2001-03-31 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey Rabbi Weiss: A Tower Of Spiritual Strength

Chatting With Chapey
Rabbi Weiss: A Tower Of Spiritual Strength

The Chapey/Pasternak family and the members of the Regular Democratic Club of the Rockaways mourn the passing of our beloved Rabbi, Joseph Weiss. He was an inspirational spiritual leader and has served with distinction as the rabbi at the West End Temple for over 50 years.  He made an amazing difference in everyone's life that he touched.  He was a compassionate and caring person who was deeply involved in the temple and in the community. We will always remember his spirit, his courage and his wisdom.  We extend our sympathy to his family.  

This memorial appeared in the New York Times on March 25, 2001 and was signed by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Dr. Geraldine D. Chapey and Eugene Pasternak.

It was with a deep sense of personal loss that we attended Rabbi Weiss'
funeral on Sunday, March 25, 2001. His long time friend and colleague, Rabbi Dreyfus, conducted the funeral service.  One thing that Rabbi Dreyfus said really struck me.  He said that Rabbi Weiss was eight years older that he was. I suddenly realized that when you spoke to Rabbi Weiss, age was never a factor. Rabbi Weiss taught us all.  He never asked nor was he concerned with who we were, where we came from, nor what our age was. He was interested in every person who crossed his path. He was our friend and our trusted advisor. He brought happiness and comfort to everyone.

I first met Rabbi Weiss when I was graduating from the eighth grade in
St. Francis de Sales School.  The West End Temple was awarding a twenty-five dollar savings certificate to the graduate who wrote the best essay on brotherhood.  I was lucky enough to win the certificate.  It left indelible mark in my memory.  The West End Temple was sponsoring an interfaith project long before it was popular.

He enriched the lives of all who knew him by his quick wit and ready
humor.  At the celebration in honor of his 50th year as the rabbi at the
West End Temple, he joyfully announced to the delight of everyone that he had never been sure if this would be a permanent job so he only had gotten a calendar that ended with the new millennium.  Since he was now embarking on his next 50 years as the rabbi at the West End Temple, and since the job seemed permanent, he thought that it wouldn't be presumptive on his part to buy a new 50-year calendar.

Over the years I had many long and interesting conversations with Rabbi
Weiss. I remember asking him if his service as an Army chaplain in the
Pacific during World War II had an impact on his being very inclusive of all people. He told me that those experiences had a dramatic effect on him. He noted that in those very difficult times all the chaplains banded together to take care of the spiritual needs of the men and women in the service.

On another occasion, Dr. Edward Weiss, the rabbi's son, and his finance, Coni, invited us to come to their home for dinner.  Since we were visiting the rabbi's son, I wanted to do everything in the most proper way.  So I told my husband to watch the time and that it would be appropriate to stay for two hours. Four hours later we were still engrossed in conversation with Rabbi Weiss. Rabbi Weiss had a depth and breath of scholarship and experience. His doctorate in literature and communication gave him an insight into
people.  His experiences as a great religious leader over the years gave him
wisdom.  He was loved by everyone for his free spirit, loving kindness and
endless sense of humor.  He brought sunlight into the darkest rooms.

Rabbi Weiss had a wonderful life surrounded by his loving family - his
wife of 58 years, Bot, and his sons Dr. William Weiss and Kathlyn and Dr.
Edward Weiss and Coni.  One big regret that I feel is that his grandson
Houston Moses Weiss will never be able to learn about Judaism and life
directly from his grandfather.  There really are no words to describe the
incomparable spirit of Rabbi Weiss and his ability to reach out and touch
each one of us in a personal way.

Rabbi Joseph I. Weiss was an exemplary religious leader and a true
humanitarian.  His warmth, his courage, his passion for life and his devotion to his temple and his community will live on forever.

Shalom to my good friend, Rabbi Joseph Weiss.


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