The Jewish Week and its partners are remembering those whose lives were cut short by the novel coronavirus. If you would like to inform us of the name of a deceased loved one, friend, prominent community figure or anyone who made our world better just by being in it, please contact us at email@example.com.
Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, 84, rosh yeshiva
Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, senior rosh yeshiva at Talmudic Seminary Oholei Torah in Brooklyn for more than 50 years, passed away April 1 at the age of 84 after contracting the coronavirus.
A member of the Central Committee of Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbis, he was regarded as a fixture of the international summit of Torah scholars that convenes each summer in Parksville, N.Y., to honor the memory of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. “It is a point of pride to visit with people who were once students,” he told Chabad.org in 2016, “and have now become teachers and leaders in their own right.”
Rabbi Friedman was born in the Belarusian city of Beshenkovitz, then part of the Soviet Union, a descendant of the Boyan chasidic dynasty. He was conscripted into the Soviet Army, and after the war made his way with his family to Germany, France and Israel, where he enrolled in the Chabad yeshiva in Lod. In 1956, he arrived in the United States to study in close proximity to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He taught Talmud in the Chabad yeshiva in Newark, N.J., before joining the faculty at Oholei Torah.
Predeceased by his wife Chana Luba Gurkoe in 2014, he is survived by his daughter, Rochel Friedman.
Judith Lowin, 76, nurse and educator
Judith Lowin, 76, a retired nurse from Riverdale, died on Saturday, March 21, of coronavirus.
A longtime resident of Monsey, N.Y., she worked for many years as a surgical nurse and educator at Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., winning several teaching awards over the course of her career. Lowin was also a devoted member of her local synagogue and a proud member of Hadassah Women’s Organization and Amit Women, an Orthodox group.
Lowin was born on Aug. 7, 1943 in New York City to parents Abraham Louis and Shirley (Levy) Wadler. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Hunter College and a master’s from Columbia University.
Lowin was married to Joseph Lowin and had three grown children, Shari, David and Benjamin, and several grandchildren.
Steve Steiner, 75, PR director for OU
Steve Steiner the director of public relations for the Orthodox Union for over a decade prior to his retirement several years ago, died Monday, March 30, of illness believed to be complicated by the coronavirus. He was 75.
To his colleagues, he was the kind and friendly man who arrived at the office each day wearing his trademark New York Yankees cap and toting a doorstop of a book about American history.
“He was always reading these really huge books all the time,” recalled Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the OU’s kosher division. “He was just the nicest person. I really miss him.”
Steiner was born in the Bronx in 1944, and was a 1966 graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in history. He went on to earn a master’s from the university in the same subject.
Early in his career, he taught history and Spanish at a high school in Brooklyn and later worked as a sportswriter.
Steiner is survived by his wife, Joy Steiner, and two children: Andrea Steiner and David Jason Steiner.
Neil Kraft, 69, popular London rabbi
Rabbi Neil Kraft, who died at the age of 69 from the coronavirus in London, for 17 years led the Edgware and Hendon Reform synagogue. He was just weeks from his scheduled retirement date when he died March 27.
Rabbi Kraft, who was born and raised in Boston, was “hugely popular” in London, the Jewish Chronicle wrote — and not just among his congregants or even the Jewish community.
An avid pro wrestling fan, he was eulogized by such icons of the local sport scene as Crusher Curtis. Rabbi Kraft officiated at the wedding in the United States of the well-known Jewish-American wrestler Darren “Tex” Benedict, the British Wrestlers Reunion group recalled in its Facebook post about Kraft.
Rabbi Kraft, who had two sons with his wife Susannah, was buried in a small funeral with only a handful of close relatives.
Shoshana Davis, 35, nonprofit professional
Shoshana Davis, a nonprofit professional who at one time worked at the Union for Reform Judaism in digital production, died of complications from the coronavirus. She was 35.
Davis had a heart condition that required her to have a pacemaker inserted when she was 24, an experience she detailed in a 2012 essay for WebMD. She died March 23 and was buried in Hackensack, near her Park Ridge, N.J., home.
At the time of her death, Davis, who was married to Adam Davis (the couple has a 3-year-old daughter, Sienna, was a business development manager at the Bergen Performing Arts Center, according to her LinkedIn profile. She had previously worked at a Jewish community center in New Jersey as well as at CBS News. After growing up in Arizona, she graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 2007.
