On Tuesday, October 26, the Kew Gardens Hills community was shocked to hear of the passing of Rabbi David Keehn. This occurred just three weeks after the death of Marc Hoschander. There are many parallels. Marc was born on May 23, 1967, and died on October 1, 2021. Rabbi Keehn was born on June 21, 1967, and died on October 25, 2021. They both died of massive heart attacks right by their places of work. They were both well-known and respected in the community.

Marc Hoschander used to sit in the row behind me every morning at the 6:15 a.m. minyan at Congregation Degel Israel. I saw him at shul the morning he died. I don’t even remember if I wished him a good day. Since then, especially last Friday, a week after he passed away, I look at his empty seat and there a sense of sadness. I could talk about Marc but both Shabsie Saphirstein and Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld gave glowing tributes, so I do not believe I could meaningfully add to what they expressed. I also do not need to address the pain and suffering that his family, including his mother, wife, and children, are going through, since it’s something that most people who have lost a loved one can relate to. Instead, I want to address what each one of us can learn from his passing and use for our own lives.

“Uriah Phillips Levy (1792-1862) was one of the first Jewish officers in the United States Navy and a prominent citizen of New York. Circa 1833, Levy privately commissioned Pierre-Jean David D’Angers, France’s most prominent sculptor of the time, to create a statue to memorialize Thomas Jefferson because of legislation Jefferson had introduced establishing religious freedom in the armed forces. Levy presented the bronze statue to Congress as a gift to the American people. It is on display in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Levy donated the plaster model from which the bronze artwork was made to the people of New York. The model was installed in the Governor’s Room of City Hall circa 1834. It was later moved to the Rotunda of City Hall before being installed in the City Council Chamber in 1915” (nyc.gov).  For Levy, it was personal, since he was subject to religious discrimination while in the Navy. He did become the first Jewish commodore in the Navy. Levy also brought Jefferson’s home in Monticello, Virginia, after Jefferson’s death, and restored it to its prior grandeur. Levy was a member of Congregation Shearith Israel and is buried in Beth Olam Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens.

In last week’s Torah reading of Bereishis, Adam is asked by G-d whether he had eaten from the tree from which he was commanded not to eat. Adam did not admit that he was wrong and take responsibility for his actions. Instead, he blamed G-d for having given him the woman who gave him the fruit. Adam forgot that he had asked G-d to create woman, as explained by Rashi. Then G-d went to Eve, who likewise did not admit she did anything wrong. She put the blame on the snake by claiming that the snake deceived her.

A few years ago, there a buzz about a frum teenage ping pong champion, Estee Ackerman, from West Hempstead. There was talk about her trying out for the United States Olympic Team for the 2020 Olympics. If she had made the team, she would’ve been the first orthodox member of the United States Olympic Team. I believe this paper previously published a story about her. I had forgotten about her story until I read an article in the Jewish Home. It mentioned that Estee was ready to try to make the Olympic Team, but the trials were from Thursday through Sunday. The United States Table Tennis committee was unwilling to make allowances for her so she would not have to play on Shabbos. Estee decided that Shabbos was more important, and did not participate in the tournament. She gave up her dream to make the Olympic team in 2020 because it conflicted with her religious beliefs.