By Rachel Goldman Neubauer
I spent much of my Shabbat thinking about our dearly departed Ira Skolky. What plays through my head more than anything are little snippets from his funeral. Death in our community, like any other community, is never easy. By the same token, though, I never am ceased to be amazed at the level of care, compassion, and support that can be brought out by a death.
Ira’s funeral must have had 300 people at it. The entire chapel at Mt. Sinai was packed, and almost the entire population was in one way or another Beit T’Shuvah. Residents. Alumni. Staff. It makes no difference in this situation. As the casket was lowered and earth was placed on the grave, EVERYONE lined up to help bury Ira. The whole community. Beit T’Shuvah is not just a community that will hold onto you no matter what in life, but will stay by your side even in death. I was floored.
Rabbi Ed Feinstein gave a beautiful d’rash in honor of Ira yesterday morning. He told the congregation—residents and VBS members alike—that to truly honor Ira’s memory, we should finish living it for him. This struck me as odd, but then I realized he didn’t mean Ira’s individual life…he meant Ira’s life as part of our community. When we lose a community member, we can choose to become weaker or stronger. I think Rabbi Feinstein meant that we should choose to be stronger. We should all choose connection over isolation, inclusion over exclusion, kindness over bitterness. We should choose to incorporate those things that Ira added to the world into our own community’s values even more so than they already are. Everything is a choice, even in sadness…it is best to go with the choice that will be the most healing.
Memorial services for Ira will be held this evening at Beit T’Shuvah at 5pm.