May 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Pelham Parkway Community Leader David Edelstein, z”l, Remembered

The Bronx Jewish Center at Pelham Parkway (BJC) last week memorialized David Edelstein, z’l who served as executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway for 45 years. The event also included the groundbreaking of BJC’s mikvah in his memory. During his tenure, multiple shuls combined and BJC is reinvigorating the community.

BJC’s current Rabbi Pewzner opened by stating, “The Talmud says a person is concerned with money but not with his days. Days don’t return and money doesn’t help. We have ‘momentary’ focuses on ‘momentary pleasures.’ Money wasn’t David’s thing but his days wereIt was never about him; always about others. David’s life was spiritually nice in every capacity.”

Yossi Edelstein, David’s son, reflected on shiva visits demonstrating his father’s love for fellow Jews and respect for all humanity. This included his father saving a woman and her four children coming from the Bronx from a homeless shelter.

Dr. David Luchins, long-time Touro chair of political Science, expressed, “David understood and cared about this community. At least twice, he said to me he had received an offer with less tension, less pressure and better salaries. Both times he said, ‘I can’t do it.’ I said, ‘why aren’t you taking the better job? No one stays in one job; it’s unheard of.’ David explained the food pantry will remain open, but who will help the guy who needs a cell phone or help with his bill? Who will pay the widows’ rent bills? I can sit at a desk and push papers, but I help people here, I have community here. David understood that he was a shaliach.” In addition, Luchins noted that in 2020, David said on a call with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “I am not a foreign policy expert, I just feed hungry people, I run a food pantry.” Then COVID struck. The congresswoman’s office helped raise $250,000 through private funds,

Luchins claimed that when AOC co-sponsored a bill opposing $900 billion for Iron Dome funding for Israel, Edelstein emailed her. Many saw her in tears on the floor of the House and she switched her vote. Edelstein got a message from her staff saying that he “got to her.”

Former Young Israel of Pelham Parkway Rabbi Duvie Nachba expressed, “As you see from other faces, meaningful relationships were formed and memorable experiences were shared together. We worked closely and collaboratively on behalf of the community. I served as the rabbi just over a decade ago. I was asked to focus on one specific characteristic, Mr. Edelstein’s Kavod Hatorah. The concept is multifaceted on the treatment of Torah scrolls. On another level, it addresses respectful treatment of Torah scholars. Mr. Edelstein exemplified this value. He always projected in my interactions with him that every task was somehow beneath me and my honor, but somehow suitable for himself.”

Nachba continued, “Edelstein’s dedication to the community eruv was tireless, and quite frankly, fearless. He ensured the proper observance of Shabbos for everyone in the community. He promoted the sanity of our lives. His tending to the needs of the mikvah enabled the purity of individual and family lives. He was dedicated towards shul life and the weekly kiddush.” Nachba concluded, “We can collectively declare his life was a sterling expression of kavod hatorah. From the mitzvot he performed and values he embodied, may we all learn from and emulate his example.”

Another previous rabbi, Ben Keil, recalled, “One Friday night walking home from shul, a young man was ahead of me with a cart of empty bottles and cans. As I walked, he noticed my yarmulka, and asked, ‘are you Jewish?’ I said ‘yes, I am a rabbi in the neighborhood.’ He asked, ‘Do you know Mr. Edelstein? He helps everyone
in this neighborhood.’” Keil added, “(He) understood what you do and how you speak to people has consequences. He was able to have an impact on people far beyond our immediate daled amot.”

Lifelong friend Jay Buchsbaum quipped, “Tonight, we start saying Tal u’Matar. The dedication of a mikvah on the night that we start Tal u’Matar? David, you couldn’t have planned this better.”

The event concluded at the adjoining mikvah site for the actual groundbreaking. Shoshie Steinhart, Edelstein’s daughter, credits her father for everything Jewish in Pelham Parkway. “Executive director was his actual job and his volunteer job. He did all the logistics of the old Mace Avenue mikvah that closed about about five years ago, because the neighborhoods didn’t really support a mikvah anymore. When the mikvah towels needed to be washed, I would drive him to the laundry. He was the guy erev Rosh Hashanah and erev Yom Yippur for the men. He also single-handedly inspected the eruv for the last 40 years.” Steinhart proudly stated, “Everything Jewish in Pelham Parkway cycled through my father. He would be happy about the perpetuation of Judaism in Pelham Parkway.”

By Judy Berger

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