Isaac Boniuk, 74; past president of Traditional Congregation, helped lead Israel Bonds events

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Isaac Boniuk, longtime ophthalmologist, medical ethicist and a past president of Traditional Congregation, died Thursday, Aug. 1. He was 74 and had resided in St. Louis since 1995.

Dr. Boniuk was widely admired by his colleagues for his devotion to medicine and for his championing of medical ethics. He and his wife organized an annual Boniuk-Tanzman Jewish Medical Ethics program, which brought together experts in the field of medical ethics based on Jewish values and teachings.  He was described by Rabbi Seth Gordon of Traditional Congregation as a “tzadik, a righteous man.” The rabbi noted that he had never before referred to a person in a eulogy as a tzadik.

Former St. Louisan Sharon Burde, now of New York, told the Jewish Light, “Isaac was a pillar of the Jewish community, not only with financial support, but with his body and soul. He was a problem solver, an energetic doer, a full participant in the life of the community…Totally committed to family, friends, profession, synagogue and community. He knew how to have fun and be a serious person all in the same package.”

Isaac Boniuk was born on Sept. 11, 1938 in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, one of five children of the late Hyman and the late Rachel Boniuk. He attended Dalhouse University in Halifax for college and medical school, completed his residency at the University of California-San Francisco and his retinal fellowship at Barnes Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish). He practiced for 38 years at Retinal Consultants and published numerous articles in clinical ophthalmology research. He served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Okinawa from 1966-68. He was married for over 51 years to the former Isabel Tanzman.

Dr. Boniuk was a past president of Traditional Congregation and served the congregation in numerous other capacities. He was co-chair with Esther Abramson Krut of the congregation’s annual Israel Bonds dinner, the only remaining synagogue sponsored Israel Bonds event in St. Louis. “The event has continued for 36 years, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from our modest-sized shul,” said Rabbi Seth Gordon in his eulogy.

“In congregations, some people make major financial contributions, others devote many hours volunteering on the board, programs or committees, and some are religiously involved—a regular part of the minyan, for example. Some even have a major impact on two of these areas—but to be so devoted in all three—that is rare,” Gordon added.

Noting that Dr. Boniuk and his wife loved the subject of medical ethics and Torah perspectives, Rabbi Gordon said, “He and Isabel set up the Boniuk-Tanzman Medical Ethics Lectures at Washington University in honor and memory of his and Isabel’s parents. They were really good.”

In addition to his wife, Dr. Boniuk is survived by three children, Jonathan (Rena) Boniuk, Wendy (Avi) Spiegelman and Amy (Joshua) Brickel, siblings Dr. Milton (Laurie) Boniuk, and Dr. Vivien (Dr. Arthur Cobin) Boniuk, and 14 grandchildren.

Funeral services for Dr. Boniuk were held last Friday at Traditional Congregation. Burial was at Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery on Ladue Road.

Contributions may be made to Traditional Congregation, 12437 Ladue Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63141; The Jewish Federation of St. Louis, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63145, or the charity of the donor’s choice.