Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stuart Shamai z"l

Sunday morning I received the shocking, sad new of the death of Stuart Shamai. He was a larger than life character who was well known among the English-speaking community in Netanya. He made aliya from London about 10 years ago and I met him when I was organizing the Likud Anglos group in Netanya before the previous elections. He volunteered to help me and was an excellent volunteer and organizer. He made his presence felt with his booming voice and extrovert personality and he was a hard man to say no to.

Apparently he fell on some steps in Ra'anana on Monday and hit his head. When he got to the doctor in Netanya he was taken to hospital by ambulance, but he had a concussion which resulted in a brain hemorrhage and he never recovered. He died on Shabbat morning and the funeral was in Netanya on Sunday morning.

Walking around Netanya, and perhaps any city, can be hazardous for older people. I fell nearly a month ago, I caught my sneaker on a projecting metal cover and fell like a ten-pin. Luckily for me I saved my fall with my right knee and hands. My knee has only just healed and my right hand was badly bruised, but apart from that I was lucky. I spoke to several others who have had similar experiences. Stuart was unlucky in that he hit his head.

Stuart made his mark in Netanya in several ways, one story that I can tell about him, since it is reasonably well known, is that soon after coming to Netanya, Stuart joined the New Synagogue, known as MacDonalds. He was soon on the Board and was shocked to discover that the elected Board could not find out what was the actual financial situation of the Synagogue. It seems that a group of old-timers who called themselves the "Trustees," who had run the shool for years, controlled the finances. So Stuart, in his own inimitable way, contacted the office for amutot (an amutah is a non-profit organization) and asked them if "Trustees" have any authority in an amutah such as the synagogue. He received a written answer back that there is no role for "Trustees" in an amutah and that the financial responsibility rests with the elected Board. So Stuart, using this letter, forced the Trustees to give up their control. This resulted in recriminations and bad feelings and some who had been in the synagogue for many years left, and others were appalled by the manner in which this was done. It ended with new elections for the Board and with Stuart leaving the shool.

So for good or ill, whatever one may think of that situation, Stuart left his mark in Netanya. His funeral was crowded with people who had experienced the benefit of his expansive personality. If it can happen to Stuart it can happen to anyone. It only proves once again how unpredictable life is. Stuart will be missed.


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