2001-06-23 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey


  On Tuesday, June 12, 2001, the Five Towns and Rockaway Inter-Faith Clergy Association and the West End Temple held a memorial celebration for Rabbi Joseph I. Weiss entitled "Beyond Our Fears, Affirming Hope." It was very well attended.

This interfaith service brought together men, women and children from all parts of the peninsula to celebrate the life and accomplishments of our beloved Rabbi.  Since Rabbi Weiss was such an outstanding and positive force in our community, one can't help but reflect on the Rabbi's love of life, his wisdom and his humor.  He was well traveled and a scholarly teacher and leader who brought his insight into human nature with him into each encounter with his congregants and the community.

I particularly remember Rabbi Weiss praising the indomitable spirit in each person. He told me that on many occasions people would seek his counsel to help them through a difficult part of their life.  He would always extend himself to assist anyone who needed his guidance.  His advice was always thoughtful. He was able to draw on his religious beliefs, his extensive reading of the Torah and his experiences in a wide range of endeavors to help or console the person.

He told me that several times after he left the person who looked to him for advice he would reflect and wonder how he would be able to handle the heavy burden of that person and have the will to move on.  He was very empathetic. Rabbi Weiss had a deep trust in God and in our ability to endure and persevere through very
difficult and trying terrain.

Dr. John Shure, The President of the West End Temple, gave the opening remarks. Dr. Shure always looked forward to his weekly luncheons with the Rabbi. They both took time out from their busy schedules to solve the
problems of the world and to discuss ongoing events at the West End Temple. Rabbi Weiss and Dr. Shure shared a bond that will live forever.

Msgr. Martin Geraghty expressed his warmth and affection for Rabbi Joe. He noted that the Rabbi had a sincere interest in all people. Through his spirituality, his thoughtfulness and his insights he was able to reach out to others and to make their lives better because they knew him. Father Paul Landolfi shared Rabbi Weiss's commitment to an ongoing dialogue among the interfaith clergy.

In addition, they were both very active in the Rockaway Catholic- Jewish Council, which among other activities sponsors a brotherhood / sisterhood essay contest. Prizes are awarded to the best essays that convey the message that it is important for everyone to get together and share their hopes, experiences and similarities.

It is interesting to me that even in death, Rabbi Weiss was reaching out to comfort us and help us through the sorrow of his death.  Rabbi Paula Jayne Winning from Temple Sinai of Long Island in Lawrence read a poem
written on the subject of death by Rabbi Weiss.  He entitled the poem "The Spark of Gratefulness".  In it Rabbi Weiss tells us that "the waters of sadness are deep, but they will never extinguish the spark of gratefulness that is fed by man's inherent recognition of God's goodness to him. Let us fan that spark into a flame that will guide us happily into the future."  

While the loss of Rabbi Weiss is too recent, we can take comfort in the Rabbi's own words.  We can carry with us his unique and energizing spirit. I would like to express my gratitude to all of the clergy who took
time out of their busy schedules, to promote the cooperative spirit of the interfaith council.

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