Gary Turkel – a husband, father, leader and mensch to be honored


Mike Bloomberg told the story at Gary Turkel’s funeral this morning about the argument in heaven regarding whether to let the most special soul come to the Earth or not. The agreement was to let the soul come to the Earth but be returned to heaven after only a short time. This seems to be the only way to understand how such a mensch, such a blessing to his family and community, could be taken at such a young age, 41.

Family members, friends and Rabbis spoke about Gary and how he lived his life. He lived with intensity and commitment to his Jewish values.  He recently commission a Torah to be written.  Through his legacy at work and home and throughout his many communities, his children will know how to live their lives fully.

After a long hiatus from writing on my blog, I feel moved to write, to honor Gary and his family, Upper West Siders, in a way that makes his short life be a blessing. Those who spoke at his funeral were uplifting and inspiring, including his Brave wife Lesley.  We can be reminded to live our lives fully. We can appreciate the family and friends that we have. We can call, email, text, write letters to those old friends and newer friends. We can find the time in our day, to go out of our way to let others know that they matter and we care. We can pray, in whatever faith we have, in any level of observance, and lead by example. We can listen carefully to our clergy and question them, engaging in thought and being present in mind and body. We can dream about flying and plans beyond the here an now and yet, be grateful for what we have. We can stop, and smell our children, the roses and everything that life offers us as life is precious.  We never know when one day, an accident changes everything.

In the short week that my Mom, my dearest Louisa, was doing all she could to survive, and in the overnight realization that she would not longer live, I learned how a heart can ache, beyond anything I have ever felt before. Hopes and dreams changed forever. Gary’s brother said, so movingly, that Gary will grow old with him and all who he loved so whole-heartedly. For any of us who have lost loved ones know, through stories, recipes, tastes, smells, acts of hesed (loving kindness), we can keep their memories alive and they can grow old with us.

I plan to share the stories I have with Gary’s family throughout our lives and I will continue to think about how honored I, we, all of us are to have special souls and to live our lives as fully as we can.  While he worked hard and long… Gary’s legacy is one that his family can certainly be proud of as he loved and lived as we all wish to live. So many communities, Westside Institutional Synagogue, Lincoln Square Synagogue, the Atlantic Beach community, SAR Academy, Manhattan Day School, Camp Ramah, the JCC, Bloomberg LP, Shomirm, Hatzolah and many, many more that I wouldn’t even begin to know how to name – so many people’s lives have been touched by Gary. The display of love and support on the streets of NYC, literally walking behind Gary’s family up the block and onto his final resting spot, was mind altering for me. May we all find our community and place in this world – to make it a better place.

For all of us who are Dad’s have Dad’s, know Dad’s, give extra love today – Father’s Day.

You can also see the collection of resources I collected after my Mom died in the section at the top of this blog.

Baruch dayan ha-emet (“blessed is the judge of Truth”) for more information about Jewish death and mourning:


About valeriegerstein

A former online media professional, I am home, on the Upper West Side, with my 2 gorgeous girls, Mia and Liza and their wonderful Daddy, Mark.
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1 Response to Gary Turkel – a husband, father, leader and mensch to be honored

  1. Simon says:

    This is what the witness wrote:
    After all searching teams and efforts gave up on the recovery of the body after searching 6 days, the Rimanover Rebbe successfully had the body miraculously surface. Efforts on recovering the body started by a visit of the Rebbe to Gary Turkels home in Atlantic Beach where he removed the non kosher mezuzot and changed to new kosher ones. Other segulos were done in the home and then the Rebbe went to the waterfront and threw an amulet in the Ocean. A mere 5 hours later, 3 bodies started miraculously surfacing in the ocean, one after the other. The second body was Turkel!

    Special thanks to Dalia, a dear friend of Mrs. Turkel and Mr. Steve Zuhler who enlisted the help of the Rimanover Rebbe to help recover the body of Gary Turkel.

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