By Sari Ray
Nestled in a cozy corner of Beit Hadassah is a small shtiebel cum beit midrash. Beit Hadassah was once a clinic, serving Jews and Arabs alike. In 1929, Arab rioters murdered all the Jewish patients and staff in the clinic. Beit Hadassah remained abandoned until 1979, when Jewish women and children from Kiryat Arba moved into this historic building to reclaim it for Klal Yisrael. Today, Beit Hadassah houses ten Jewish families, a shul, originally built in the 1870s, and a museum of the history of the Jewish community of Hebron.
As the third yahrzeit of Reb Yosef Ray (Yosef ben Boruch, z’l) approaches, it is appropriate to learn about the little shul in Hebron. The city of Hebron was very dear to “Papa,” my father-in-law. He would often discuss its development with his great-nephew Uri Karzen (presently mayor of the city). It was Uri who suggested that perhaps Papa’s children would want to sponsor a renovation of this unknown gem. The structure would be gutted. New seating would be built by the local carpenter in Kiryat Arba and a new paroches would be handcrafted to perpetuate Papa’s love for Israel and our love for him. In November 2012, the family traveled from Chicago for a dedication of the newly remodeled Zichron Yosef shul. There was a ceremony in Beit Hadassah attended by dignitaries, among them Speaker of the Knesset Ruby Rivlin, who spoke about the importance of maintaining the holy Me’aras HaMachpelah and its city. This was followed by a siyum and seudah at the simcha hall in the Old Jewish Quarter of Hebron. The program included divrei Torah and shirah by Papa’s sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons.
Papa is sorely missed. He always greeted us with a warm smile and a tender heart. His life was a hallel to Hashem every single day and this was reflected in his beautiful nigunim and zemiros. Now, he will live on with the Avos in the holy city of Hebron and his tefillos will be joined with theirs as a blessing to his children and to Klal Yisrael. Yehi zichro baruch! v