Donald Feldstein, 88, Communal Executive
Donald Feldstein, whose distinguished career in Jewish communal service spanned more than six decades, died on April 4 of heart failure and the coronavirus. He was 88, and a resident of Riverdale.
Feldstein held executive positions at the New York and MetroWest (NJ) Jewish federations, the American Jewish Committee and the Council of Jewish Federations (now the Jewish Federations of North America).
A soft-spoken and thoughtful man, he prided himself as “someone who worked the system and got things done, and he defined himself as a bureaucrat” at a time when the word had a positive connotation, noted Steven Bayme, who was a colleague of Feldstein’s at AJC in the early 1980s and remained close to him.
“Don synthesized the best of liberal social contemporary thinking with traditional Jewish values,” said Bayme, who described him as a mentor who had “a tremendous impact on me intellectually.”
Feldstein’s son, Michael, noted that his father became a Jewish communal professional in the 1950s when it was rare for Orthodox Jews to enter the field. He and Bayme observed that Feldstein always emphasized the importance of Jewish identity and values in his work, though never in a triumphalist manner. He was influential in promoting endogamous marriage and an increased Jewish birthrate in countering assimilation.
A native of Manhattan, Feldstein attended Stuyvesant High School and City College. He met his wife, Shirley, on line while registering for classes at the Columbia School of Social Work, where he received his master’s and a doctorate. (“On line” in the literal sense, of standing in the same line.)
The couple was married in 1954, more than 65 years ago.
Feldstein worked at the JCCs in Boston and St. Louis before moving to the New York metropolitan area in the mid-1960s. He helped started one of the first bachelor’s in social work programs at Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he chaired the social work department before returning to Jewish communal service.
The Feldsteins lived in West Hempstead, L.I., and Teaneck, N.J., prior to their move to Riverdale. “He was a lifelong learner and Torah student until his very last days,” his family recalled. In addition, “he could clear a Jeopardy board as well as anyone, could zip through the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in record speed, and was loyal to his beloved Mets to the end.”
Feldstein is survived by his wife, Shirley, and children Michael (and Sharon) Feldstein, Eric (and Miriam) Feldstein, Miriam (and Joel) Sudan, and Ruth Feldstein. He is also survived by a brother, Lorell Blass.
— Gary Rosenblatt
Rabbi Leib Groner, 88, Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Secretary
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner, the long-time former personal secretary of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, died on April 7 of coronavirus. He was 88.
Rabbi Groner was born to a family descended from Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic dynasty. After Rabbi Schneerson passed away, chabad.org reports, Rabbi Groner did not fulfill any official role “but continued to be a beloved mentor and role model for all of Chabad Chasidim.”
The rabbi is survived by his wife and seven children, some of whom serve as shluchim (emissaries) in the U.S. and Israel.
Rabbi Bruce Goldman, 84, Former Columbia Chaplain
Rabbi A. Bruce Goldman, who was removed as Jewish chaplain at Columbia University for having led student protests of the Vietnam War, died last week at the age of 84, having been sick for much of a year but finally succumbing to the coronavirus. A Reform rabbi, he served at Columbia from 1967-1969.
For years Rabbi Goldman ran a radio program on the progressive New York radio station WBAI. The program was called “Up Against the Wailing Wall,” echoing a more ribald slogan of some ’60s leftists. In later years, he made his living performing marriages, often of interfaith couples, and providing pastoral counseling for children of Holocaust survivors and others.
Helene Aylon, 89, Prominent Artist
Helene Aylon, a prominent artist and feminist, died on April 6 of Covid-19. She was 89.
“Her work was often deeply autobiographical, reflecting her own evolution as a woman and as a Jew,” according to JTA.
In 1985, to mark the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ms. Aylon worked with young Japanese women to place sacks filled with rice, grain, pods and seeds in a river to float toward the two cities. In the 1990s, she began turning toward Judaism in her nine-part work “The G-D Project.” The first installation, “The Liberation of G-d,” was constructed from shelves lined with open copies of the Hebrew Bible. Instances of misogyny, violent language or a woman’s name omitted from the text were highlighted in pink.
Frida Wattenberg, 95, Smuggled Jewish Orphans
Frida Wattenberg, who as a teenager risked her life by helping to drive Jewish children out of occupied France into neutral Switzerland, died in Paris on April 3 from the coronavirus. She was 96.
“She was a courageous woman and an indefatigable fighter,” the Memorial for the Shoah wrote in an obituary.
Born in Paris in 1924 to Jewish parents who had emigrated from the central Polish city of Lodz, Wattenberg was an activist in the Jewish youth movement HaShomer Hatzair from her early teens. Months after the Germans invaded, Wattenberg, then 16, was recruited into the resistance.
In 1942, she secured her mother’s release from Vel d’Hiv, the notorious internment point for Parisian Jews, by obtaining documents indicating her mother was an employee of a factory deemed vital to the German war effort. A year later, she was in Grenoble, in southeastern France, helping smuggle Jewish children, many of them orphans, across the border to safety.
After the war, Wattenberg continued to work with refugee children, becoming a caseworkers for OPEJ, a Jewish community group that took care of war orphans. An ardent Zionist, she helped organize clandestine immigration by Jews from Europe to pre-state Israel.
Wattenberg had two children, Amnon and Anita, with her husband, Marcel Rudman.
Martin Fox, 95, NJ Philanthropist
Martin Fox, an attorney who in the late 1970s served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ (then known as the Jewish Community Federation of Metropolitan New Jersey) and as president of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, died of Covid-19 on April 8. He was 95.
Born in Newark, N.J., to a prominent attorney in 1924, Fox went on to graduate from Amherst College, taking a break from his studies to serve as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II. He went on to obtain a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1949 and became a partner at his father’s law firm, Fox and Fox.
During a long and storied career, Fox was active in Jewish organizations and in the wider New Jersey community, serving on the boards of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish News of Metropolitan New Jersey, the New Jersey State Board of Education and the Northern Energy Corporation. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called him a “passionate crusader for social justice,” citing his work on behalf of the St. Augustine civil rights movement in 1963.
Fox also served as vice chairman of the Essex County chapter of Americans for Democratic Action and twice ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in New Jersey’s 12th District in the early 1950s.
Fox is survived by his wife Muriel; daughters Rachel and Sarah; and three grandchildren.
Irving Carter, 76, Funded EMS in Israel
Irving Carter, a British property developer who as vice president of Magen David Adom’s British fundraising arm funded the procurement of dozens of ambulances, motorcycles, two mobile blood banks and a mobile intensive care unit, died on April 3 of the coronavirus. He was 76.
Ambulances serving Jerusalem’s Old City bear his name and that of his widow, Gillian. A recently opened MDA station near Haifa is dedicated to his grandson, Jack Segal.
MDA “lost one of its greatest friends,” the group said in a statement.
For additional obituaries of those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic, visit The Jewish Week website, thejewishweek.com.