[by Phyllis Shaikun]
DuPont Manual High School can boast many distinguished graduates over the past 117 years including a number of members of our Jewish community. The school is justly proud of its alumni, many of whom have been recognized with induction into the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
This year, three members of the Jewish community were so honored at a dinner held on Sunday, April 18, at the University Club. In addition to Herman Landau, who was profiled earlier this year in Community, inductees included Sidney Baer, z”l, and Rubin Sher, long-time maestro of the Jewish Community Center Orchestra.
Baer was born in Louisville in 1909 and graduated from Manual in 1926. A graduate of the old Jefferson School of Law, he was a member of the Louisville and Kentucky Bar Associations and was involved in many successful local business ventures. He served as a state representative in Frankfort from 1948 to 1952 and, at age 60, began a four-year term as 8th Ward Louisville alderman.
Concerned about the effects of urban renewal on the city, Baer headed the Historical Protection and Preservation Committee, which encouraged other groups to help safeguard important vestiges of Louisville history for posterity. He also was president of the Golden Gloves Boxing Association, which supported local champions such as Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Ellis and Greg Page, and was a licensed boxing judge. He was a member of the Louisville Civil War Round Table, B’nai B’rith, the Kosair Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, the Odom Club and The Temple. Baer passed away in1984.
Rubin Sher was born in 1917 to a family where music was a tradition. He learned to play the violin at an early age and later earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Louisville, a master’s degree from Butler University and also attended Juilliard on a scholarship.
The story goes that when he embarked for Europe in 1942 to fight in World War II, he carried his violin along with him. As a foot soldier, he played at chapel services and serenaded fellow army buddies recuperating in dreary camps. His reputation as a soldier-violinist spread, and he was promoted and assigned to assist a Baptist chaplain transporting fallen soldiers from Normandy back to camp. One time a German aircraft fired on his jeep. As Sergeant Sher sped away, his violin flew out and was never found. The chaplain bought him a rare violin at a bombed-out music shop in Verdun so his music could play on.
At the time, a New Albany paper reported that one day two German officers emerged from cover with their arms raised and told Sher, who spoke German, they would surrender “tomorrow.” He and the chaplain returned the next day and rounded up the two officers and more than 100 other German soldiers who surrendered. The chaplain received a medal and Sher was promised one as well, but he never received it.
Following his return from overseas, he became a staff musician at WAVE and WHAS radio. He joined the Louisville Orchestra during its second year of existence and became concertmaster of the Jewish Community Center Orchestra at age 19. He began teaching at Southern Junior High School in 1947 and later taught at Manual. In 1958 he established the Louisville Youth Orchestra and was its director until 1975. In 1963, he began a string program in the New Albany-Floyd County Schools that grew to have more than 700 members. The Floyd County Youth Symphony has performed in Europe. Sher also began the Southern Indiana Orchestra, a community orchestra for adults.
After teaching for 40 years, Sher retired nine years ago. He celebrated his 93rd birthday in February of this year. He and his wife, Nancy, have three sons, Michael, Martin and Samuel, and two grandchildren.