We remember Sid with love.
  • Born on February 10, 1924 .
  • Passed away on November 4, 2018 .

Sid Socolar was a loving son, husband, father, and grandfather; a professor who did research and teaching in physiology and biophysics; an advocate on public health issues in New York City and nationally; and a lifelong fighter for a more just and peaceful world.

Born in Baltimore in 1924, Sid was the son of Samuel and Sarah Socolar, both Jewish immigrants from the same village in Eastern Europe, who ran a small corner grocery store. He was a talented student who did undergraduate and graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, earning his bachelor's degree in 1943 (at age 19), his master's degree in 1944, and his Ph.D. in 1945, all in chemistry.

After Sid held postdoctoral positions in chemistry at Johns Hopkins and Penn State, he did further graduate studies in physics at the University of Chicago. He served on the University of Chicago faculty from 1950 to 1957, first as instructor and later as assistant professor of physical sciences. He was inspired by the teaching philosophy there and maintained a lifelong interest in how education can encourage critical thinking.

A key turning point in his life came in 1950, when he met Ethel "Sandy" Beach, a former union organizer who was studying social work at the University of Chicago. They married in 1951 and soon had two children, Deborah and Paul.

In 1957, the family moved to Morningside Heights in New York City, where Sid worked at Columbia University as a researcher and then as assistant professor of physiology. In 1971 he joined the faculty of the University of Miami School of Medicine as an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics, where he rose to the rank of professor. He authored or co-authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, mostly on the physics of cell membranes.

Devoted to New York City, the family stayed in their apartment near the Columbia University campus with Sid as a commuter between New York and Miami. Sid and Sandy pioneered the two-city, two-professional, long-distance marriage long before it became common. In 1985, he returned to New York full-time in retirement.

From the 1950s, Sid also dedicated himself to policy analysis and activism with professional and community-based organizations advocating on public health issues. Initially he focused on the hazards of civilian and military nuclear technology, including campaigning for disarmament and against a nuclear reactor on the Columbia campus.

After his retirement, his advocacy focused on access to health care, Medicare, New York City's public health infrastructure, and the political economy of the pharmaceutical industry. Sid's primary involvements included the Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC), the American Public Health Association, and Rekindling Reform – a New York-based coalition that he helped found, committed to securing affordable health care for all and defending existing social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  He was also a dedicated participant in struggles to preserve vital hospital and health services in West Harlem and across New York.

Sid and Sandy and their children were active in civil rights and antiwar protests of the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond. One highlight of Sid's involvement in many social justice causes was his civil disobedience protest and arrest in 1999 in response to the killing of Amadou Diallo by New York City police.

Sid died peacefully early Sunday morning November 4, 2018, in the Dawn Greene Hospice in New York City after a brief illness.

He is survived by his 102-year-old wife Sandy Socolar, his daughter Debbie Socolar and son Paul Socolar, daughter-in-law Sukey Blanc, and two grandchildren, Robin Socolar Blanc and Elena Socolar Blanc.

In lieu of flowers, the family invites donations in Sid's memory to the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN), The Nation Institute, or LiLY (Lifeforce in Later Years). 

Plans for a memorial are to be determined.

Please feel free to share a memory of Sid in the Tribute section below.

