Jewish Journal


January 31, 2013

Slain doctor remembered for his love of Judaism


Dr. Ronald Gilbert

Dr. Ronald Gilbert

Friends and family of Dr. Ronald Gilbert, the urologist gunned down Monday in the exam room of his Newport Beach offices, told a large crowd gathered for the doctor’s funeral Wednesday he had devoted himself to living a Jewish life.

Every morning, Gilbert attended Chabad of West Orange County to put on tefillin and pray, and he would often go straight from there to the Hoag Hospital-Newport Beach, where he was on medical staff to perform surgeries, said Rabbi Aron Berkowitz, the Chabad rabbi, during the funeral service.

Whenever he had to leave prayer services early for surgeries, he would apologize, the rabbi said. Gilbert was serving as lay leader of the Chabad at the time of his death.

During Gilbert’s funeral, held at Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Memorial Park and Mortuary in Costa Mesa, eulogies portrayed him as someone who loved his family and his faith, and who found fulfillment in his career and made friends easily.

“He was a super mensch,” his rabbi said. “He was a tremendous, tremendous person.”

Gilbert, said Rabbi Berkowitz, was born to a Conservative family who lit candles on Shabbat and celebrated the holidays. He had a love of learning that led him later in life to appreciate the values and traditions he grew up with. Gilbert started becoming more serious about Judaism approximately 15 years ago, and he and Berkowitz would study Torah together in Gilbert’s office. Gilbert had a knack for retaining what he read and for learning Hebrew grammar, Berkowitz explained.

Gilbert valued the moral lessons of the Torah even more than ritual observances, Gilbert’s son, Stephan Gilbert, said at the funeral.

Visiting Los Angeles from New York, where he attends Yeshiva University, Gilbert’s son, Stephan, told of how, after studying for one year at a yeshiva in Israel he could not decide whether he wanted to spend a second year there. He asked his parents for advice. Gilbert wanted his son to return to Israel, but he let his son decide on his own, Stephan remembered.

Gilbert also loved music, sports and fine food, but he was remembered for loving his children more than anything. He traveled all over the world, stayed in some of the grandest hotels and ate in top-class restaurants, but the joy he got from being a father surpassed everything else, Stephan said.

The funeral took place two days after Gilbert was murdered by one of his patients, according to the office of the Orange County District Attorney.

According to the district attorney’s office, the suspect, Stanwood Elkus, 75, arrived at Gilbert’s office in Newport Beach at 2:45 p.m., on Jan. 28, armed with a firearm. When Gilbert entered the waiting room, Elkus allegedly pulled out his weapon and shot Gilbert multiple times.

Police found Gilbert dead on the scene with multiple gunshot wounds to his torso, according to the Newport Beach Police Department. Elkus was taken into custody without incident, police said.

Witnesses identified the victim as Gilbert, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the identity on Jan. 29, a Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman told the Journal.

Gilbert, 52, leaves behind a wife and two children.

Elkus, of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, has been charged with “one felony count of special circumstances murder by lying in wait and the sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm causing death,” the district attorney’s office said.

If convicted, he faces life in state prison. He is being held in a Santa Ana jail without bail.

The Jan. 30 memorial service for Gilbert drew a crowd to large for the mortuary’s chapel. The crowd spilled out toward the street to hear testimonies of a life lived well and meaningfully. Attendees included classmates of Gilbert’s younger son, a tenth-grade student at Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles (YULA).

“It’s devastating,” Rabbi Shimon Abramczik, director of student activities at YULA, told the Journal. Gilbert’s younger son is a member of YULA’s residential program, which is run by Abramczik.

Dr. Gilbert was “friendly, gregarious and very happy,” Abramczik said.

The Gilbert family has suggested that those interested in honoring the doctor’s name donate to an organization of their choice or to Gilbert’s place of worship, Chabad of West Orange County.

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