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Noach Dear, 66, ‘Blazed Trail’ for Orthodox Politicians
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Noach Dear, 66, ‘Blazed Trail’ for Orthodox Politicians

Fierce defender of Jewish causes succumbs to coronavirus.

Judge Noach Dear introduces Rachel Freier, the first chasidic woman elected to office in the United States, in Brooklyn in 2016.
Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Judge Noach Dear introduces Rachel Freier, the first chasidic woman elected to office in the United States, in Brooklyn in 2016. Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Noach Dear, a Brooklyn Supreme Court justice and former New York City Councilman who represented parts of Brooklyn with large Orthodox populations, died on April 19 of coronavirus. He was 66.

Mr. Dear, who was term-limited out of office in 2001 and was then elected to the Brooklyn Supreme Court, earned a reputation as an outspoken defender of Jewish causes and the State of Israel. The terms “combative” and “controversial” were often attached to his name, as were “dedicated” and “persistent.”

“I’ll do what’s good for the State of Israel, my constituents and the country — in that order,” he once vowed.

Growing up in Brooklyn after World War II, Mr. Dear was a member of the Pirchei Agudas Yisrael Choir. He later attended Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, and graduated from Brooklyn Law School. His public service career began as a district leader and as district manager of Brooklyn’s Community Board 12.

As a City Council member for 18 years, he supported the Soviet Jewry movement and racial equality in policing, and took an active stand against anti-Semitism. He was the only Brooklyn Democrat to vote against a civil rights bill that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodation. In 1998, he lost a primary bid for the congressional seat vacated by Chuck Schumer, in part due to heated opposition by the LGBT community. Anthony Wiener won the primary and the general election.

A Democrat who raised money for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Mr. Dear also supported the 1993 mayoral candidacy of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, against Mayor David Dinkins, whom he blamed for the unrest that led to the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum, a Jewish student from Australia, in the 1991 Crown Heights riot.

Dov Hikind, a former member of the State Assembly who represented much of the same Orthodox constituency, in a statement called Mr. Dear “a champion, a friend and a fighter for his people. He will be sorely missed.”

Councilman Kalman Yeger, who now represents Dear’s former district, said Mr. Dear was “compassionate, funny, pragmatic, always patient.”

After leaving City Council, Mr. Dear ran several unsuccessful campaigns for higher office, before being elected as a civil court judge, then to a 15-year term on the Supreme Court in 2015.

In 2018 he was removed from the Brooklyn Civil Court, where despite being on the state Supreme Court, he had been moonlighting two times a week on debt cases.

Mr. Dear was a role model for a generation of young Orthodox men and women interested in political life, said Adam Dickter, who covered him for two decades as The Jewish Week’s political reporter. Mr. Dear and Hikind were among the first political office-holders to openly proclaim their affiliation as Orthodox Jews, Dickter said. Previously, “it was rare to see politicians with a beard and yarmulke. They blazed a trail.”

Mr. Dear was an effective political leader, working on a wide range of issues, Dickter said, because “he knew how things work, he understood the political process, he worked both sides of the aisle.” A prodigious fundraiser for himself and other pro-Israel political candidates, “he helped his constituents have their say in public affairs.”

Mr. Dear’s survivors include his wife, Rickly (Neiman) Dear, a speech pathologist, and four daughters: Rivka, Adina, Chaviva and Aliza. n

Isaiah Kuperstein, 70, First Director of Education at U.S. Holocaust Museum

Isaiah Kuperstein was known for his big, booming voice and even bigger personality. But those close to him appreciated his softer side, a quality that came across in the way he treated his wife, Elana. Even after 43 years of marriage, Kuperstein still called her his “bride” and often held her hand in public.

Isaiah Kuperstein

A child of Holocaust survivors, Kuperstein also cared deeply about imparting Jewish culture and tradition to future generations. He was the founding director of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh, and later the first director of education at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.. He was a co-curator of “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story,” the museum’s primary exhibition for young people, which helped educate countless children about the Holocaust.

Kuperstein died of Covid-19 on April 4. He was 70.

Born in Israel, Kuperstein emigrated to the United States with his family and earned degrees from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University. Kuperstein lived just outside of Indianapolis, where for decades he owned Double 8 Foods, a chain of grocery stores serving inner city neighborhoods.