An online campaign for Sienna and Adam Davis has already raised nearly $25,000.
Maurice Berger, 63, curator and historian
Maurice Berger, a curator, writer and art historian who had worked extensively with The Jewish Museum in New York City, died of complications from the coronavirus on March 23 at age 63.
“For more than 25 years, Berger was a valued colleague and friend of the Museum who passionately demonstrated the highest standards of scholarship and intellectual integrity,” The Jewish Museum said in a statement. “His work on race relations, American and Jewish culture, and his belief in making exhibitions and the written word meaningful and accessible for everyone, inspired, challenged, and encouraged so many in the curatorial profession — and beyond.”
Anti-racism formed a backbone for much of Berger’s work, including multiple exhibitions and books. In 2017 he contributed an essay introducing a collection by The New York Times of photographs depicting the complex and sometimes violent history of race in America.
Berger grew up poor and Orthodox Jewish on New York City’s Lower East Side, and he lived in a housing project where many of his neighbors were black and Latino. He explored that dynamic — which included a stint at a Jewish day school where he said he was tormented for being poor — in a 1999 memoir, “White Lies,” that was widely acclaimed for the way it challenged white racism in America.
Berger is survived by his husband, curator Martin Heiferman.
Adam Schlesinger, 52, award-winning songwriter
Adam Schlesinger, one of the lead songwriters of the pop rock band Fountains of Wayne and the musical series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” died April 1 at 52 from coronavirus complications, Variety reported.
Schlesinger, who grew up in a Jewish home in Montclair, N.J., had been in an unnamed hospital in upstate New York for over a week.
Fountains of Wayne’s most famous song was “Stacy’s Mom,” for which Schlesinger and co-songwriter Chris Collingwood were nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2003. He won a Grammy in 2010 for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!”
In addition, Schlesinger garnered a host of Oscar, Tony and Emmy nominations, including an Oscar nod in 1997 for writing an original song in the Tom Hanks film “That Thing You Do”; two Tony nominations for the musical “Cry-Baby” in 2008; and Emmy nominations for songs on “Sesame Street.”
In recent years, he worked on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” the very Jewish musical show that aired for four seasons on the CW. He co-wrote the majority of the show’s music and won an Emmy for the song “Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal” alongside the show’s creator and star, Rachel Bloom, and Jack Dolgen.
He was most recently at work adapting Sarah Silverman’s memoir, “The Bedwetter,” into a musical. It was set to begin performances off-Broadway on April 25, but that has been delayed due to the pandemic. Schlesinger was also at work adapting “The Nanny” for Broadway, with Bloom.
Schlesinger is survived by his ex-wife Katherine Michel, a graphic designer, and their two daughters.
Osher Yaakov Westheim, 71, kashrut authority
Rabbi Osher Yaakov Westheim, 71, a prominent kashrut authority in Manchester, England, has died of coronavirus. He was, JTA stated, “considered ‘a towering figure’ in the United Kingdom … and a world-respected authority on kosher food laws.
The rabbi headed the Kashrut Department of the Manchester Beth Din until 2004 and would conduct surprise inspections at sites under his supervision around Europe. He left the court that year to form the Badatz Igud Harabbonim, whose label was seen as demanding even stricter compliance than the standard upheld by the other rabbis of Manchester, which is home to the United Kingdom’s second-largest Jewish community.
Deborah Price Nagler, 66, Jewish educator
Deborah Price Nagler of Teaneck, N.J., 66, a Jewish educator and technology consultant to day schools, died April 3 of Covid-19. She was formerly director of the Gratz College Certificate Program in Educational Technology and director of Simnik.com, a project dedicated to the development of 3D, online, immersive environments for education and training. From 1999-2004 she served as executive director of the Jewish Education Association in Whippany, N.J., and was national director of Hadassah’s Leadership Education and Training Division.
Dr. Nagler taught online educational technology courses for graduate students at New Jersey City University and Gratz College. She also worked as an instructional designer for an online graduate program of Hebrew Union College in New York, and served as an educational technology consultant for public schools in New York and New Jersey.
Her survivors include her husband Fred Nagler, principal of the Bergen County (N.J.) High School of Jewish Studies. n