Remembering Sheldon Mermelstein, A Founding Member Of Beth Aaron, Teaneck

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Sheldon and Frances Mermelstein (Facebook)

TEANECK, N.J. (VINnews) — A prominent member of the Teaneck Beth Aaron congregation was run over and killed last week when crossing a road near the Bnei Yeshurun synagogue.

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Sheldon Mermelstein (75) died of his injuries a day after the accident. Another member of the congregation, Micah Kaufman (41), was also seriously injured and remains in a coma.

Mermelstein is survived by his wife Frances, four children and numerous grandchildren.

The rabbi of the Beth Aaron community, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, tearfully eulogized Mr. Mermelstein at his funeral Sunday, stating that “An entire community is so deeply pained and saddened and simply unable to process the loss that we have to face.”

Mr. Mermelstein “was a very special individual,” he told the Jewish Standard later.

Rabbi Rothwachs added that while most people slow down when they retire, Mermelstein showed no signs of doing that: He was always running to prayer services in addition to aiding with community service projects.

Mermelstein was at a different synagogue Thursday night — Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, also in Teaneck — because he had met his learning partner before prayers for a Talmudic study session.

“He was a sage figure in shul, and he was very respected by all,” Rabbi Rothwachs continued. “He connected very well to people of all different ages.”

“He had very strong convictions about what was right and wrong, but he wasn’t divisive,” Rabbi Rothwachs added. “He expressed his convictions in a way where people listened even if they disagreed. He was not a person who fought with people or had enemies. He left room for other people’s opinions.”

Mr. Mermelstein’s son Chaim told the Jewish Standard that his father was a devoted family man who made a point of calling his own mother first thing every day. He would also wait for his wife before eating breakfast even if he was up for hours before her

Chaim added that when his parents moved to Teaneck in the mid-1970s, Beth Aaron did not have a daily minyan, so his father would drive to Bnai Yeshurun every morning for services. Then he decided that it was time to start an evening minyan at Beth Aaron.

“I used to come with my father to shul,” he said. “They would get on the phone and go down the shul list and start calling people to make a minyan. We would come home at nine o’clock from a quarter-to-eight minyan. He wasn’t going to stop. He wasn’t going to give up.”

A grandson, Yehoshua Mermelstein, spoke at the funeral.

“Our zayde was always willing to learn from anyone about everything,” he said. “His love was for Torah. But he learned anything from anyone. He had no shame about asking for someone to explain something to him.

“So many of my friends talked about their relationship with my grandfather. When he spent yontif with us, he hung out with my friends. He always felt deeply connected. Whether it was someone he knew for 60 years or a granddaughter who was 5 years old, he was able to connect with them.”

Yehoshua said that despite his grandfather’s sensitivity — “Zayde would cry about everything” — he served on the chevre kadisha, “dealing with real sad things all the time.” but  because “He had a deep commitment to do what was right” he was able to overcome his feelings and perform his duties.

“I don’t know what word is the opposite of lazy, but I just think, ‘Zayde.’ There was nothing he wouldn’t do if he felt it was right.”

Mr. Mermelstein grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he became close to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the great rabbi and Jewish leader who lived there.

“Sheldon lost his own father right after his bar mitzvah, and the Feinstein family accepted him into their yeshiva for tuition of a dollar a month. He always had tremendous gratitude and appreciation for the kindness they bestowed on him and his family at the time,” Rabbi Rothwacks added.

Elie Katz, Teaneck’s deputy mayor, said he has known the Mermelstein family for 40 years.

“They are pillars in the Teaneck Jewish community,” Mr. Katz said. “They helped build Beth Aaron to what it is today. The entire family are the nicest, kindest people. To say that anyone in this family would give you the shirt off their back is an understatement. They would bring the shirt to your house and leave it on your dresser, folded.”

Mr. Katz said the community is “shocked and sad and torn,” while “hoping for Micah’s speedy recovery.”

On Saturday night, Mr. Kaufman was among the honorees of Renewal, an organization that facilitates kidney donations. In May, Mr. Kaufman donated a kidney to Rebecca Bet-Alkhas Irani, an 85-year-old grandmother of two.

Katz added that the driver wasn’t considered at fault in the crash, which occurred at “an area of major concern” where a rabbi was struck by a vehicle last week

It was “possible that they didn’t see each other,” the deputy major said.

Mr. Katz organized a meeting Tuesday night to bring together town officials and synagogue leaders to discuss pedestrian safety.

“Nobody knows the streets as well as the people who walk to synagogue,” he said. “Teaneck is very pedestrian friendly, but we also have to make sure we’re pedestrian safe.”


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16 Comments
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Sambatyon
Sambatyon
4 years ago

What language is “yontif” Greek, Spanish or Turkis?

ruby
ruby
4 years ago

sambatyon ? is that what you take from an article like this ?

WhateverUsay
WhateverUsay
4 years ago

BDE

Therapist
Therapist
4 years ago

Hashem expressly told us that the loss of life of any one single Yid is that of a prominent Jew. Let’s pls drop the labeling in all these stories bc such labeling implies that there are non-prominent Jewish deaths.

Ellyeh
Ellyeh
4 years ago

Bd’E.

Knew him on lower easr side in our youth.