Posted by Debbie Socolar on 3rd December 2018
From Frank Goldsmith -- and Barbara Storace: Very saddened by Sid’s passing. He was and still is a great comrade in our fight for a decent health system for everyone. I remember with great fondness the many meetings, telephone calls and our other means of communication we shared. Utilizing his scientific physics training and profound humanism he always had a incisive comment on a difficult issue. All issues. Especially the profound crises we face today. I still remember his telling me of his scientific political sojourn from Chicago to Columbia to Miami and back to NYC. Sid and Sandy were and still are our examples of combining political with family life. He deserves and must get proper recognition. And a special hug to Sandy.
Posted by Robert Padgug on 27th November 2018
This is the short memorial I presented to the Board of Physicians for a National Health Program: What can one say about Sid? He was a natural and social scientist, an analyst, and an activist in so many fields, over so many years, that many of us knew him well in only a single sphere of his well-nigh universal activities. Yet he managed to connect all of his interests and his friends and fellow activists into an amazing, coherent whole. He began in the hard sciences and spent his working years as a physicist, a biochemist, a physiologist, a philosopher of science, and more. In those years he was always an activist as well, working with many groups for peace, for disarmament, and against the spread of nuclear technology. He was always, as in later years, a good comrade and a hard worker for common interests and, indeed, for the wider public good. After he retired from his academic science career, he began to focus on health and public health in a major way, using his deep-rooted knowledge of proper scientific methodology to become an expert in many aspects of those fields, becoming as knowledgeable in his chosen areas as many others who had advanced degrees and decades of experience in them. Sid grew up in a lower middle class, mainly Jewish, world in Baltimore. Judging by so many others who came out of that world and that city, including our own Len Rodberg and David Kotelchuck, who also made aspects of health and public health their chosen fields of interest, Baltimore must have been a special place indeed (even if we provincial New York Jews had no idea of it), and his secular Jewish background surely helped point him to community service and love of truth, rationality, and desire to improve the world as he found it. In the world of public health, I can only speak of my own experiences with Sid, although I know that many others have analogous stories in their own dealings with him. We worked together on many projects, analyses, and political activities. He was always in the lead and was a source of inspiration to me and others; he was, to be sure, my mentor in many of these activities. My own turn toward public health from health finance and economics was certainly guided by Sid, and I relied immensely on his knowledge, his common sense, and his ability to make connections among subjects that I might otherwise have missed or ignored. I owe my understanding of such varied things as the precautionary principle and health impact assessment, among many others (such as the nature of a scientific “theory”), to him. In the Public Health Association of New York (PHANYC) he played a leading role in important projects, almost single-handedly creating and helping to lead major projects to analyze and understand the public health systems of the New York region; working to connect the disparate organizations, commissions, public authorities, and academic institutions that form its substance; and attempting to make them work together more collaboratively. He believed strongly in public and community planning at a time when that was sadly out of favor. At the same time, he played major roles in the American Public Health Association, serving with distinction in its Medical Care Section and in other important positions. With others, some of them in this room, he founded Rekindling Reform, an organization dedicated to educating advocates, academics and the public regarding health reform issues and which, in later years, turned to advocating for and defending the wider sphere of social insurance, especially Medicare and Social Security. He was the heart and soul of this organization and we certainly could not have done our work without his tireless and invaluable oral and written input. In all those years he was a committed friend to the single-payer movement and spent many hours at PNHP’s forums and other activities. Finally, to me he was a good friend on those many occasions when I needed one, and I could always rely on his advice and thoughts in both good and bad times. There is much more to be said about Sid, but not enough time to say it. I can summarize it all, and, to me, this is the highest accolade I can give him: he was a mensch.
Posted by Julie Zito on 25th November 2018
I knew Sid in the context of Medical Care Section activities at the Amer Public Health Association. He was a most gracious mentor to me and I was awed by his passion for justice on pharmaceutical use. He strengthened my will to persist in the battle for judicious, parsimonious psychotropic medication use, particularly for children of the poor and foster care populations. Teaching by example--it can change the world!
Posted by Nancy Dubow on 24th November 2018
Dear Sandy, Debbie, and Paul, I am so sorry to learn of Sid's passing. He was such a bright and compassionate light in our world. My Dad was so lucky to grow up in Baltimore in that great circle of friends that included Sid, Bob Resnick, Sam Gaby, and Mayo Greenberg. Sid and Sandy's lifelong friendship was greatly treasured by my parents. When my Dad had to have surgery for an abdominal aneurysm, who called us at the motel the night before to comfort, encourage, uplift and reassure us? Sid Socolar--our dear, ever-thoughtful, true and eternal friend. Much love and dear thoughts, Nancy
