A life saved during Kol Nidre service

Lips and face blue, Temple Akiba congregant Duke Molner lay unconscious, without a pulse, outside the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, during Kol Nidre services on Sept. 25. 

Molder, who is in his 60s, had had a heart attack. A congregant found him lying on the ground at the entryway to the synagogue. “He said he went down, and the next thing he remembers was being on a gurney in the hospital,” Rabbi Zachary Shapiro of Temple Akiba said in an interview. 

Molner had left services midway though, feeling faint and wanting fresh air. Once the congregant found him, multiple doctors who were in the congregation rushed outside and administered CPR on Molner, whom the doctors were able to identify only after finding a pill bottle with pain medication in his pocket. The rabbi left the cantor in charge of services and came outside as well. One of the doctors sat with Molner’s wife and kept her calm. Paramedics arrived on the scene just minutes after Molner was found, and they used a defibrillator to revive him and then took him to Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center.

Shapiro, spiritual leader of the Culver City-based Temple Akiba, a Reform congregation, visited Molner in the hospital on Sept. 27, expecting to find a patient barely hanging on. But Molner was awake, and he burst into tears when he saw Shapiro and promised to take better care of himself. 

“In his words, this was really a wake-up call, almost like a shofar blast, that he had to start seeing his doctor more regularly,” Shapiro said.

Molner, who has been a congregant of Akiba for nearly five years, lives in Encino with his wife, Joanne. They attend services regularly. When called by the Journal, he was not well enough to speak to a reporter, following  surgery performed at UCLA to insert a stent — a stainless steel wire mesh tube — into an occluded coronary artery to keep it open. But Molner is doing well and was expected to be released soon from the hospital, Shapiro said. 

Because Molner became ill so suddenly, Temple Akiba’s staff has been discussing how to prepare for medical emergencies that might occur during services. Fortunately, doctors were in the crowd the night of Kol Nidre, but, they are asking themselves, what about during smaller services when, perhaps, no doctors are in the room? There have been discussions about offering CPR training to staff and keeping a defibrillator at the shul.