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Who Was Murray Schiff?

Murray added so much to people's lives that 93 years later we’re still thinking about him.
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February 15, 2023

Murray Schiff was my uncle.

Murray was born in the Bronx on November 15, 1932, and died on July 2nd, 1933. He lived 229 days.  A month and a half longer than baseball season. 

Murray died from complications of pneumonia.

He was the third of four Schiff boys. The oldest was my dad Julian, then Harold, Murray, and Stanley. But who was Murray? And what was special about him?

Murray is buried at Beth-El Cemetery in New Jersey. Also buried at Beth El is the Gamzon family. The Gamzons are my mother’s side of the family. 

My parents went to Jersey for only three reasons: To buy cheap gas, to visit the cemetery, or to get buried there. 

While the Gamzons’ plots are all together Murray is off by himself in a section just for children. It’s a section with tiny gravestones. 

Even though it’s a short two-minute walk from the Gamzon graves, Murray’s section seems much more isolated and lonelier. 

His stone has only his name, birth, and date of death. After 90 years of brutal East Coast weather, his chiseled name is barely legible. 

There was nothing else to write about him because he had not accomplished much.  Or did he?  

After a few minutes with the Gamzons, my father would quietly say, “I’m going over to see Murray.”  I always walked with him. While walking over he was always silent and occasionally he’d kick some dirt. Mom would stay behind and chat with her folks. This was my dad at his loneliest.

My grandmother carried Murray for nine months– that’s two months more than he lived. So let me tell you who I think my uncle Murray was. Because he was something special.

My grandmother carried Murray for nine months that’s two months more than he lived. 

Because Murray ran out of time so quickly nobody got to know him. 

Murray never learned to walk, talk or even play. He spent most of his short life on his back staring up to heaven. 

Even though antibiotics were invented in 1928, there was no saving Murray. Murray was in a rush to leave. He got pneumonia and probably cried a bunch then went to sleep and never woke up. 

So let me tell you who I think my uncle Murray was. Because he was something special.

Murray was not just an infant that did nothing. Not at all. Like all of us, Murray had a purpose. You might say he was purpose driven. Murray added so much to people’s lives that 93 years later we’re still thinking about him. So I’ll tell you who Murray was: Murray was the baby that everyone loved. Even though I never met him I love my uncle Murray and, in some way, I miss him. I heard he made everyone laugh. That means he made them happy. 

I was never there but I didn’t have to be. I could see it in the sadness and tears and on their faces when they would bend down and pull up weeds from the dirt surrounding his grave. They wanted to make Murray’s grave look clean and neat.Then before leaving they would each get a rock and put it on his gravestone.  The rock is a little gift you leave behind to let him know he was remembered and cared about. Some believe the soul lingers there. 

I know who Murray was. Murray was a little Jewish baby boy who smiled from the day he was born till the day he died. Murray was so pure that not one person ever had a bad thing to say about him. The fifth commandment Kibbud Av Va-em (honoring your parents) is one of the hardest commandments to keep and nobody was better at it than my uncle Murray. Murray was as close to being an angel as any person can be. I’ll go out on a limb and say Murray was perfect. In some ways, Murray accomplished more than many of us. Murray entered the world with a clean slate and left the same way. No need for him to bang his chest on Yom Kippur. What more could be asked of someone? Yes, I know Murray. I know him well. In some ways, Murray was my teacher, one of my role models. Uncle Murray was pure heart and soul.


Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer, and host of the ‘You Don’t Know Schiff’ podcast. His new book is “Why Not? Lessons on Comedy, Courage and Chutzpah.

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