A Tribute to Esther Schreiber

Thursday, 26 October, 2023 - 6:37 pm

This week our community lost Esther Schreiber, someone who was beloved by all. Most people who knew Esther, if asked to sum her up in a few words, would likely choose derivatives of “friendship” and “humor.” I would add a third word, “depth.”

There is no question that Esther served as a friend to many. I heard from a number of folks in the hours after her passing, that they considered her one of their closest friends. More than one person used the phrase, “she was the person that I could speak to about anything in my life.” What was unique about Esther was, that her friends were not limited to a particular age group. In fact, the current and former children of our community were deeply moved by the news of her passing. She loved spending time telling them stories and kibbitzing with them. I recall that one week our childcare at Shul fell through. The next thing I know Esther was in the children’s room holding court with all the kids, keeping them enthralled and well-occupied. She was fiercely devoted to maintaining peace between people.

Divisiveness and strife were completely anathematic to her. I was personally involved in several situations where Esther worked behind the scenes to heal schisms that developed between people. She also worked tirelessly to find ways to help people in an unassuming manner, so that they would not find out that she was involved.

Esther’s humor was legendary and often misunderstood by people who were unfamiliar with her style. She employed a healthy dose of self-deprecation, coupled with hyperbole, and a liberal sprinkling of Yiddishisms. Who remembers the “kiddush wars?” Anyone not in the know, would think that she was actually engaged in a fierce competition for who had the nicest Kiddush on Simchat Torah. It was all a way of deflecting her amazing dedication to the Simchat Torah day Kiddush, an event to which she devoted months of prep and planning.

Esther had a depth about her that often went unnoticed. She had strong convictions and deep appreciation for spiritual ideas. Off the record, and out of the limelight, she had discussions about topics that were important to her.

For the past few months, Esther battled a disease that would ultimately end her life. In true Esther style, she didn’t want to be the object of pity or the cause of anxiety for her friends. She wanted to be remembered as the funny, friendly Esther, as she will be by us all.

After her passing two things happened that crystalized who Esther was. We were looking for volunteers to serve as a Shomer, to stay with the body until burial, as per Jewish tradition. I don’t think this is common, but we had more volunteers than slots of time. People were vying for the privilege of fulfilling this Mitzvah for their friend Esther. Finally, at the funeral there were several baby carriages. It was very apropos that Esther’s sendoff included children, a subset of our community that she loved so much.

Our heartfelt wishes of comfort to her husband Gershon, her children Shane, Chaim, and Chaya, and their families. May Hashem bring us the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Those who dwell in the dust shall arise and sing” with the coming of Moshiach speedily.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin 

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