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Rabbi's Blog: Remembering Murray Zucker z'l

10/25/2022 04:30:01 PM


Dear OZ family,


The first day of Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan has been turned into a sad day for Ohab Zedek. Today is the fourth yahrzeit of Murray Zucker, who, together with his wife, Veronica (she should be well and healthy), maintained OZ in the leanest of times. Murray and Veronica moved to the West Side in 1957, and became active members of our shul. The neighborhood soon took a sharp downturn in the 60’s and 70’s and the physical plant of OZ came under considerable disrepair. Meetings took place about relocating the shul in a better neighborhood or merging with another West Side congregation to consolidate expenses. After all, OZ inhabited 5 different buildings in its first 50 years, and we were at the 95th St. address for close to 50 years already. Many people thought it was time to sell the building while we could still get decent money for it, in order to buy a building somewhere else.


Murray and Veronica would not hear it. They had faith in the community and almost single-handedly, kept the shul going and continuing to serve the neighborhood through the most difficult times. I remember the first time I walked into the shul. It was during the week of the Shabbos I was to audition for the position, back in 1988. I wanted to get the feel of the rooms where I would be speaking, in shul, and for an Oneg in the Beis Medrash. The first people I saw were Murray and Veronica washing large pots that they had used to cook chulent for Kiddush, and they were tidying up the Beis Medrash. The shul did not have a custodian, and people in the street were asked to open the shul lights on Shabbos (after determining that they were not Jewish). When it rained outside, it rained in the shul. I remember torrential rains falling all over the main sanctuary on Rosh Hashana 5749. Paint chips were falling everywhere and the shul was in desperate shape.


But we had Murray and Veronica. They kept the shul alive long enough for the overall revival of the city in the 90’s to catch up with the Upper West Side. We also had the good fortune of running into Raymond J. Greenwald who had celebrated his Bar Mitzva at Ohab Zedek in 1935, and significantly helped us with the repair of the shul and with the fundraising efforts for Operation Exodus, for which OZ was cited for a special award in 1990. Early on in those renovations, we saw a memo dated 1961, that warned of the impending buckling of the magnificent stained glass windows if they were not repaired. We did so for all the large windows and we are in the process currently of repairing the 15 windows in the back of the balcony. As we go about returning our building to its pristine origins, we are finding more and more structural damage that must be repaired.


These repairs need to be done properly or we will have to repeat them in just a few years, and that amounts to a significant expense. Major shul renovations tend to take place about every 30 years, and I’ve been at OZ now for two of them. Only this time around I don’t have Murray Zucker and we don’t have a Raymond J. Greenwald. That means that we depend on the participation of every one of our members and worshipers. You’ll see this Shabbos how we have had to curtail the main sanctuary so that we can repair the ceiling breaches in time for upcoming Simchot. There are still many sponsorships available to put down a lasting testament to our connection with OZ. We almost sold the building before it was 50 years old, and we are soon approaching 100 years. Let’s keep it looking beautiful well beyond that.


Imagine a couple moving to the West Side this year, and deciding to seriously get involved with a shul that needs repair and then being remembered 65 years later, in 2087 as the shul continues to thrive and serve the community. That couple would be like Murray and Veronica. May Murray’s memory be a blessing and may Veronica have comfort and nachas form her family and friends. Yehi Zichro Baruch.


Stay well and healthy.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz




Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street | New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200 | Fax 212.663-3635




Fri, June 21 2024 15 Sivan 5784