Posted by Vivian Rosenberg on 21st November 2018
Dear Sukey & Paul: I’m sorry that I never met Sid——especially sorry now that I have read this beautifully crafted “forever missed” page: a testament to one of the good guys. For years, I have been aware of your serious commitment to “social justice” —a commitment reflected in your daily lives. A case in point: Sukey’s recent efforts to collect contributions to help the group of Palestinian women you met during your visit to Israel. This wasn’t an accident: you obviously went out of your way to find these women and then returned home to tell others about them and encourage our support. I know Sid would have been please with this continuation of his values.
Posted by Cheryl Merzel on 19th November 2018
Sid will be remembered for his steadfast leadership and advocacy to advance public health in New York City and nationally. His dedication to the cause over so many decades is a true inspiration. My condolences to the family. He will be missed by us all.
Posted by Gordon Schiff on 18th November 2018
Sid was such a thoughtful, serious, strategic helpful and above all unwavering participant in Medical Care and Socialist Caucus events and meetings at APHA. I could always count on him to "be there" in every sense of the word. He will be greatly missed Gordy Schiff
Posted by Valerie Carey on 10th November 2018
Sid is my cousin (still cannot think of him in the past tense, so “is” my cousin). Sid is the man I looked up to more than anyone else in this world. He was a wise, decent, kind, human being. When Sid retired from academia, he entered into a whole new career in public health. I used to tell people that he & Sandy “are the most unretired retired people ever” always striving to make the world better for all. I loved visiting with him & with Sandy. It is a deep regret of mine that we could not visit more often. Even when my children were youngsters, Sid did not talk down to them, but engaged them in meaningful conversations and learned what was of interest to them. I still recall with a smile how he entertained them with making seltzer water which we living in the Midwest had not seen (well, I was familiar with it from early childhood in Pittsburgh). Sid was an incredible person. He took very seriously and with great love and dedication the struggle to help improve the lives of others especially those who had not the power to help themselves. He was tireless and his heart and intellect were huge. Sid was - and is deeply loved. I miss you, dear Sidney. Go in peace. You will be missed, but never, never forgotten.
Posted by Emily Heilbrun on 9th November 2018
It was wonderful, Paul, to read about your father’s life. I only met him once, when Jane I visited at your parents’ apartment in New York a number of years ago. Such a sweet, kind man. I’m thinking also of your mother, who was a teacher in our kindergarten classroom, where you and I met in 1960! Please tell her I am thinking of you, as of your whole family.
Posted by Naomi Herman on 7th November 2018
Dear Family, Though not technically related, I still think of the Socolars as family. The last time I saw Sid and Sandy was probably over 20 years ago when I was in New York. We met for lunch and Sid and Sandy introduced me to sushi. Over the years we stayed in touch by email. Both Sid and Sandy did amazing work for the people of New York. I am saddened by his death and joyful that I had the good fortune to know him. I still keep in touch with some of the Caplans for they too will always be family. Sending strength to all the Socolars. May his memory be for a blessing. Naomi (Caplan) Herman
Posted by Abby Resnick on 6th November 2018
Dear Sandy, Debbie and Paul, I was so sad to hear of Sid's passing. I knew him and your family my entire life as my late Dad and Sid were friends growing up in Baltimore, MD. In my early childhood, I enjoyed our get togethers in NYC going to museums, sharing meals and just hanging out. I will never forget how your father and mother so kindly gave emotional and physical support to my parents during my sister Trudy's last year of life while she was a cancer patient (glioblastoma) at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. More recently I happily reconnected with Debbie and then her folks (and hopefully Paul again). I am so grateful that my husband Roger and I were able to visit with Sid, Sandy and Debbie at their apartment in June 2017. We reminisced about Sid and my Dad's early years as well as Sid and Sandy's lives together, and the lives of our children. I am so lucky to have known Sid and to be friends with such a special family who cares so much about social justice. I cherish our friendship and the memories we share. Love, Abby
Posted by Ronda Kotelchuck on 5th November 2018
We all share such a sense of loss with Sid's passing. He was just the most steady, persistent, determined, loyal, dedicated and informed presence in the movement for health care access and social justice. We will sorely miss him as we continue to strive for the goals and values he so ably represented.
Posted by Charles Bell on 5th November 2018
We are grieved by the loss of Sid Socolar, a valued member of the National Jobs for All Network (formerly Coalition) and an Associate of the Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare, and Equity. Sid always fought for the causes he valued—peace, healthcare for all, and full employment. He seemed never to tire or give up hope through many years of demonstrations and meetings and was an inspiration to us. It was an honor to know Sid; he will be sorely missed. We extend our condolences to Sandy Socolar, a partner in Sid’s commitment to social and economic justice and to Sid’s children and grandchildren. Trudy Goldberg Chair, National Jobs for All Network Co-Chair, Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare, and Equity