John Adler, Polymath Descended from Chasidic Royalty

John Adler

John Adler was a descendant of chasidic royalty, tracing his family lineage back to Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg, one of the earliest chasidic rabbis. But for years, Adler was estranged from Jewish practice.

That changed some time after he arrived in Bristol, England, where for nearly three decades he worked in the drama department at the University of Bristol until his retirement in 1999. Adler got involved in the local synagogue, Bristol Hebrew Congregation, eventually serving as its president. And he became something of a stickler for enforcing its religious standards.

“He was somewhat of a paradox in the sense that he was extremely caring and looking out for people, seeing what he could do to help and welcome, but at the same time he was a man of absolute principles,” recalled Rabbi Mendy Singer, the synagogue’s rabbi.

A lifelong bachelor, Adler died March 30 of the coronavirus. He was in his early 70s.

He ran two publishing imprints — Pomegranate Books and Herbert Adler Publishing — as well as a marketing firm, according to Adler’s LinkedIn profile.

Alby Kass, 89, Klezmer Musician Who Built Northern California Jewish Community

Alby Kass

Alby Kass, one of the founders of the Russian River Jewish Community some four decades ago, has died March 31 of complications from Covid-19. He was 89.

After spending the past year battling a number of other illnesses, he died after contracting a coronavirus infection at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in Hayward where at least 66 patients and employees have been infected by the coronavirus, and 10 have reportedly died.

Kass, who was born in the Bronx to an immigrant family, was a Yiddish singer with a strong baritone voice, a member of the Jubilee Klezmer Ensemble and one of the founders of the Russian River Jazz Festival, according to Sonoma West Times and News.

When he and his wife, Wallie, moved to the area in the mid-’70s, they took out an ad in the Guerneville paper looking for Jewish families with whom to celebrate Passover. They figured they’d hold the celebration in their house — until 75 families responded.

“That was the giant ignition of the Russian River Jewish Community,” said Larry Kass, the couple’s son, who lives in Berkeley. “All the Jews crawled out from their little homesteads. There was a real outpouring of interest.”

Adam ‘Yitz’ Friedman, 75, Publicist and
Chasidic Scion

In another lifetime, Adam “Yitz” Friedman might have been a chasidic rebbe rather than the Madison Avenue publicist he eventually became.

Named for his grandfather, Yitzchok Friedman, the Sadigura rebbe, Friedman hailed from a line of chasidic rebbes that included the leaders of the Ruzhin and Rachmastrivk dynasties.

But Friedman, who was born in Brooklyn in 1945, was destined for a different life. He went into public relations, making a name for himself in a business all about promoting other people’s greatness. In 1999, he founded his own firm, Adam Friedman Associates.

Nevertheless, Torah always was an integral, daily part of Friedman’s life.

“To my father, Torah is not a text or an activity, but an all-encompassing worldview that encompasses and enriches every part of life,” his eldest son, Israel Friedman of New Rochelle, wrote in a tribute shared with members of his synagogue. “He presented Torah life values through mesmerizing stories that conveyed nuance through simplicity and through books.”

Friedman died in New York of coronavirus on April 10. He was 75.

Friedman leaves behind his wife of 52 years, Shirley Friedman; three sons and their families; and several grandchildren. His two younger sons, David Friedman and Joseph Friedman, both live in Denver.

Lee Konitz, 92, Jazz Saxophonist

Lee Konitz

Lee Konitz, a legendary alto saxophone soloist who took part in Miles Davis’ historic “Birth of the Cool” jazz sessions in 1949 and became best known as a forward-thinking improviser, died on April 15 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He was 92, and the cause was pneumonia, related to Covid-19.

Konitz was born in Chicago to two Jewish immigrant parents; his father Abraham owned a laundry. “There was something in-groupish about the Jewish people that I saw, that I didn’t like,” he once recalled to an interviewer. Still, he acknowledged, “When you’re Jewish, it’s hard to keep it a secret…. But I don’t broadcast it. If someone asks, I tell them my heritage, but I don’t practice ‘Jewishness’ — except with jokes!” He also expressed a fondness for the Jewish composers of the American songbook, including George Gershwin and Jerome Kern. “Without Jerome Kern, I might be in the laundry business!” he once said.

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