Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Obituary


I had a friend once, back in high school and for a number of years afterwards. We eventually went our separate ways, but there were times when we communicated quite a bit. He was intelligent, curious about things that most classmates didn't take much interest in, and he was full of life. He had energy, he had his own rules, and he had a strong desire to be extraordinary. He was confident there wasn't anything that he couldn't do, but he knew that he didn't want to do what everybody else was doing.

He didn't like regulations much; and although he wasn't anti-authority per se, he preferred not to take authority seriously. When he was happy he was very happy, and when he was down, he was very down. He believed in himself, and he wanted to find an outlet for some deeper energy that was bottled up inside, but he was sure that it was somewhere off the beaten path. He wanted to understand himself, he wanted to understand the world, and he wanted to understand reality. He looked in many places, but after being raised in a frum community he suspected that the answers were elsewhere.

Sadly, his father was extremely sick since he was a child, and as a result he didn't have a father in his life. In school he was, at best, pitied by the faculty. Living in New York – where it's easy to be overlooked – he was more or less left to his own devices. His mother, a special woman, was as caring and dedicated as she could be (her situation is one that I cannot imagine, and this was only one element of the complexity of her circumstances), I don't know how she managed to cope, but she did an amazing job. He wasn't neglected, and he wasn't disliked. But outside of his home he WAS underappreciated, and he could have used guidance, which he ultimately found elsewhere. Often, when I ran into former classmates, they'd ask me about him, but unfortunately I had to tell them that we'd been out of touch for a while. Many rooted for him – he was daring, without fear, he often did what nobody else would try. Everyone who knew him thought of him as unique and everyone wondered where he would end up… myself included.

He experimented with many things. He traveled to various places around the world for long periods of time. He tried his hand at various ventures. He read, he enjoyed many genres of music, he made unique friends and acquaintances – many of whom really cared about him. The years passed and, unfortunately, I don't think he felt that got very far when all was said and done. I can't remember all the things we spoke about in the hundreds of hours that we conversed, but I remember him telling me – at least 10 years ago – that he had broken his fear of death, quoting Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" (which might be surprising, because when we studied it in class he was seldom there): "A coward dies many deaths, a hero dies but once." Tragically, he recently died a violent and horrific death in the NYC subway system, 34 years old. May the Neshoma of Gershon ben R' Mordechai Leib rise up to the heights, TNZB"H.


Alice said...


yechi said...

Well written.
An obituary but also a 'je accuse'-Where was Lubab inc when one of their own was growing up and needed help?
Too busy being m'karev 'others',I guess.

eli said...


By the way, the correct quote is: “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.”
But we knew what you meant.

friendly anonymous said...

If he had children of his own, would it have made a difference to his final decision? What are your thoughts on this matter?

guravitzer said...

yechi, you're assuming no one was there.

Anonymous said...

yechi, bist an emeseh yold.
will you blame all of satmars ills on kanuis?

Yair said...

yechi: It's "j'accuse" - the e from 'je' is dropped.

Lubab inc. has been far too busy teaching French grammar to worry about helping Jews.

Being that he was in a frum neighborhood, he in fact fell under the jurisdiction of the Lakewood-Satmar Consortium. They are the only ones licensed for it.

Anonymous said...

Do you want a list of people that fell off williamsburgh roofs?

Anonymous said...

When was that picture taken? Recently?

C.E. said...

The picture was taken in 1992

guravitzer said...

CE, thank you for sharing some of your friendship with him.

Yair said...

Do you want a list of people that fell off Williamsburgh roofs?

I was being sarcastic - I wondered why yechi blamed the Corporation but didn't seem to feel any personal responsability for such people. I never heard of Reb Gershon before, but I still feel a regret and loss when I heard of his passing.

BTW - if you know anyone in Williamsburgh that might be likely to fall off a roof in the near future, you can send them to me in New Haven.

Anonymous said...

CE - May the pouring out of your loving words comfort you and the many who mourn his loss deeply (yes "accuser" - many of the mourners are fellow, loving Lubabs who did their best to keep in touch with this free and wandering spirit).

Mottel said...

Yechi -I remember a conversation several years back between a shliach and a ba'al habosta in CH about different efforts to help him.

Accusations based on ignorance only serve to further emphasize one's ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Wow! very powerful! your words touched me.
i grew up on Gershi's block on montgomery st. although gershi was older than me we were good friends, i will never forget the way he called me in yeshiva when ever i saw him he had an amzing smile, what he and his moter went through hashem yerachem should not befall any other yid.
may he have a lichtiger gan eden!

Anonymous said...

it was not a smile.....it was a smerk.

Anonymous said...

everyone loves to talk.

magnaservei said...

The actual quote is from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
"Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."

A beautiful and fitting obit.

I just learned of Gershy's death this evening. We were friends in Venice, Italy, a place that he loved very much. I know that I will miss his smile, (or smirk), and his energy. I hope you've found peace, Gershy....'e no ti desmenteghe, vecio mio:

ah, mi toca' insegnarve' tuto mi...
quante volte go' da dirteo
no' xe fa' cussi?