyer.

The group remained close through their school years. Some stayed in closer touch than others, but they always wished one another goodness for the simchas and offered care in the difficult times. There have been b’nai mitzvah and weddings as well as the passings of parents, siblings and children.

In 2014, Engelberg Svidlow invited a group to lunch at Neuhaus Café. All together for the first time in years, the group then moved to Whole Foods Market on Preston and Forest, where they’d meet almost weekly to enjoy a nosh and a card game on the store’s second floor. During the pandemic, they stayed connected by phone and Zoom; in 2021 the games and in-person visiting resumed.

Marcus Altman says, “The friendships are fantastic. There’s nothing like old friends.”

Judy Glick Michlin, who passed away last year, was a light “back in the day” and well into her 80s. Among almost everyone’s fondest memories are going to watch her dance in the Senior Follies, for which her husband served as musical director. She did that for more than a decade.

Irwin Kirz, born in Havana, Cuba, moved to Dallas at the start of elementary school. While as an adult he lived in places on both coasts, coming home to Dallas meant getting back into the groove of the good ol’ gang.

“I got pulled in and I love these people,” said Kirz. “We watched this community grow up. I remember the new dome at Temple — it was so shiny and gorgeous. We saw Central Expressway being built and beyond that, it was just farms and fields. Our families moved north when Forest Lane  was really as ‘north’ as anything went.

Photo: Courtesy Irwin Kirz 
From left, Irwin Kirz, Adrienne Engelberg Svidlow, Marcus Altman and Paul Michaelson.

“I brought Randy in; he’s one of us,” he said. “The group has gotten smaller with the passing of those we love and miss so much, but we hold on tight and close to those who are still here.”

Dr. Paul Michaelson brought his wife, Tricia, into the fold after they married in 1981. She too was raised in South Dallas, just a few years before her husband and his friends.

“I knew most of the names and had met many of these people thanks to Paul’s relationships, but in the last 40 years, they’ve become so dear to me too,” she said. “They’ve treated me like I was always one of the crowd. When he passed away five years ago, they supported me. The group has been fabulous.”

Faye Abramson Polakoff and Howard Polakoff first dated as teens after meeting on a bus to a B’nai B’rith convention in Galveston. The couple look forward to celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary with their friends this December.

Abramson Polakoff says, “We love being in touch. These friendships are so precious. Health issues have made it difficult, but we always laugh when we’re together.”

“Friends from childhood you can confide in and trust like almost none other. No matter how long we’re apart, we walk right back into each other’s lives. Really, we’re always there like no time has passed,” said her husband. “It’s amazing how many years have passed by and how quickly they’ve gone.”

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