SARATOGA SPRINGS - Daniel Balmuth (born June 20, 1929) of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., died Friday, March 8, 2013, following a long illness. Loving husband, devoted father and grandfather and accomplished scholar, he will be forever missed by his family, friends and those in the Saratoga, Skidmore College and Temple Sinai communities whose lives he touched.
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The second of four children born to Mortimer and Betty (Levin) Balmuth, he was born and raised in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The family moved to the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, where Dan attended DeWitt Clinton High School. After graduating from City College of New York in 1950, Dan began his post-graduate studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., receiving his Ph.D. in Russian history in 1959. At Cornell, Dan studied alongside his older brother, Jerry; the two were so inseparable they became known as the "Balmuth Twins" on campus.
Dan returned to New York City, where he married Rita Jacknow on June 27, 1953. The couple stayed in New York briefly while Rita taught grade school and Dan continued work on his dissertation, but then embarked on their new life together upstate. Dan began teaching at State University Teachers College at Plattsburgh in 1956. The Balmuths moved to Saratoga Springs in 1958, where Dan began his career as a professor of history at Skidmore College, teaching there for 40 years until his retirement in 1998.
Professor Balmuth was known for his deep reverence for history as a discipline, his extraordinary memory, as well as his detailed and painstaking scholarship. He won several awards at Cornell, including the Andrew White fellowship. In 1962, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, which enabled him and his family to live in Helsinki, Finland, for a year while he conducted research. He also authored two academic books on his special subject of interest, censorship in Tsarist Russia. In addition to the countless Skidmore students who benefited from his teaching, many in the Saratoga community gained historical knowledge and perspective - "the first step in understanding so much in life," he would say - through his informal instruction and discussion.
His commitment to teaching and scholarship, however, was not limited just to academia; it pervaded his faith. Dan and Rita, along with a handful of other local families, pioneered the establishment of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs in 1965. At various times, Dan served as president, head of religious education and leader of the lay services - shouldering whatever he could to keep the temple afloat in its early years. And as the temple grew, so did Dan's strong connection to Judaism. Temple Sinai and its community were a central part of Dan's life. He was a valued participant in the temple's Torah study group; in recent months the group moved its weekly meetings to the Balmuth home to accommodate Dan's condition and benefit from his continued involvement.
Though raised in the city, Dan embraced life upstate, taking up downhill and cross-country skiing, sailing, biking, camping and hiking in the Adirondacks. He enjoyed these and other active pursuits not just for the sake of exercise (a cause to which he was fiercely committed) but because they were activities the family could enjoy together. He also loved travel. Summer vacations included long drives to many U.S. national parks and historic sites to help the family appreciate the country's wonder. After his retirement, Dan and his wife took numerous travel vacations to explore the country and the world.
His commitment to his family, and their love for him, will be his most enduring legacy. He is beloved and survived by his immediate family, his wife, Rita; his children, Susan Balmuth and David Horne of Seattle, David Balmuth and Randi Cigelnik of Chicago and Michael and Jill Balmuth of Boston; his grandchildren, Rachel and Sarah Horne (Seattle) and Amy (Chicago), Evan and Lexi (Boston) Balmuth; as well as siblings Jerome Balmuth of Hamilton, N.Y., Lorraine Widman of Portland, Ore., and Marilyn Stolove of Plainview, N.Y. He also has many nieces and nephews who warmly remember annual Thanksgiving gatherings at the Balmuth family home in Saratoga.
Services for Daniel Balmuth will be held at noon Monday, March 11, 2013, at William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes, 628 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 584-5373. Burial will follow at Beth El Cemetery for Temple Sinai on Gansevoort Road in Moreau.
The Daniel Balmuth Fund for Jewish Studies at Skidmore College sponsors a lecture series on Jewish history. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Daniel Balmuth Fund c/o Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, www.skidmoreconnect.org/memorial); or to Temple Sinai, 509 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
The family would like to thank the teams at the Rubin Dialysis Center and Saratoga Hospital, especially Drs. David Mastrianni, Rachid Daoui and Alex Frank. These physicians, together with many other caregivers too numerous to name, helped Dan as he dealt valiantly with a wide range of serious chronic diseases. He gained strength from them and shared the strength of his resolve with them, even as his body failed.
The family would also like to extend a special thanks to the Temple Sinai community and to their neighbors on Marion Place, especially the Kane family, for the invaluable support and friendship they have provided through the years.
Online remembrances may be made at www.burkefuneralhome.com.
William J. Burke & Sons - Saratoga Springs
628 North Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Published in The Saratogian on Mar. 10, 2013