July 16, 2024
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In Memoriam: Edwin Shafier, z’l

Edwin (Nechemiah Moshe) Shafier was a man who epitomized humility, dignity, and dedication to what was right. Born in Ber­lin in 1922, Germany, Berlin in particular, was then the center of European enlightenment, a movement that profoundly affected a large percentage of the city’s Jewish community. Like most German Jews of the time, his home was not particularly observant. However, his mother, desiring that her son receive a Jew­ish education, took the trolley with him eve­ry day to the other side of the city so that he could attend a Jewish school. From the mo­ment he began school, he took every word he learned to heart and essentially became a Ba’al Teshuva from the age of 6.

He was drawn to strengthen his obser­vance and live the life of a pious Jew, de­spite opposition from the culture around him and despite growing up in a non-observant home. Consistent with his personality, once deciding that something was Truth, nothing would bend him from it. His decision would shape his life

After he and his father were attacked on Kristallnacht, the family decided to leave Germany and, in 1939, immigrated to Eng­land. First placed in an internment camp, Ed­win went to great lengths to obtain kosher food, amidst a group of mostly non-religious campmates. After his release, he supported the war effort by working in a battery factory.

Shortly after World War II, he moved with his parents to New York and in 1957 mar­ried Isabel Hertzberg. Shortly after their mar­riage, the Shafiers settled in Kew Garden Hills, where they raised their two sons, Lar­ry and Ben Tzion. There, Mr. Shafier forged a strong relationship with Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld shlit”a, the Rav of the Young Is­rael of Kew Garden Hills—a bond he would cherish all of his life. If the honor that he be­stowed on ordinary people was great, how much more so his approach was towards Rabbi Schonfeld. In his estimation, Rabbi Schonfeld’s word came second only to God’s (and maybe the Rambam’s).

When Mr. Shafier’s mother fell ill, it even­tually became clear that he could no longer care for her properly at home. Rabbi Shafier recalls that the only time he witnessed his fa­ther cry was when Mr. Shafier was faced with the decision to place his mother in a nurs­ing home. Despite his strong feelings for his mother’s kavod, as soon as Rabbi Schonfeld told him that this was the right thing to do, he did it without question.

Following his wife’s passing in 1998, he married Mrs. Pearl Kronenberg, sh’tichya. In the last few years of their marriage, they re­sided in Deerfield Beach, Florida, where they cared for each other with extreme devotion. Their marriage, though later in life, had all of the care and tenderness of a vibrant young couple, and Rabbi Shafier views their mar­riage as a model of the ideal relationship when counseling young couples.

Mr. Shafier was incredibly consistent in all areas. His children humorously recall that he ate Swiss cheese on rye bread with mus­tard for lunch every day for over 20 years—he enjoyed it, so why should he change things? Always dependable, he arrived to shul and work daily, and on time.

If something was right, he performed it with full dedication and determination, in a timely and respectable manner. The gabbai of his shul in Deerfield Beach relates that for 14 years, anytime Mr. Shafier had an Aliya or Mishebeirach, he would make sure to give a donation. Almost nobody did this, but Mr. Shafier felt it was the right thing to do—and he did it. Knowledge, too, was something he valued, sought out, and respected. He read the newspaper daily, not as an act of enter­tainment, but out of a true desire to under­stand anything that was important about the world.

Mr. Shafier’s humility defined his whole existence. His son, Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, recalled that when he would call his father Erev Yom Kippur to ask mechila, he could never get more than a few words in before his father would gently stop him, saying, “It’s enough already.” The idea that he should be offended by someone else was foreign to him, as he genuinely felt, “Who am I to hold highly of myself?”

Another of Mr. Shafier’s hallmarks was his recognition for the Tzelem Elokim for all of Hashem’s creations. Even the sim­plest of people and situations were given a sense of dignity by his gentle manner. Not speaking lashon hara, for him was not an exercise in frumkeit, but a natural result of his own humility and apprecia­tion for others’ dignity, always thinking, “Who am I to judge another person?”

Humility and sophistication are a rare combination of traits; however, Edwin Shafier epitomized these qualities, and exhibited them to an incredible degree. He lent dignity to every situation, and yet his greatness lay in his humble simplici­ty. Fusing absolute honesty with Torah u’mitzvos, he stood for what is right and true, and withstood the social pressures of a superficial world. He is survived, ybl”c, by his wife, Mrs. Pearl Shafier, and sons Larry and Ben-Tzion, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

May his memory serve as an inspira­tion to us all, as he personified what it means to be a true mentsch and humble Eved Hashem.

Yehi Zichro Baruch

Edwin Shafier A”H was the father of long-time Teaneck resident and former Beth Aaron president, Larry Shafier, in ad­dition to being the father of Rabbi Ben-Tzi­on Shafier, the Director of the www.theSh­muz.com.

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