By Jeff Leb and Sarah Yastrab
We have had the privilege of getting to know Joel Shiff over the past few years. Although we were both new to the library board, Joel welcomed us with open arms and bestowed us with a tremendous amount of information and guidance drawn from his vast experience and years of service. Joel always displayed his humor and wit that could easily brighten and electrify any room. While we both approached our new posts with trepidation, Joel treated us like family, making us feel at ease and giving us the confidence to contribute to any dialogue. He always fought to ensure that the library was doing the utmost to serve all of the community that it represented. He was well known and beloved by the patrons and staff alike, and was always on call whenever any issue arose.
Unfortunately on Monday, April 8, Joel Shiff passed away.
Joel was blessed to have many families–at home, work, the library, and shul. Although he was a quiet and thoughtful man, his face lit up discussing his wife, Jane, who has taught at Rambam and HAFTR, or his children.
Joel was an educated individual who was deliberate and thoughtful with his decisions, especially when it came to those involving the tax dollars of the residents of District 15. He was our resident accountant, having worked for many years at Deloitte & Touche and becoming a partner there and then working as the chief financial officer at NCH Capital. He enjoyed discussing politics and was always well informed, providing interesting perspectives and engaging all of us in fascinating debates. He loved and supported the State of Israel. Joel was generally reserved with others yet could be outspoken–and even feisty–if warranted.
He served our community in a variety of ways. He was the past president of the Peninsula Public Library and an esteemed trustee for over 20 years.
Joel was the president of Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence, a position that he held for many years. He was revered and beloved by congregants of the shul. On the occasions when either of us attended a minyan or event at Beth Sholom, we were always amazed at how Joel had a personal connection with every congregant.
When Super Storm Sandy devastated the Five Towns, Joel turned the magnificent ballrooms of Beth Sholom into food pantries where anyone, regardless of their personal situation or background, could go to eat a full meal and get some respite from the damage that Sandy had caused.
Joel had been battling cancer over the past year and yet he didn’t want anyone to worry. He kept his illness quiet from most because he didn’t want to burden them. Throughout his illness, he never missed a beat. He attended and participated in all library meetings and functions and was a constant presence in his shul. Joel never let his illness slow him down.
We are better people for having had the privilege of knowing Joel Shiff. We were fortunate to make his acquaintance, but those who didn’t know Joel also benefited from his actions. The Five Towns community exists as it is today because of the work of people like Joel who give their all for neighbors without thinking of themselves.
Joel was an incredible asset to the Five Towns and his presence will be sorely missed. v