Yiddish writer and humorist Jacob Adler, renowned amongst the Jewish people, moved from New York City to Gulfport in 1931, when the Sunshine Skyway Bridge didn’t exist and many of the hamlet’s streets were paved with crushed seashells.
Adler died in a St. Petersburg nursing home at the age of 101 on January 1, 1975.
Yet his former home, where he lived with his wife, Celia Adler, is still remembered by his many grandchildren as a far away visiting spot and warm sanctuary.
Lenore Reynolds, a 72-year-old local Realtor, unknowingly lived in Jacob Adler’s former Gulfport home for over a decade before the Yiddish writer’s grandson, David Adler, showed up on her doorstep during a dinner party in 2017.
A Visit From the Past
“He showed up, this tall guy, with a stack of papers, it was adorable,” Reynolds said. “He’s like, ‘I swear I’m not a stalker.’”
David Adler was on a business trip to Tampa, and, feeling nostalgic, crossed the bay to see the small Florida town that he visited as a child.
In the 1950s, the house had no air conditioning and the front porch was nonexistent, but nonetheless, it was the same space that contained those early childhood memories.
“I always felt love in this house, and other people have told me that as well,” Reynolds said.
David currently lives in New Jersey, but has since remained in contact with Reynolds. The two bonded over history, and Reynolds eventually went to Jacob Adler’s gravesite in St. Petersburg to send “the tall guy” a picture of his grandfather’s resting place.
“It was the immigrant dream of retiring and owning a home in Florida,” said David. “I wanted to see the old place, see if it was how I remembered it.”
Yet Jacob Adler never really retired. He wrote every day and went on to become a founding member and first president of the Congregation Beth Sholom of Gulfport in 1953, which recently closed after nearly 70 years, in 2021.
Dennis Torres, a novelist and professor at Pepperdine University, recalls being one of the only grandchildren to be invited to stay the entire summer at his grandparents house at the age of 10.
“I didn’t know why they picked me – maybe he knew I was going to be a writer – but I didn’t care regardless,” Torres said. “I was just happy to go to Florida.”
Creator of a famous household name and Jewish character, Yente Telebende, a figure that stands for any gossiping, meddling Jewish woman, Jacob Adler wrote under the name B. Kovner for the New York City-based newspaper, The Jewish Daily Forward.
He may be known in the Yiddish community as a prolific writer, but his overflowing family remembers him as more than that from his retirement – a white-mustached man in shorts, enjoying the Florida sunshine.
“He wrote every morning, in Yiddish, and never drove a car,” Torres said. “Really, they lived a simple life, and I loved a simple life.”