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Rabbi Paysach Krohn to Inaugurate Beth Aaron’s Itch Zeidel z”l Memorial Lectures

Extended family, friends and community will gather on the Shabbat of February 3-4, at Congregation Beth Aaron, to join Marilyn Zeidel, her children Rabbi Duvie and Nava Zeidel, Yehudit and Avi Gelbein, Dassi Zeidel, and grandchildren, to mark the first yahrzeit of beloved Yitzchak Meir ben Liba Rivka and Moshe Tzvi “Itch” Zeidel, ob”m, who was taken by Hashem on January 12, 2016. Rabbi Krohn, renowned maggid and lecturer, will address the community three times during the course of Shabbat.

For son Rabbi Duvie Zeidel, his father’s passing coincided with Parshat Va’era in which we are introduced to Moshe’s parents, Amram and Yocheved, by name for the first time. It was only after their son Moshe reached his potential that they are introduced as proud parents. “A few weeks after my father’s petira, a member of my shul who had also lost his father approached me and told me that only after a year was he able to fully reflect upon his father with a smile and even laughter. After 12 months of aveilus, it is time for me and my family to reflect upon the life of such a great person who used his 67 years to their fullest potential. It is important to look back at my father’s life and appreciate the wonderful life he lived and the tremendous influence he had on his family, his community and all of klal Yisrael. May his memory be a source of inspiration and may he be a meilitz yosher for us all.”

For his wife, Marilyn, their marriage, which took place 43 years ago on April Fool’s Day, was filled with laughter and good times. He was a hands-on father and, later on, a hands-on grandfather. “Camp Zeidy” was a special experience on days off as they would all play sports, build Lego cities and laugh all day to Zeidy’s unending jokes. “Itch was a good man. He was a devoted only son to his parents who had survived the Holocaust. He was a bright student who became a skilled teacher, educator and administrator. He was a dedicated husband who earned my constant respect. He was a loving and beloved father and grandfather. He was a loyal friend.”

In his emotional eulogy one year ago, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, Morah D’asra of Congregation Beth Aaron, shared, “Itch Zeidel will not be remembered as a Rosh Yeshiva or a mechaber seforim, but as a mechanech par excellence, who brought many closer to Torah. Even when he lost the capacity to speak, he continued to teach, through eye movements, through the computer-always teaching.”

At Congregation Beth Aaron, Itch would attend the hashkama minyan, to which he made a point of coming early. He often brought the tzedakah box around, welcoming regulars and newcomers alike in his inimically friendly manner. For 10 years he volunteered with the Jewish Learning Experience (JLE) where he taught beginning Hebrew and prayers and, in the process, drew people closer to Judaism.

Professionally, Zeidel taught developmentally delayed young adults at a NYC public school in the Bronx. Colleague Lydia Milani remembers Zeidel. “I had never met a more caring, compassionate and honest man as Irving Zeidel. He gave of his strength and energy to our students daily as he stepped into the classroom. He was truly missed after retiring in 2003 after 33 years.”

Rabbi Shelley Kniaz, director of Congregational Education at Temple Emanuel of Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake, says, “To our good fortune, Irv began teaching in our school over 35 years ago. For 25 of those years he served as the director and teacher of the CHAI Program, a unique service providing one-on-one instruction to those who needed it. Tailoring his lessons to each individual student, Irv conveyed his love for and knowledge of Yiddishkeit to each child al pi darko, according to his/her capabilities. As each child matured, he would include bar/bat mitzvah training, making the entire process both enjoyable and rewarding.”

Kniaz recalls that even after Zeidel was diagnosed with ALS on June 25, 2012, and despite the quick onset of the symptoms, he continued working with “his” children. “Here is a remarkable story. Two summers ago, Irv’s condition had deteriorated until he had absolutely no movement. Yet he returned to teach in the fall. When he met two of his new students, he simply and directly informed them ‘I have a disease called ALS and I can’t move. But, I can still talk so I can still teach you.’ And teach he did, continuing with his long-term students and, with his gentle sense of humor, passion for Yiddishkeit and irresistible personality, endearing a new group of children to him as well. I can very honestly say that even without being able to move a muscle, he was the best teacher I had ever observed.”

Brother-in-law Louie Leder of Baltimore describes Itch as “a person known as gracious and patient, generous and pleasant to others.” Cousin Sheila Steapp waited for Itch to come out to Denver to hang the first mezuzah on the doorpost of her new home, as she considered him to be “a holy man.” Phil Rosen, a dear friend who made it a priority to call Itch weekly and learn with him via Skype, wrote, “Itche Meir’s radiant and heartwarming smile was a true reflection of his magnificent neshama. A lev tov, a good heart—the single, all-inclusive character trait that a person should cling to, defines our friend Itch, z”l.” David Hes, a dear friend and neighbor, recalls, “Itch performed every mitzvah the way it should be executed—slowly, thoughtfully and with simcha.”

Rabbi Pinchas Hayman of Elkana, Israel, a close friend of the Zeidels for many years, spoke of Itch’s “genuine heart and loving spirit. His love of davening and learning enhanced his Shabbat and Yom Tov table with meaningful divrei Torah and lively singing.” Rabbi Harvey Horn, former limudei kodesh principal at RYNJ and a dear friend of the Zeidels, attests, “The nachat ruach that Itch possessed attracted everyone and, in turn, Hashem found pleasure in Itch and made him a role model for others to exemplify.”

Rabbi Krohn formed a special relationship with Itch Zeidel when the Zeidels participated in a tour of Jewish Poland under his leadership. As the Zeidels are both children of Polish survivors, they shared many meaningful discussions and memories. Rabbi Krohn had visited Itch several times during his illness, where they had an opportunity to reminisce about the memorable tour.

The community is invited to attend the three presentations by Rabbi Paysach Krohn in memory of Itch Zeidel’s first yahrzeit. On Friday night at 8:15 p.m., Rabbi Krohn will speak about “Tefillah: A Way of Connection.” Following the main minyan on Shabbat morning, Rabbi Krohn will address “Becoming a Person of Blessing.” Finally, on Shabbat afternoon between Mincha and Maariv, Rabbi Krohn will speak about “The iPad, the iPhone and the iPod: Becoming an ‘Uppercase’ Personality.”

 To help sponsor the lectures, go to www.bethaaron.org/form/sir-sponsors-Krohn.html.

By Pearl Markovitz

 

 

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