Remembering Josie Zeman z”l

photo by Nick Levitin

Andy and I were on vacation in Portugal when we received the sad e-mail about Josie’s death; we missed the funeral. We returned home with Covid; we missed the Shiva.

So how can we pay our respects? We can share a few memories. It occurred to me that other congregants might also like to share some thoughts about Josie. After all, she was such an integral part of the Shomrei community.

If you would like to contribute your stories about our beloved friend Josie, add comments to this post (bottom of the page).

Here are some of my memories:

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Josie is that she must have had a clone. Or two or three. She was everywhere!

She was always at services, wearing a beautiful tallit and kippah. She was always walking on Walnut Street, either alone or with a friend. Sometimes, she’d be sitting at a café, enjoying sunshine and conversation. The Montclair Y? Everyone knew Josie from an exercise class or a program for Seniors.

She looked forward to schmoozing with the retired women’s group that met weekly at Watchung Plaza. If a Shomrei driver was not available, she always found another means of transportation.

Finally, it’s the Shomrei Book Group that is Josie’s legacy. She resuscitated the group and kept it going for years. Always up on the latest books, she recommended books that she had read or were on her reading list. She accepted suggestions from others. She skillfully led the conversation. When people moved to Florida, she figured out how to navigate conference calls – no easy task. When Covid came, she adapted to new ways of keeping the group intact. She was in charge of the calendar and correspondences like a seasoned professional.

I never knew how old she was but I always hoped that when I will reach her age (whatever it was) I will embrace life as she did.

If you would like to contribute your stories about our beloved friend Josie, add comments to this post (bottom of the page).


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4 thoughts on “Remembering Josie Zeman z”l

  1. It is hard to imagine Shomrei without Josie. She was an integral part of the community. Warm, friendly, knowledgable, inquisitive, she was a constant presence at Shromrei. It wasn’t really a Shabbat without wishing her “Shabbat Shalom!”

    I first met Josie shortly after I joined Shomrei in 2010. When Dale Russakoff and I revived the print edition of Kol Emunah, Josie became one of our “ace reporters”. She was always looking forward to her next “assignment.”

    Her presence in almost every class I took back then was notable because of her active engagement in our learning and discussion. Her comments and questions made the discussions so much richer and enjoyable. Linda Ariel and I had the pleasure of having Josie in the Wise Aging Group we co-facilitated. There, too, her active participation and commitment to exploring the material we studied was a major contribution to all of us in the group. Her questions always went to the heart of the matter and the earnest way in which she asked them made you sit back and eagerly await the response of whomever the question was asked.

    I am so grateful to have known Josie. I shall miss her. Shabbat and Shomrei just won’t be the same without her.


  2. I met Josie when she joined Shomrei Emunah. Some people radiate goodness. Josie was that type of person. Her ability to be everywhere at once was remarkable. She had a lust for learning. When I moved to Florida, I still got to see her every two weeks on Zoom. She was instrumental in forming and leading the 929 group. She helped if she could when asked. I will miss her.

  3. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of Josie. I’ll also miss her, for the reasons you mentioned and because I felt that we were, in a way, kindred spirits. We were both raised in secular homes, didn’t have much Jewish education and didn’t miss it, but became very interested in learning what we missed, and more. She was also a great organizer and the Shomrei Book Club, the 929 classes, the Apocrypha class, etc., all benefited from her willingness to assume responsibility for keeping them running. What will we do without her! She left very big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.

    Merle M.

  4. I, too, would see Josie either entering the MPL or leaving. I will miss her most of all, because she always referred to my husband, Eric, as “Dear Eric”. She knew she and the congregation could count on him for rides, repairs, bible discussion.
    Rita S

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