Purim Recap, Tribute to Mr. Sher

Thursday, 31 March, 2016 - 5:07 pm

This past Thursday we celebrated Purim. In the days leading up to and following Purim there were many highs and also a low for our Jewish community. There was a wedding, three brises and a funeral.

First to recap Purim. In the days leading up to Purim over 270 Purim Shuttle packages were prepared and subsequently delivered on Purim. (Photos below) A group of amazing volunteers really helped pull the project together for our most successful Purim Shuttle to date.

On Purim night at Chabad Uptown, over 100 people gathered for a Megillah reading and Purim party. Costumed adults and children, great food and music along with a very festive Megillah reading and slideshow capped off a wonderful event that also included a special program for children. (Photos below) A similar program was taking place at Chabad of Metairie.

On Purim day Megillah readings were happening at all Chabad locations as well as at Lambeth House and in two stores along Royal St. Throughout the day hundreds of people heard the reading of the Megillah with Chabad.

Chabad of Baton Rouge and Biloxi each held Purim celebrations drawing record crowds for the holiday festivities.

The highlight of Purim with Chabad was Purim in Outer Space held at Torah Academy. Over 230 were in attendance. The school multi-purpose room was transformed into a galactic experience complete with a space-ship like entrance. Everything was space themed from the food stations to the music to the entertainment. An awesome kids’ program kept the children occupied for hours, while the adults enjoyed their own hypnotist show. Photos will be uploaded next week on our website, though Facebook was busy with photos and videos of the event.

Sadly on Purim morning we learned of the passing of a beloved member of the Jewish community, Mr. Joseph Sher, at the age of 100. Most of the tributes and messages about Mr. Sher (rightly) focus on his experiences in the Holocaust and how he built his life and family in the US. I would like to share another side of Reb Yossel (as I like to call him) that many are not aware of.

I came to know Joseph Sher in three stages. The first was as a child walking along Broadway to and from Shul every Saturday morning. We would always be looking out for Mr. Sher at the corner of Willow to wish him a good Shabbos. When I moved back to New Orleans in 1998 and assumed rabbinical duties at Anshe Sfard I got to know him as a congregant. We remained close after I left to devote all of my time to Chabad of Louisiana. Mr. Sher used to come to morning Minyan for a period of time after Katrina. He was also a regular at Chabad on Fridayand holiday nights. As he got older I used to visit him from time to time at his apartment and later in Lambeth House over the last few years.

One of the most admirable qualities that I observed in Reb Yossel Sher, was his strong commitment to peaceable resolution of conflict. The expression he often used was “Nu Shoin” loosely translated as “let’s move past it.” He was a “mevater” a person who was willing to forgo an affront to his honor or opinion for the sake of peace. A rare quality indeed.

There were three things that he shared with me that left a strong impression. One was his Famous Rabbi lampshade. Mr. Sher was a subscriber to several Yiddish newspapers. Over the decades he would cut out photos of famous Rabbis, mostly Chassidic Rebbes, from the newspaper and insert them into the plastic cover over a lampshade. Once, the daughter of one of these Rabbis was visiting New Orleans and stayed at his house where she delightedly discovered a photo of her late father in the lampshade.

The second was his vivid description of his family’s devotion to the Komarna Rebbe, Rabbi Safrin in Poland. He shared a miracle story that happened to his father as a result of the Komarna Rebbe’s blessing. He also related the distinct memory of addressing letters together with his father that were sent to Rabbi Safrin of Komarna. Mr. Sher spoke of the Komarna Rebbe with such reverence that one could sense the esteem in which the Rebbe was held in the Sher home.

For years I would give Mr. Sher a ride from our neighborhood to Anshe Sfard on the Saturdaynight before Rosh Hashanah for Selichot. In the car he would share with me his memories of Selichot in Poland during his youth. With great emotion he would chant for me how the cantor and the congregation would cry out “Al Tashlicheinu L’eis Ziknah – Do not cast us aside in our old age, as our strength weakens do not forsake us.” These were living memories for him and he had the ability to convey them as such.

Mr. Sher left us with a wealth of wonderful Jewish lore, songs and stories of good times and tough ones. The memory of his rich and fulfilled life will serve as a blessing to his family and all who knew him.

I would be remiss if I did not express my admiration for the devotion that his family demonstrated. When one came to visit him at Lambeth House there was almost always a family member present. I especially want to laud the dedication of his daughter-in-law, Karen Sher, who cared for him in the most loving and dignified manner. The quality of his last years were infinitely enhanced by Karen’s presence in his life. May Hashem bless her and the entire family for the great Mitzvah of honoring their father.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


Comments on: Purim Recap, Tribute to Mr. Sher

Charles Kasriel Brum wrote...

We, the Brum family, had the honor of having Mr. Sher at our Shabbos table every Friday night (just about) for years when we lived on Audubon Street. It was a pleasure because I had known the Sher family from my earliest childhood. And he told me so many stories about Jewish life in Poland before the war, he taught me so many jewish songs, and he was an inspiration to my whole family. During sukkos sitting in the sukka, I remember he was especially nostalgic and one of his famous songs---ah sukkele a kleinem---I had to zechus to actually teach him! As soon as he heard the words-like a breitele gemaine ( a sukka build out of plain pieces of wood) he said, that this song reminded him so much of Poland- he was transported back ---after that we sang that song everytime we met. ! In regards to his famous Karmarna Rebbe miracle story---I met his grandson up here in New York and he also loved the story. When a Polishe Yid a survivor dies at the age of 100 on Purim day- there is certainly a lesson there for all of us! Mr. Sher had completed a full life span as per the Perek, he had survived so many trials and tribulations yet his Yahrzeit will always be on PURIM a day associated with Jewish survival with light and simcha. So as Mr. Sher would tell you up front, Sha Shtil macht nisht kein Gereeder! Der Rebbe vhat shoen tanzen vieder! Quiet! Be still. No make a fuss. The Rebbe will soon dance again!!!! May his memory be a Blessing to his family and Klal Yisroel! Corrected Version