Posted by RACHEL MARTIN on 5th November 2018
Sukey’s words brought happy tears. I met Sid when Robin was born. I am confident he could not have wished for anything more in the women his granddaughters grew to be. (Not to mention Paul and Debbie!) I believe he was kvelling while Robin trained new people to cop watch. I love the smile in his first photo here. It’s the smile I remember when he took time at Robin’s bat mitzvah to visit with my baby who needed a break from the party. Well, maybe Sid needed a little break, too, but I remember him telling me, as he had before and always in the most generous way, he thought me part of the family. The thing is, I don’t think many grandparents would have, and definitely not so sincerely. The last time I saw Sid, he was coping with great stress getting the apartment ready for Sandy’s return from the hospital. But, of course, we still talked politics while he read the New York Times over lunch. Warmest hugs to his family. Peace, Sid. There’s a whole ocean of things to celebrate in your life.
Posted by Dina Blanc on 5th November 2018
Dear Paul, Debbie, and Sandy, I am so sorry for your loss. I have such a clear memory of spending time with all of you at your apartment on 116th Street, and of Syd who was always friendly and a little intimidating. It is a privilege to be an in-law-once-removed of your wonderful, passionate, rational family. My thoughts are with all of you. Love, Dina
Posted by Oliver Fein on 5th November 2018
Dear Sandy, Debbie and Paul, I write on behalf of the NY Metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and also the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association. We were deeply saddened to hear of Sid's passing. As you know, we valued his persistent advocacy of single-payer national health care reform and his pioneering effort in the Rekindling Reform group. Although because of his illness, we no longer saw him at our meetings, we will miss him even more now. Our thoughts are with you. with love and respect, Oli Fein
Posted by Nora Lichtash on 5th November 2018
Although I haven’t had the chance to spend much time with Sid, I’ve gotten to know and appreciate him through my friendship with Sukey and Paul. His clear belief that we have the power together to change institutions that hurt us, inspires me and helps me continue when campaigns are hard. Sending love to the whole family—especially Sandy.
Posted by Rachel DeGolia on 5th November 2018
Sid was an avid participant in UHCAN's national conferences and conference calls since our founding in 1992 and always was one of the most thoughtful of advocates, bringing his tremendous insights to our discussions and strategizing. I will always remember his deep, rich voice on our calls calmly raising questions that needed to be asked. Sid and Sandy were also dear, old friends of my parents, Frank and Lois Rosen, now both gone, since their days at the University of Chicago. Debbie, Paul and Sandy, please accept the condolences of all of us at UHCAN. What a wonderful life he lived and we are all enriched by his being among us in so many ways!
Posted by Alan Benjamin on 5th November 2018
Dear Paul and Debbie, I join with family and friends to pay tribute to Sid, part of our extended family but also a comrade in the struggle for Medicare For All. Over the course of many years, I was in regular touch with Sid in relation to this central struggle for working people in the United States. When I had questions about how to answer this or that new challenge to Single-Payer, I would contact Sid, who either had the answer or knew where to find it. He was amazingly lucid and sharp, almost to the very end of his life. Lita and I had a wonderful visit with Sid and Sandy this past June. I will never forget his warmth and his deep love for his family and friends. Best to you, always, Alan Benjamin
Posted by Jeff Gold on 4th November 2018
On behalf of the Steering Committee of the Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, a salute to one of the most intelligent, decent, dedicated and strategic brothers, and dear friends, the universal health care rights movement ever had. And just a great guy. Condolences of course to Sid's very accomplished family, who we'll get to hug in person very, very soon.
Posted by Mona Molarsky on 4th November 2018
I remember Sid from my earliest years, in the 1950s, when his daughter Debbie and I went to nursery school together in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. At first, I simply thought of him as a kind grownup. But, as Debbie and I developed our friendship during our grade school years, I became aware that Sid was a scientist and political activist, concerned about nuclear power and its possible effects on humans. It was from Sid and his wife Sandy that my parents and I first heard about the presence of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 in cow’s milk, which caused my mother to ban fresh milk from our diet for several years. Sometime later, when I was a young teenager, Sid and Sandy took Debbie and me to our first French movie, “La Guerre est Finie,” in which the sophisticated and world-weary Yves Montand smoked cigarettes, removed women’s blouses and attended secret meetings, whose purpose I did not entirely understand. The convoluted plot notwithstanding, this moody black-and-white film made an indelible impression on me. Debbie and I agreed it was the best movie we’d ever seen. During much of my adult life, I’ve lived in the Columbia University neighborhood, not far from the Socolars. Throughout the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, I would often see Sid on Broadway, headed for the local grocery stores. He’d always stop to talk with me and catch up on family news. Throughout those years, he remained as politically active and engaged as ever. I found it inspiring to know he was still out there, fighting the good fight, concerned about the world his generation was bequeathing to their children, grandchildren and those to come after. His spirit of committed optimism remains a great gift to all of us.
