Rabbi Feivel Wagner, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Forest Hills, Queens, for more than two decades, died Feb. 7 in Booth Memorial Hospital from injuries he had suffered two days earlier during a fall in his Forest Hills home. He was 58.
About 2,000 congregants and members of the community attended the funeral for Rabbi Wagner in the synagogue, many listening to the service broadcast outside on loudspeakers, before the rabbi’s body was flown to Jerusalem for burial, said Nechemia Reiss, executive director of the congregation.
Many of the mourners had attended the rabbi’s classes at Young Israel or were his students at Shevach High School in Flushing.
"He was a wonderful teacher," Reiss said. "He was inspired by the love of people, the love of Torah."
"He had a tremendous love of learning," said Rabbi Heshie Billet of the Young Israel or Woodmere, L.I., and a lifelong friend of Rabbi Wagner. "He was very respected by his peers in Queens."
Rabbi Wagner, a Brooklyn native and the son of Holocaust survivors, studied at Yeshiva Keren B’Yavneh in Israel and was ordained by the Mir Yeshiva in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The Israeli school is a hesder institution, which combines Torah learning with army service; Mir is a classically "Livak" yeshiva, part of the haredi world.
"That’s an odd combination," Rabbi Billet said. "He was a haredi in many ways, but he was also proud of the State of Israel."
Rabbi Billett served at the Young Israel of Oak Park, Mich., near Detroit, before coming to the Forest Hills synagogue in 1983.
At the Queens congregation he taught at least five weekly classes as well as a daily Daf Yomi gemara class.
"He communicated very well," said Sarah Cohen, a member of Young Israel who attended Rabbi Wagner’s Navi (Prophets) class for 19 years. "He had a vast store of knowledge that he could call up at the most amazing times. He did it without any effort.
"All of my friends knew that we could not do anything on Monday nights because I always went to Rabbi Wagner’s Navi class," Cohen said.
The rabbi and his wife, Bina, were honored by the congregation at its annual dinner in 1996.
He served as president of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens and was on the executive board of the Rabbinical Council of America.
"Everyone who know him felt that they lost a brother," Rabbi Billet said.Rabbi Wagner is survived by his wife; his mother, Esther Wagner of Jerusalem; a son, Rabbi Chaim Wagner of New York; three daughters, Chana Wagner of New York; Bracha Shapiro of Los Angeles; and Sarah Maybruch of New York; a brother, Rabbi Shmuel Wagner of Jerusalem; two sisters, Malka Weisberg of Jerusalem and Sarah Baumol of Efrat, Israel; and several grandchildren.
Rabbi William Orentlicher, 85; Guided Bayside ShulRabbi William Orentlicher, the spiritual leader of the Bayside Jewish Center in Queens for more than 50 years, died of complications from surgery on Feb. 7 at North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He was 85.
Rabbi Orentlicher was born 1920 in Vishnevets, a village in what is now Ukraine. He immigrated to New York as a teenager, and earned a degree in divinity from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University.
He also received a law degree from St. John’s University in Queens and a doctorate in Hebrew literature from Hebrew Theological College in Chicago, according to his son, Allen Oren.Rabbi Orentlicher worked at Congregation Agudath Achim in East Orange, N.J., and Sinai Synagogue in South Bend, Ind., before he was hired by BJC in 1952. He became the synagogue’s rabbi emeritus in 2002.
"He was a very warm person," said Sanford Schwartz, a 42-year member of BJC and its board chair. "He was not the type to play one against the other; he was not political; he did what his heart told him to do. His life was the Bayside Jewish Center."
Schwartz also remembered the rabbi as a great orator and an advocate for strong interfaith relations.
Rabbi Orentlicher is survived by his wife, Jeanne, of Bayside; five children and 11 grandchildren. The family requests memorial donations be made to the Rabbi William Orentlicher Scholarship Fund at Yeshiva University.