Vassar Temple Creates Hineni Fund to Honor Memory of Former President, Seth A. Erlebacher

Hineni Fund in Memory of Seth A. ErlebacherVassar Temple has created a fund to honor the memory of Seth A. Erlebacher, who served as the temple’s president until his untimely death last year. Because education was so important to Seth, the fund will benefit Vassar Temple’s religious school, which now also bears Seth’s name.

Called “Hineni” (Hebrew for “I am here”), the fund reflects Seth’s eagerness to stand up and contribute. So far, upwards of $70,000 has been raised from a wide range of sources, even before the temple’s major fundraising campaign planned for the fall.

Contributions to the fund can be made most conveniently by check, payable to “Vassar Temple” and earmarked for the Hineni Fund, sent to 140 Hooker Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY 12601. For larger gifts or more information, contact Andi Ciminello (845-452-1190 or andi@ecosystemsstrategies.com).

Seth left behind his wife and two daughters, and is survived by both of his parents.

More information about the Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School can be found on its website: School-VassarTemple.org, or by contacting its director, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (845-454-2570 or RSDirector@VassarTemple.org). More information about Vassar Temple appears on its website: VassarTemple.org.

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Vassar Temple Names Religious School After Former President, Seth A. Erlebacher

When Vassar Temple opens religious school on September 5th, it will be as the “Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School,” in memory of Seth Erlebacher, who served as the temple’s president until his untimely death last year.

Naming a religious school after a person is rare across the landscape of American Judaism. This unique step at Vassar Temple reflects Seth’s extraordinay passion for Jewish learning, his commitment to the temple, and the many ways in which he made his presense felt.

The renaming of the school is complemented by the creation of the Hineni Fund, also in Seth’s memory, to support the school and the work that it does.

Seth left behind his wife and two daughters, and is survived by both of his parents.

More information about the Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School can be found on its website: School-VassarTemple.org, or by contacting its director, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (845-454-2570 or RSDirector@VassarTemple.org). For information about the Hineni Fund, contact Andi Ciminello (845-452-1190 or andi@ecosystemsstrategies.com). More information about Vassar Temple appears on its website: VassarTemple.org.

Seth Erlebacher – Golfer, IBMer, Friend

Many thanks to Jeff Biamonte for creating and sharing this tribute to Seth:

Today I Buried a Friend

Today I buried a friend.

In attendance at the funeral with me was the president of the largest movement of Jews the world has seen; other clergy; representatives of neighboring communities; members of various intersecting business, social, and religious circles; friends; and numerous acquaintances.

Toward the front were his grieving parents, wife, and two teenage daughters.

I met Seth only a few months ago, in his capacity of Temple President, at a meeting of three concerning the religious school and whether I would run it. We talked about vision and salary, education and culture, supervision techniques and attendance policies, work hours and commuting distances.

Follow-up discussions were devoted to health insurance, keys, voice mail, computers, e-mail, security codes, and myriad other details related to a new job.

The job interview is always an odd way to meet someone, and this was no exception. By the time the process was concluded, I knew where Seth stood on everything we’d discussed — he preferred to lock the door before arming the alarm, for example, and he was adamant that e-mail addresses should be part of the Temple’s branding — but I didn’t know who he was.

Seth was always around the Temple, though, giving us lots of informal opportunities to talk in addition to our formal meetings. We discussed mundane matters like budget lines and teacher salaries, and lofty goals like how to foster Jewish commitment.

I remember one particular day I came to Seth when I discovered what could have been a huge problem. He responded with a cheery if ironic one-word answer: “excellent!” His simple reply was laden with complexity. We’ll fix this together. We won’t let it stand in our way as we build for the future. And for sure we won’t let it stop us from having fun now.

Come September, Seth wasn’t the only Erlebacher to hang out around the Temple. I saw his elder daughter Rachel each week, because she was one of the 3rd-grade teachers and part of my job was to supervise her. It didn’t take me long to see how talented she was. At one point, at a congregational dinner, I think, I told Seth how lucky Rachel’s students were. He was polite enough to say “thank you,” but his eyes replied, “yes, I know.”

His younger daughter Brianna, too, who was both a student on Wednesdays and soon a student teacher on Sunday mornings, was particularly helpful to me, especially in my first few weeks, before I knew how the teachers and students expected things to run. I remember I said something to Seth about how wonderful Brianna was, and, again, courtesy won out in his polite reply, but I could practically hear his body language: “You don’t have to tell me. I already know.”

Seth and I talked about the school, of course, and the Temple, about summer camps and the future of the Jewish people. We celebrated Shabbat together. We mocked the ineptitude in the world (sometimes, sadly, our own), chatted about current events, and planned for a better tomorrow.

Six months ago I met the Temple President.

Today I buried a friend.

Seth Erlebacher, z”l

It is with profound sadness, regret, and shock that we must inform the congregational family of the sudden, unexpected death of our beloved Temple President, Seth Erlebacher, on Friday, December 16, 2011.

Vassar Temple is located at:
140 Hooker Avenue,
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601.

As we mourn Seth’s passing, let us all keep Seth’s family in our prayers.

  • The funeral service will take place on Wednesday, December 21, at 10:30am at the Temple, followed by interment, then a minchah service back at the Temple.
  • Shiva minyan services will be held Thursday and Saturday evenings at 7:00pm.
  • The family will rise from shiva Sunday morning.