Posted by Frank Beck on 4th November 2018
The ties between my wife Mona's family and the Socolars go back to the Upper West Side in the 1950s. In recent years, whenever Mona and I ran into Sid on Broadway, he was always glad to see us, and we were happy for the chance to hear what was going on with him and his family. In those conversations, I also felt in touch with our neighborhood's long tradition of fighting for social justice. Sid saw that struggle from a perspective we could only marvel at--and try to learn from. I will miss Sid's irrepressible vitality, which kept him alert and engaged far into his senior years. His example will help keep us working for the saner America that Sid knew was possible.
Posted by Leonard Rodberg on 4th November 2018
Sid was a determined, even relentless, fighter for social justice, especially (in my experience with him) in the cause of public health and access to health care. He pushed all of us forward, always believing that more could be done and that we had to do it. He always believed that we could make a difference, and he succeeded where many of us believed little could be done. He was a brilliant thinker and writer on health policy, always seeking ways to buttress weak-kneed politicians and force them to do the right thing. His determination and wisdom will be sorely missed in these difficult times.
Posted by Ned Stuckey-French on 4th November 2018
I only knew Sid through his daughter Debbie. She and I worked together in Cambridge and Boston during the 1970s and early 1980s as student activists and later as union and community organizers. Her parents' commitment to peace and justice was always there in her. She told me of the sacrifices her parents had to make during the dark days of McCarthyism and their resilience was always an inspiration. I send my love and admiration, and I hope you can all hold onto each other and to your memories of your father.
Posted by Lita Blanc on 4th November 2018
It was several years into Paul and Sukey's relationship before I actually met Sid because he was still teaching in Miami during the years I lived in New York City. Although I heard a lot about him from Sandy ( whose job was housed at Bank Street Teachers College where I got my credential), truth be told, I was a bit unsure about this somewhat mysterious member of my extended family. I thought to myself " It is a rare individual who can maintain a long distance relationship over such an extended period of time ". Sid ( and Sandy) along with him, of course, was that loving,caring individual who was fully committed to his family, his work and to fighting for social justice. When we were able to spend time together at family gatherings, he was always both interesting to talk to and interested in hearing about my life as a teacher and an activist. The last few times that I visited him, despite his deteriorating health, he had clearly kept up with world events and was ready to exchange ideas with me about public education, the labor movement and single payer healthcare ( among many concerns). To Sandy,Debbie, Paul, Sukey, Robin and Elena: Please accept my deepest sympathy. Such a loss is difficult to absorb, no matter the circumstances.
Posted by Rachel Burd on 4th November 2018
On Friday night, November 2, 2018, I went to a service at Union Temple in Brooklyn. The night before, anti-Semitic graffiti had been scrawled inside the temple's walls. The service was packed with the multitudes who represent the New York City Sid loved. When the rabbi asked for names of those to pray for, I thought of Sid--how outraged he would be at the attack and how gratified by the show of support. I miss him. I remember a post-meeting burger/beer several of us went for and Sid's deep chuckle as we talked of things not purely political. He straddled the academic and grassroots activist communities with grace, intensity, and commitment. He was a teacher beyond the days he wore the title, and I'm sure many of his lessons were of means as well as material. His legacy is in all of us students as well as in the papers and political groups he created.
Posted by Susan DeJarnatt on 4th November 2018
What a wonderful guy--his spirit definitely lives on! And we even share a birthday. Love you you all.
Posted by Suzanne Blanc on 4th November 2018
Last night, we lost my father-in-law, Sid Socolar. This morning I dropped off my daughter, Robin, at a Jewish congregation in Philadelphia where she was co-leader of a training about community-based strategies for resisting police violence. Paul and I were confident that Sid would want her to do this training. Sid himself had been arrested at age 75 for protesting police brutality in New York, along with others from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, which is the very same group that Robin is part of. Our whole family will miss Sid deeply. But I do find comfort, as I think Sid did, in knowing that the values of social justice, critical thinking, curiosity and love that were embraced by Sid and Sandy flourish in the lives of Debbie, Paul, and his grand-daughters, Robin and Elena. And I might also add that all of Sid's descendants are stubborn, as he was. It’s hard to imagine what my life would have been like without my relationship with Sid and his love, his intelligence and his lifelong commitment to social justice. I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been loved by Sid and to be part of his wonderful family.

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