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Synagogue mourns sudden death of young rabbi

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"Here was a case where death didn't knock on the door, it barged right in," the center's president, George Berkovatz, told the some 400 mourners who packed the synagogue's pews at the funeral service Tuesday. A black cloth with the white Star of David draped the casket as the cantor sang solemn prayers from scripture.For five years Radler led the Fresh Meadows shul with flare and commitment as an experienced teacher who friends and colleagues described as witty, compassionate and exceptionally bright."He was a king of one liners," said Berkovatz, who remembered the comfort generated by Radler's visits to the hospital when Berkovatz himself was very ill.In his eulogy, longtime friend Rabbi Jeffrey Miller listed several qualities that made an ideal rabbi, which were enumerated to him and Radler years ago by a professor at Yeshiva University and which Radler embodied.He was boldly moral, Miller said, having just last week confided that he would support homosexuality as his next crusade despite being heterosexual.He was well-versed in both Jewish and secular studies, able to communicate not only religiously but also in politics, Greek philosophy and sports.He was a devout Zionist, who last year days before Rosh Hashanah declared to his congregants, "I'm going to Israel, who's coming with me" and 100 people stood up, Miller recalled.And above all he was an inspiring leader and a scholar, according to those close to him."In 20 years, not a conversation went by between my friend and I that he didn't teach me the Torah," Miller said. "And that is the case for everyone here."As one teenager at the service put it: "He was the coolest rabbi around."Miller cited Radler's dedication to his family outside synagogue walls, regularly presenting his wife, Mindy, with flowers -- a rose among them.One unique aspect of the rabbi was his love for John Wayne, or "The Duke," and a fondness for guns.He carried a sidearm in the glove box and if pulled over by the police would say, "Officer, I have a gun in the car, would you like to see the permit?" Miller said with a grin. "He never got a ticket."Toward the end of his eulogy, Miller read from an article by Radler titled, "My Father's Palace.""My father would drape me in one arm...and keep me warm and cozy, and I always have the scent of his cologne," Miller recited, saying afterward: "Today I pray that the cologne of my dear friend, my teacher, remains ever present in our building and in our hearts."Radler is survived by Mindy Radler and his mother, Norma Radler. He was buried Tuesday at the New Montefiore Cemetery in Pinelawn, L.I.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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