|Rabbi Abie Ingber|
In a July 1 announcement about the find, Ingber said the Hillel students are planning a national search for the descendants of the names engraved on the marble memorials. Two of those descendants, Lawrence Hoffheimer of Virginia and Cincinnati attorney Daniel Hoffheimer, were introduced at the July 1 announcement.
Two of the tablets, weighing hundreds of pounds each, were carried out of Towles’ home last March by UC Hillel students after Towles, who was remodeling her bathroom, saw names chiseled on the back of her former shower walls and asked Ingber to stop by and take a look. For years, Ingber has been collecting Jewish artifacts from around the nation – artifacts now cherished at Hillel – that had formerly been stored and forgotten or thrown into junk piles.
Ingber says it took months of research for him to confirm his hunch that the donation boards were in memory of the founders of HUC. He says he found his proof in a 1901 report from the Union of American Congregations, which listed the names, cities and donations in exact order with the text, “In Memory of the Departed Benefactors of the Hebrew Union College.”
“We found a piece of Jewish history that was literally written on the bathroom wall,” Ingber says. “And, it’s arguably a piece of history of one of the most significant decisions made in the American Jewish community in the 19th century.”
In addition to searching for descendants of the founders, Ingber says he wants to remind homeowners nationwide to be on the lookout for similar discoveries if they’re remodeling older homes. “If you come across something unusual, alert your local university or historical society. You may have something of significance.”