With great sadness we inform you of the untimely passing of Rabbi Beryl Epstein OBM, a longtime Crown Heights resident who was famous for his walking tours of the neighborhood. He was 58 years old.
For over thirty years Rabbi Epstein has lead tours of Crown Heights and Chabad in the neighborhood to groups of comprised of both Jews and non-Jews.
Rabbi Epstein once described his tours as “living Judaism.” He says both communities are drawn to each other because they are known for old-fashioned dress and resistance to modern amenities
“Thousands of people have been touched by his informative, humorous and inspiring approach. Numerous famous personalities, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were introduced to Lubavitch through his informal and heartwarming tours” wrote a friend.
In a 2011 interview to CNN he related that when he was 18 and still living in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Beryl Epstein received a call from his older brother, Mordechai, who was about to join the Israel Defense Forces. Mordechai urged his younger brother to come to Crown Heights, a largely ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where he was studying before heading to Israel.
“I knew there must be more – something I was missing,” recalls Epstein, 53, who grew up in a secular Jewish home.
His visit to Crown Heights the following year, 1977, inspired him to move there and to join the Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic Jewish sect predominant in the neighborhood. Inside his new community, Epstein noticed there was a misconception among outsiders that Lubavitcher Jews – who are distinguished by dark clothing, frequent use of Yiddish and what they say an unyielding focus on devotion to God – shun the outside world.
“I felt there was such a need to acclimate society to Hasidic Jews,” he says. “It’s one thing to have people speak about Hasidim. It’s another to have Hasidim themselves speak.”
Which lead to the founding of his famous Chasidic Tours of Crown Heights through which thousands have been exposed to an authentic view of Chabad Chassidim and Jewish life.
Over the last few years he had been battling a terrible illness and over Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach came the sad news of his passing.
He is survived by his children, Chaya, Yosef and Mendy.
He is also survived by his siblings Mordechai Epstein (Pittsburgh, PA), Eron Epstein (Chattanooga, TN), Rachel Epstein (S. Rosa Beach, FL) and Yocheved Schechter (Baltimore, MD).
He was predeceased by his wife Dena Epstein OBM.
The Levaya will take place on Sunday, leaving from Shomrei Hadas at 1:00pm and passing by 770 at around 2:00pm.
Boruch Dayan Hoemes