Harvey Sheff of Kew Gardens Hills passed away at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens on March 31 from the coronavirus. The 59-year-old was inducted into Yeshiva University’s Basketball Hall of Fame on May 23, 2019.
At six-foot-four, Sheff was the starting Center and Co-Captain at HILI (Hebrew Institute of Long Island, in Far Rockaway) High School before it merged with Hillel into the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR). Sheff set HILI’s school record by scoring 42 points in a single game, averaging 26 points a game that year, and brought the team to the championship game. He earned becoming MVP of the Metropolitan Jewish High School Basketball League for that season.
As Captain of Yeshiva University’s basketball team, he became the school’s all-time scorer with 1,500 points by the time he graduated in 1982. He currently ranks fourth on that list. After college, Sheff played professional basketball for Elitzur Ramla in Israel for a year.
On Twitter: “The entire Maccabee family mourns the loss of Harvey Sheff, a true gentleman taken too soon by a horrible and indiscriminate viral pandemic. We will always remember him fondly.”
Mr. Joseph tweeted, “Heartbroken about this news. I had the opportunity to play with Harvey way back in the ’81-82 season. He was a great friend, a kind and loving person.
Allen Greenberg tweeted, “I am devastated to hear of Harvey’s passing. He was a gentle, big man, and a class act on and off the court. In a time when he lacked a strong supporting cast, he still excelled on the court. He never raised his voice or got angry at others around him.”
Harvey’s sister, Karen, said, “He was a humble person who didn’t boast about his achievements on the court. He helped you out, whether carrying groceries for someone or taking over someone’s Tomchei Shabbos deliveries in a pinch. He never raised his voice or said anything bad about a person. People respected him for athletic achievement, but the person he was off the court was even more impressive.” “We traveled together and went away for holidays together,” said his sister. Harvey had plans to go away this Pesach with his family.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills called Harvey “a gentle giant” who always had a smile. “He was a real mentch with a capital M.” “He never had a loud word.” Harvey was saying Kaddish every day for his father at the shul, but if someone else wanted to lead the davening because of a yahrzeit, “[Harvey] never gave an argument, never. You know, he just shied away from every argument.” “I know him as just a nice, nice guy, and his friends just loved him and I don’t blame them.”
After graduating with a degree in Economics from Yeshiva University, Harvey worked for 24 years marketing promotional products for companies. He lived in Kew Gardens Hills for 34 years, where long-time friends lamented. Moshe Friedlander: “Just a good, good person, never saying a bad word about anybody, and always wanting to help. Harvey visited his father every Shabbos at the Boulevard ALP. I don’t think he ever missed saying Kaddish for his father. “He was very devoted to his mother and two sisters.”
Surrie Berkowitz: “[Harvey] was very devoted to his family. He was with his dad until the very end of his life. Harvey prided himself on how well he cared for his father.”
Orie Shapiro: “Harvey was dedicated and devoted to his friends and family, and only had kind words to say about his fellow man.” Jeff Fleischer said he “was a great guy, a devout Jew, with a really good sense of humor.”
His sister, Karen, concluded, “He was the rock of our family, and his absence will be leaving a huge void for us, his extended family, the sports world, his friends far and wide, and the Kew Gardens Hills community.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a graveside funeral service and the shiv’ah was done using technology.
By David Schneier