fbpx

How this rabbi with ALS uses his disease as a ‘mission to uplift’

Yitzi Hurwitz has plenty of reasons not to have a sense of humor.
[additional-authors]
December 2, 2015

Yitzi Hurwitz has plenty of reasons not to have a sense of humor. 

There’s nothing funny about a young, energetic husband, father of seven and rabbi being struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the crippling and often fatal neurodegenerative disease best known for afflicting baseball great Lou Gehrig and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, and which has, so far, outmaneuvered scientists searching for a cure. 

So it was surprising, funny and heartwarming when the automated voice of Hurwitz’s Tobii eye-tracking software spoke up, saying, “It could only be Jared,” as soon as this reporter walked into his bedroom for an interview.

Hurwitz, 43, a native Brooklynite, and his wife, Dina, used to serve as the Chabad shluchim (emissaries) in Temecula. They had a small but dedicated congregation, with Hurwitz serving as chazzan and regularly playing guitar at shul get-togethers; he also wrote music in addition to his full-time duties of raising money, growing and supporting his congregation, and raising a family.

But in 2013, everything changed. Not knowing why he was experiencing some unusual and alarming symptoms, such as slurred speech, he sought medical assistance. When doctors eventually diagnosed his ALS, he and Dina knew that would make running their Chabad impossible.

In order to get the best possible medical care, the family left their post in Temecula in summer 2013 and moved to an apartment near Hancock Park in Los Angeles, where he lives now and can receive full-time care while surrounded by a large Jewish community. While he could still make trips to Temecula, though, Hurwitz was able to acquire one last big item for his congregation, raising $45,000 for a scribe to write a Torah for the Chabad of Temecula — its first.

“He said, ‘I know I’m in trouble, and I know it’s going to get bad, but I always wanted to write a sefer Torah for the people of Temecula,’ ” said Shmuel Fogelman, a friend who helps administer the ” target=”_blank”>hurwitzfamilyfund.com

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Are We Going to Stop for Lunch?

So far, the American Jewish community has been exceptional in its support for Israel. But there is a long road ahead, and the question remains: will we continue with this support?

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.