Center for Spiritual Life hosts COVID-19 memorial service
Members of the Brandeis community read names and tributes for individuals who have passed away in the past year.
On April 23, the Center for Spiritual Life hosted a memorial service for the lives lost within the Brandeis community over the last year.
“This is a way to remember community members who have died in the last year and acknowledge the grief and loss that our community members have gone through,” Rabbi Seth Winberg, Executive Director of Hillel and Director and Senior Chaplain of the Center for Spiritual Life, said during the event’s introduction.
Following Rabbi Winberg’s address, President Ron Liebowitz emphasized the importance that remembrance holds in the Jewish tradition — the Hebrew word for remembrance comes up 169 times in the Bible, said Liebowitz. While the memorial focused on Brandeis community members, Liebowitz acknowledged the many others who have passed away this past year.
The memorial consisted of tributes to 10 community members and staff who died in the past year, and participants held a moment of silence for each person. The tributes were submitted by students, faculty, staff and alumni and read aloud by volunteers at the service.
The first tribute was for James Adams, presented by Ali Hagani ’22. Adams was a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician for five years. In addition to his customer service skills, he had an “infectious smile,” Hagani said. He loved spending time with his family and will always remain a source of guidance for his children.
The second tribute was read for Sergio Aguilar. “Aguilar was known for his humble personality, radiating joy, heart of gold, and infatuation for his family and home country El Salvador,” Anjum Biswas, the Hindu and Dharmic Chaplain, said. Aguilar was well-known for welcoming everyone with open arms in his community and his home country, Biswas said.
Rachel Araten ’24 read the next tribute for Michael Carbone, a dedicated custodian in Facility Services for 33 years. Carbone followed in the footsteps of his father, who also worked as a custodian at the University.
The following tribute was for Patricia Conboy, read by Tali Meisel ’24. Conboy worked for Sodexo at Brandeis for 20 years and was loved by all for her “sweet, caring nature and passion for serving the community,” Meisel said.
Kristen Lucken, Chair of the Religious Studies Program, read the tribute for Alexander Ferrazzoli, who had been at Brandeis for 10 years. Ferrazzoli spent five years pursuing his graduate studies at the University and was a part of the Lovett & Haber labs. Lucken explained that Ferrazzoli was deeply devoted to his work and helping others in the lab. “Alexander was more than a work colleague to many. It brings much sorrow to remember that he is no longer with us,” she read.
The next tribute was for Anthony Magard, a graduate student at the University, read by Assistant Director for Spiritual Life Lara Ericson. The writer of the tribute explained that when they first met, they automatically knew that Magard was a genuine person. “The last conversation we had was about the need for more diversity in the sciences. He expressed passion and dedicated his time and skills to changing the sphere of science. I know a light was extinguished when he left this world,” Ericson read.
Syed Hassan ’23 read the tribute for Nerva Nazaire, who worked in the Hoot Market. The individual who had written the tribute wrote that they saw each other almost every day and bonded over their shared Haitan heritage. “Nazaire always helped me practice my Haitain Creole, never giving up on me,” Hassan read.
The following tribute was for Niharika Sharda, a first-year master's student in the Math department. Sharda was taking courses from Delhi and aspired to move to the United States to be a mathematician. She exhibited “intellectual curiosity, warmth, and determination,” Maya Kelly ’22 said.
Former Prof. Andreas Teuber (PHIL) was the next individual given a tribute. Harun Spevack, the Muslim Chaplain at the Center for Spiritual Life, read that Teuber brought cookies to his first couple of classes to make his students feel comfortable. “Teuber did not see students in a crowded lecture hall, he saw friends,” Spevack read. Even when students were sent home and had to finish the spring semester on Zoom, Teuber kept coming to campus and broadcasting class from the lecture hall. This was one of the multitude of stories that showed Teuber’s kindness and dedication.
Elye Robinovitz ‘23 read the last tribute for J. Scott Van Der Meid. Van Der Meid was the Associate Dean of Study Abroad at the University and was dedicated to helping students expand their horizons. “He helped me grow my dreams. I have Scott to thank for my love to see the world,” Robinovitz read. Van Der Meid was described as a silent leader who always cheered his students on in the background.
Before concluding the memorial ceremony, the names of some individuals connected to Brandeis community members who passed away during the pandemic were displayed on the screen. These names were Hussein Mohamed’s father, Violet Barker, Marsda Conner, Caley Epstein, Peter Shostak, Steve Taylor, Dr. Isac Edelstein and Ira Siegel.
Participants of the memorial service were also given the opportunity to post names of individuals they were grieving in the Zoom chat.
“We honor their memories by being here together as a community. We remember all those named and all those who are not named here as well,” Ericson concluded.