Rabbi William Fierverker, who served Congregation Beth El of Yardley, Pa., formerly of Levittown, for 36 years, died Aug. 27 at the age of 85.
He saw the congregation through many growing pains — and joys. Indeed, when he first assumed the bimah, there, technically, was no bimah: The temple’s Hebrew school was built within a year of his arrival and the actual temple followed soon after.
Fierverker’s tenure at the temple was accompanied by accomplishments and pride. Upon his retirement in 1991, he told
a reporter of his philosophy, which had served him and the congregants so well all the years: “I see the role of a rabbi is to educate and try to open up whole new areas of Judaism to all congregants,” he said.
Since retirement, the rabbi, a graduate of Mesifta Torah Vo’daath Yeshiva and of City College of New York, remained involved in congregational activities. He served, according to the congregation’s current rabbi, as a source of inspiration.
“He was the kind of rabbi and person who made you feel, when he spoke to you, like you were the only person in the synagogue,” recalled Rabbi Joshua Z. Gruenberg, who assumed the pulpit in 2011.
Gruenberg compared his regular visits to the by-then homebound retired rabbi to Tuesdays With Morrie — in which author Mitch Albom had weekly insightful meetings with a former college professor — and said he gleaned much insight from his retired colleague.
“He had a wealth of knowledge. All I wanted to do was listen” to a sage who “was an ever-present force in people’s lives.”
Beth El is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary — a weekend of activities was capped by a gala event Oct. 6 — “and so much of what the congregation is started with Rabbi Fierverker,” noted Gruenberg.
He is survived by his wife, the former Saran Snow; three daughters, Miriam Batavi and Naomi and Rachel; and three grandchildren.
Contributions may be made in the rabbi’s memory to his school, Mesifta Torah Vo’daath Yeshiva, c/o Rabbi Meir Deibel, 1450 53rd St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11219.