Sharing our Sadness

One of the most powerful things about community is the way we can hold one another up in celebration, in happiness, in reflection, in spiritual practice, and in grief. It is in this spirit that we are sharing that our Executive Director, Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein has lost her father, Rabbi Norman David Koch, unexpectedly and suddenly.  Today we share the obituary written by his family and thank you, our community, for the many ways you support all of us at the Y every day.

May his memory be a blessing

image (1)In grief we announce that Rabbi Norman David Koch died, surrounded by his beloved family and friends, as Shabbat Yitro entered on Friday evening February 6th/18 Shevat, of silent and undetected esophageal cancer. He was 66 years old.

His death came eight days after burying his dear mother, Reta.

Rabbi Koch is survived by his beloved wife Rosalyn, his siblings, Paul Koch & Patti Marcus, Ellen Koch & Marty Shinder, by his children, Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein & Dr. Jason Epstein, Yonatan & Erin Koch, Matan Koch, Adina Koch, Aytan Koch, and his grandchildren, Duncan, Jason and Avigayil Koch and Amichai and Kobi Epstein.

The funeral will take place on Sunday, February 8 at 11am at Temple Sholom, 122 Kent Road (Route 7) New Milford, CT 06776 with interment immediately following at New Milford Center Cemetery. Family will return to the home of Rosalyn Koch for the meal of consolation. Shiva will be held Sunday evening from 7-8:30 pm with a minyan at 7:30pm. For details regarding shiva after Sunday, please contact Marissa Rosenblum at Marissa_Rosenblum@14StreetY.org.  Shiva will be held in New York City on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Having retired in June from serving for 35 years as the Rabbi of Temple Sholom in New Milford, CT, Rabbi Koch was known and respected as a leader with steadfast convictions and a passion for social justice. An active member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) he was a past president of its Northeast Region.  Rabbi Koch was active in the New Milford Clergy Association, served on the Medical Ethics Committee at New Milford Hospital, was a member of the Ethics Commission of the Town of New Milford, and after serving on many boards was serving as the chair of the cemetery in New Milford.  For decades he served on the faculty of the URJ’s Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, MA and numerous NFTY Northeast Institutes and was dedicated to Jewish camping and to creating innovative Jewish educational programming.

Norman was a loving father and grandfather who enjoyed cooking for his family, Scrabble and crossword puzzles, and reading and playing with his grandchildren.

Donations in his memory can be made to Temple Sholom, P.O. Box 509, New Milford, CT, 06776, Congregation B’nai Israel, 193 Clapboard Ridge Rd., Danbury, CT 06811, and the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th St, New York, NY 10003.

Shira Epstein BLOGS!

“I am looking for a ROYAL PARTNER!”

With these words, StorahtellingLab/Shul Maven and LABA Teaching Artist Shawn Shafner, as King Ahashverosh, drew      my children, along with scores of young children pulling their grown-ups along, to engage in the Purim story last Sunday morning in the bright lobby lounge of the 14th Street Y. He also seemed to catch the eye of Lab/Shul educator Jess-Ann Smith, aka, Queen Esther–who shared her snacks and her wisdom with the king, proving that a winning partner is one who was unselfish, kind, wise, and brave. 

For a peek at the fun, click here!purim - jessann and shawn

“And I am looking for a more permanent position as the King’s jester, so please laugh at my jokes,” stage-whispered a Leprechaun-green creature with glitter-dusted cheeks, a blue wig, and eyes that seemed to sparkle a lot like those of  Lab/Shul’s incomparable Naomi Less.

In the corner, 14th Street Y Senior Program DirectorShayna Kreisler was quickly motivating staff and volunteers to change over our mask-and-gragger-making tables to be filled with treats to make “Goody-Foodie-Bags.” All were invited to make one for family or friends, and another to deliver to patients and staff at Beth Israel Hospital who might not be able to celebrate Purim– fulfilling the mitzvot of “misloach manot,” sending gifts of food to people in need of some love.  My son’s favorite part of the morning was walking to the hospital and meeting with Chaplain Rabbi Sheldon Goldsmith, who explained that he helped patients, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to heal their souls while the doctors and nurses heal their bodies.

purim - spacemanpurim - bakerPartnership, levity, good works inspired by Jewish narrative, and relationship-building were all apparent as we brought together a diverse community in celebration of this Jewish holiday.  As a mom, I was delighted to see my family having fun with the friends we have made participating in Shabbat at Lab/Shul. As the new Executive Director of the 14th Street Y, I couldn’t have been happier to see Lab/Shul and Y community members and staff working to bring Lab/Shul regulars, Y members, and new friends together–some who sought out a Purim party, and others who had never heard of Purim but wanted to join in the fun.

In my first few weeks at the 14th Street Y, I have come to understand how this community center can work with our partners, like Lab/Shul. Together we can attract and create a diverse community of people who build relationships and seek meaning through engagement with Jewish celebration, stories, ideas, and values-inspired action.

 purim - shaking homemade groggersThere is a history of partnership between the 14th Street Y and the creators of Lab/Shul that long precedes my arrival on the scene. I look forward to continuing to build together and hopefully to extend that reach to include many other organizations and groups who are working to revitalize Jewish life downtown. (SPOILER: Stay tuned—we have great plans in store for Shavuot!)

It is through partnerships that are unselfish, brave, kind and wise that we will continue to build a vital, meaningful, and diverse community filled with levity, good works, and culture inspired by Jewish narrative and tradition.