The close-knit enclave of Kew Gardens suffered a tremendous loss this past Tuesday morning with the untimely passing of longtime resident “Rabbi Dr.” Yaakov Meltzer z”l. Reb Yaakov, 64, was involved with the Chevra Hatzolah of Queens since its early years, and stayed on for more than 35 years as a beloved volunteer medic. He, as well, assisted in the work on the eruv and was an aide with the local chevrah kadisha. “He was a wonderful, active man filled with care and simchas ha’chayim,” said Hatzolah senior paramedic Eli Rowe. “He was a tremendous talmid chacham.”
Reb Yaakov studied in the kollel of Kew Gardens’ hometown yeshivah g’dolah, Yeshiva Shaar HaTorah, for many years, earning his right as a true Torah scholar. Later in life, he became an esteemed and valued physician assistant, serving thousands of patients at Quality Health Care in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
An alumnus of Shaar HaTorah detailed that he was stricken with an illness as a yeshivah bachur without medical insurance and was advised, “Head over to Dr. Meltzer’s house.” The pupil, now an accomplished, educated rav in his own right, explained, “Dr. Meltzer saw me for no charge, and helped me with my ailment, exhibiting charm, grace, and kindness.”
Sadly, Reb Yaakov suffered from a heart condition, and this was the eventual cause of his p’tirah. While hospitalized, he fell victim to the novel coronavirus, but his lungs had not failed.
Reb Yaakov graduated from John Bowne High School in Kew Gardens Hills at the tender age of 15. His chosen college would not allow him entrance at that age, so he stuck out the final year of high school. Yaakov eventually headed to Eretz Yisrael as a Young Weizmann Scholar, seeking to advance his studies in science. He stayed for five years, learning in both Yerushalayim’s Yeshivas Itri and the famed Mirrer Yeshiva.
Reb Yaakov ben Zev z”l leaves behind his wife Debbie, his children Chana Kramer (West Hempstead), Tirtza Bernstein (Lakewood), Zev Meltzer (Monsey), Leah Teichman (KGH), Yael Glatzer (Cleveland), Batya Akuka (Jackson, NJ), Tzvi Meltzer (KGH), his brother Joe Meltzer, and his sister Madeline Meltzer-Sklar.
Reb Yaakov shared a close relationship with his family, and he continued conversations throughout his ordeal. He will be sorely missed by the Queens community-at-large.
By Shabsie Saphirstein
and Sergey Kadinsky