June 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My Father-in-Law, Rabbi Ron Koesterich, z”l

I met my future father-in-law, Rabbi Ron Koesterich, z”l, when I was dating his daughter, Debbie, in the summer of 1998. I didn’t know much about him then—I think I was pretty focused on his daughter, as you might imagine. When I became engaged to Debbie Koesterich, after the Koesterich family friends would offer a warm mazel tov to my future in-laws, I would hear some kidding around about his claims of being too busy to do this or that. I didn’t understand what they meant.

Ron had only reluctantly agreed to become the shul president of Beth Abraham—for a second time—because the community had pleaded with him to do it. The community was growing and the shul building was not sufficient anymore to allow for continued growth. Ron was tasked with leading the effort to manage the huge and sensitive project of planning and implementing a building campaign. Ron hadn’t wanted this job, since he was busy with his professional life as a CFO commuting to and from Manhattan, he was busy at home with his chavrusas, and he didn’t need another job! Well, his friends had quite a laugh when he showed up with a future son-in-law. Too busy for extra jobs, Ron?

Leading a growing community through clarifying its goals and its realistic options for expansion was a challenging assignment, and Ron did it with calm and wisdom. I remember that at certain points, when the consensus seemed to be heading in a direction other than Ron himself might have wished, he would say “Whatever they want.” He was trying to move the shul forward however they felt would be best. He didn’t have personal agendas.

Ron had been president of the shul many years earlier, as part of the original group of 17 families that established the shul and brought in Rav Yaakov Neuberger, the Rav who would remain with them until this day.

Ron also played an important role as a board member of the Yeshiva of North Jersey in helping them to acquire their building. Over the years, many yeshivot and shuls owed thanks to Ron for arranging for them to get a building loan on favorable terms. The new Teaneck mikvah was financed by a loan that Ron arranged. The thousands of yeshiva students, and the thousands of shul mitpalelim who benefited and continue to benefit from these loans are building Ron’s portfolio in the Olam HaEmet.

Ron was easy to get along with. That’s always a nice quality. But when you matched that pleasant, friendly and “light” nature to his sharp financial background, Ron became a very effective leader working to benefit the shul. This combination of qualities no doubt served him well years later, when he joined Carl Berger Associates and focused his professional efforts on getting financing for yeshivot and shuls. Instead of doing this chesed in his “free time,” Ron now focused his day’s work on it.

One thing I did know about Ron before I met him was that he learned Torah. He had chavrusas. However, I didn’t know the extent of his commitment to Talmud Torah until I became part of the family. Ron’s focus on preparing for and participating in his Gemara sedarim was legendary. He had multiple chavrusas and would make a siyum masechta every year during the Nine Days.

It is beautiful and fundamental to anchor one’s day with a seder of Torah learning. Ron didn’t just anchor his day with a seder, his day was framed by sedarim! In fact, Ron and Shari very rarely joined us for Shabbat, since that would have cost Ron several sedarim. Instead, we came to Bergenfield so that we could spend time together, and Ron could still learn as he wished.

Ron the community builder, Ron the professional and Ron the learner were all impressive. Very impressive! But it was the personal Ron that had the biggest impact on my family. Ron, together with his wife Shari, invested themselves deeply in the lives of their children and grandchildren. Many Sundays were spent together, many Shabbatot and Yomim Tovim were enjoyed together. A neighbor remarked that they always saw Ron walking by on Shabbat or Sunday afternoon—either holding a sefer on his way to learn, or pushing a stroller with one of our children inside.

Ron knew how to make children happy. He would read our kids stories and then ad lib a rhyme or make a silly addendum to the story—and then ramp up the silliness until all the kids were laughing. There was no putting the brakes on when Ron was entertaining the kids. Pandemonium was the goal.

Ron was vibrant and active until the end. Ron had undergone a major surgery shortly before his passing, and he felt relieved that it went successfully. After the surgery he made resolutions to ramp up his learning even further, modeling how a Jew can strive even higher in the Golden Years.

Ron’s untimely passing has left a void in the community and in his family. He will be sorely missed.


Yonah Levant was born in Calgary, Canada and has spent the last 25 years living in New York City. He is a graduate of the RIETS Wexner Kollel Elyon and worked in various roles in shuls for eight years. Yonah and Debbie have seven children. They live in Queens, New York.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles