Memorial for man dedicated to Judaism, learning
May 9, 2011
Doug Stahl was intellectually curious about everything from Torah and Talmud to computers and technology. When the parents of the 49-year-old Highland Park resident — who died in a Dec. 10 condominium fire — searched for a fitting memorial to their son, they found an ideal project reflecting his interests in Judaism and science and his love of people, especially children.
After Drs. Ted and Eva Bamberger Stahl of Highland Park consulted with community leaders, the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County came up with the idea to fund a science lab at the school in the Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel.
The Douglas J.B. Stahl Science Laboratory will be used by many of the more than 500 children at the school, located in the Carmel region of Israel, an area devastated by fire in December. The village is home to young people ages eight to 19 from 16 countries around the world, some without parents, others from at-risk home situations.
Joining to fund the $30,000 project were Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison, where Doug belonged, and the Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth, where he grew up and where his parents are members.
Federation executive director Gerrie Bamira said she was pleased to help bring Doug’s family and friends together “to honor him and keep him present forever.” The science lab, she said, “connects his passion for learning and reflects a permanent statement of his commitment to the Jewish community in everything he did.”
During the fires, Yemin Orde lost 40 percent of its village, forcing the evacuation of 130 children to another youth center in northern Israel, according to a letter sent to federation and the Stahls.
Damage from the fires “sidetracked us considerably,” read the letter, and the village “was thrilled” to have the opportunity “to improve the standards of our science studies, thanks to your generous grant. We have been hoping to…build a new science lab for many years now…. Because our needs at the Village are so great we have been unable to address the school’s need.”
In an e-mail interview with NJJN, village spokesperson Lauri Friedman said that although the high school sustained only smoke damage, its overall condition is still “unsatisfactory.” Friedman stressed the necessity of modernizing to enable students to “graduate on equal footing with their Israeli peers throughout the country.”
The Stahls, in a phone interview with NJJN, described their son as generous and spiritual. “Doug was always offering personal help to others so it seemed very appropriate to us” to fund this project, said Eva Stahl. “He was always interested in knowledge and Israel and Judaism in general, and the orphanage combines a lot of these things. He was extremely bright, extremely generous, and extremely kind. And he was always interested in the welfare of children.”
Ted Stahl recalled his son’s showing his concern for others by walking a considerable distance on the High Holy Days to blow the shofar for residents of the Francis E. Parker Memorial Home and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
“We want people to remember Doug as a person who cared about the elderly and had great love for everybody,” said Ted. “He was a computer consultant, but his passion was to study Torah and Talmud. Everybody looked forward to having a discussion with Doug. The rabbis loved his questioning.”
Rabbi Eliot Malomet of HPCT called Doug Stahl a “fascinating and incredible person with quite an evocative spiritual bond which at times found him present at every synagogue in our community.”
Malomet, who delivered a eulogy at Stahl’s funeral at Ohr Torah, said he had “a beautiful neshama, like a complex puzzle.”
Rabbi Yaakov Luban of Ohr Torah said Stahl was “a gentle and refined individual who in his own quiet way touched people and had a profound impact on many individuals in our Edison-Highland Park community.”
“Doug spent much of his time thinking about profound matters,” recalled Luban, “but had a particular love of Torah study….”
Friedman said the gift will provide the Yemin Orde youth with a head start on good jobs in the IDF and beyond; in addition, she said, they will know “they have friends in such far-away places as the United States of America, who are thinking about them and are concerned about their welfare. The children feel special, a sense of pride, and the love of people who care about them.”