By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The entire Five Towns and Queens community was in a state of shock over the sudden passing of a remarkable woman, Mrs. Alice Marks, of Cedarhurst. The Hewlett Boulevard chapel was packed with overflowing crowds as well over 1,000 people attended. There were numerous rabbanim and roshei yeshiva in attendance.
Mrs. Marks was a very special woman who was beloved by so many people, in dozens of communities. What follows is an inadequate attempt to explain who she was to those that did not fully know her. It is merely but a glimpse.
She was a loving wife to her husband Michael, a loving mother to her children and grandchildren—Jonathan and Rachel, Zecharia and Rivka, Daniel, Moshe, Ami, and Ava; Doug and Shira, Jordana, Aidan, Danielle, and Gabriel; Shani and Chaim, Adina, Eli, and Aliza; and Sara and Yehuda, Kayla, Sam, and Alex—and a loving daughter to her mother, Roberta Siegel, and sister and aunt to her siblings and their families: Reba and Sidney Ruthenberg, and Sammie and Arianna; Larry and Molly Siegel, and Shira and Jordan Blumenthal and Zeke and Lydia, Ariel and Josh Mitrani and Josephine and Isaac; Edie and Rob Stein and Stephanie and Justin Moldovan, David and Gwynne Stein, and Gabriella.
All of them with remarkable emunah, bitachon, and ba’alei chesed. This was one important aspect of her, but there was far far more. We never fully appreciate or know of the depths of tzidkus of people that surround us.
Mrs. Marks hailed from Patchogue, Long Island—a community deep in the heart of Suffolk County. She came from a home imbued with chesed and Jewish values. She built on that foundation and achieved remarkable success. Shlomo HaMelech tells us (Mishlei 14:1), “Chachmos nashim vansa baisah—the wisest of women [each one] built her home..” This was certainly true of Mrs. Marks, who has numerous descendants all following the path of Torah.
But what is also remarkably true is that not only did she build her own home, she built an entire Torah observant community—almost single-handedly. She further built hundreds of Torah homes throughout the United States and Israel. There is a reason that an entire yeshiva and kollel in Queens, New York, Rabbinical Seminary of America, Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Queens, attended the levayah en masse this past Wednesday morning.
Mrs. Marks led that Torah stable home that hosted, hosted, and hosted. Her hachnasas orchim was legendary, and kiruv-producing. The Marks home created facts on the ground.
Some of those “facts on the ground” became leaders of Torah institutions who made it their life’s goal that no one should ever be denied a Torah education. Their path in life was influenced by the inspirational Shabbos and yom tov hospitality of Mrs. Marks. Her children’s friends would come over for Shabbos meals, for yomim tovim, from all of Long Island. She and her husband were one of the powers behind the Hebrew Academy of Suffolk County—a day school that produced a surprisingly high percentage of Torah observant graduates. At the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, where her four children attended, there were often a dozen or more high school students that would come for Shabbos at her home.
It was at this time, where she developed yeshiva-level hashkafos. She attended a shiur about the halachos of hair-covering—and she took off. She attended high level shiurim in kashrus, Shabbos, amirah l’akum—and meticulously and steadfastly observed halachos.
Mrs. Marks had a heart of gold and was a ba’alas chesed extraordinaire. She would loan out whatever she could to others, and offered help and advice to others in so many ways.
And she brought so many other people around to a Torah observant life. These families had children that studied in the most elite yeshivos—Mrs. Marks and those who she helped bring to the Torah path.
She worked hard to ensure that every child in the Patchogue community and in the surrounding area receive a proper Torah education. Indeed, she even took a job as a secretary in Queens, so that she could personally drive them to receive a True Torah education. Her mesiras nefesh for Torah education was reminiscent of the great mothers of the Gedolei Torah of Europe. Picture the sacrifice. Imagine spending three hours each day in a car taking children to yeshivos. Those children comprise now the next generation—and are firmly dedicated to Torah, Klal Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael.
“She constantly listened to shiurim back and forth from work,” remarked Mrs. Sharon Schoenfeld, a co-worker at the yeshiva. At the levayah her daughter mentioned how she had just finished the entire Nach on the Nach Yomi cycle and had encouraged many others to join her.
Mrs. Alice Marks was also remarkably capable and organized. Her dedication to the yeshiva lasted for over 25 years. She stayed on in her secretary position for many decades later. Mrs. Marks had an extraordinary sense of achrayus. Anytime any yeshiva student needed something, she was there for them. She always looked for ways, in the nicest way, to save the yeshiva money and or to make a change that would help benefit the yeshiva financially.
She took charge of the Kadishes and yahrzeits, and stayed late to make sure that all tasks that were needed to be done were done. She was that crucial lynchpin of an individual that kept things running.
Eventually, the family moved on to Cedarhurst, Long Island. And yet she continued at the yeshiva. Each year she worked diligently for Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim’s dinner. The roshei yeshiva, from Rav Henoch Leibowitz, zt’l, to the current, present-day roshei yeshiva noted something very special about Mrs. Marks. Indeed, so did the students and kollel members of the yeshiva.
The entire community feels the enormity of the loss. Shetehe nafsha tzror betzrot haChaim.n
The author can be reached at email@example.com.