Remembering Yossie A’H – By: Judah Gutwein

{These remarks were given at Yossie A’H 1st Yahrtzeit seudah several months ago.}

I’d like to begin by thanking Mrs. Yurowitz for graciously inviting me to this Yahrtzeit seudah and asking me to speak. It’s an honor and a pleasure.

As I sat down last night to prepare these remarks, I reflected on the fact that this is the first time I’ve ever spoken at a Yahrtzeit seudah for a friend.

Yossie A’H was my friend. He was also someone I admired.

Truth be told, we didn’t have the type of friendship that revolved around constant communication and getting together. Admittedly, mine wasn’t a household name in the Yurowitz family like most, or all of you sitting here tonight.

But on every occasion that we either spoke or met, there was a mutual respect we had for one another and a unique friendship that we shared.

I vividly recall my first introduction to Yossie.

It was around 6 years ago, and I was working as a marketing director for a NJ based nursing home operator. I had given my boss a five-year commitment when he hired me and was nearing my 5th anniversary. My goal, and my dream, was to go out on my own and parlay my strengths and business acumen into a successful marketing business to the healthcare community.

I felt I had a unique skill set and had identified a real need I thought I could fill.

I was excited about my prospects for success.

I was also scared. Very scared.

I would be transitioning from working as a valued employee, with total job security and a salary, to opening my own business and looking to build something from the ground up. The fear of the unknown was real and tangible.

One day I received a call from my Uncle Srully Wulliger.

He said to me, I have a friend who is a big deal in the healthcare industry and is the VP at The Grand Healthcare System. You guys share allot in common. Like you, he spent years working in a totally unrelated industry before making the switch to healthcare and he’s never looked back.

He’s a creative genius who would totally appreciate your talents and what you’re looking to cultivate. Let me connect the two of you and perhaps you’ll be able to do some business together.

The rest is history.

I distinctly remember where I was when Yossie and I had our first conversation.

I had locked the door to my office before making the call so that I would have privacy and the ability to concentrate and properly articulate my sales pitch and my vision.

It didn’t take more than two minutes on the phone before I realized I was talking to someone who understood my language, spoke my language and was in fact, in a position to teach me a thing or two about my own craft.

Suffice it to say, we hit it off big time!

We spoke for over an hour that first time discussing our shared background and experiences. We were both passionate about creating and cultivating successful marketing programs and strategies to increase profits.

We both saw the healthcare industry in general and particularly nursing homes, as stagnating creatures of old and bad habits with an inability or unwillingness to evolve and embrace new ideas to solve old challenges.

We were both enthused about the various “chaps” and chiddushim we collectively shared for pushing the envelope and changing the narrative.

We agreed to meet in person and Yossie generously offered to introduce me to his boss Jeremy Strauss so that I could promote my new business.

Meeting Yossie for the first time only confirmed the vibes I felt from our phone conversation.

Here was a confident, polished, good looking and charismatic guy whose excitement was palpable. He knew what he was up to, he valued his own acumen and was leveraging it to drive The Grand Healthcare agenda and position it as a leader in the industry.

With Yossie’s help, the Grand became my very first client and Baruch Hashem, like Yossie, I never looked back.

Over the ensuing years, Yossie and I kept in touch and had business meetings on several occasions. It was always an exciting opportunity for me to be in his orbit and compare notes.

We shared in each other’s accomplishments and confided in one another about some of our challenges.

For example, I recall a difficulty Yossie had with a certain company he had paid to develop a new website for the Grand. At some point, it seems they grew frustrated with Yossie’s attention to detail and requests for modifications and decided to withhold the files and collateral until they received additional monies beyond what was agreed upon.

I remember how upset this made Yossie. It literally pained him to be placed in a position where his quest for perfection was turned against him and a company used leverage to extort and squeeze him for additional money.

Yossie predicted at the time that a company like this wouldn’t withstand the test of time and was destined to fail.

He was right.

A few years later the company folded.

In his personal life, his meticulous attention to detail was no different.

I will never forget the time I insisted on building a free website for one of the tzedakkos he spearheaded. He thanked me profusely, and I was sure we had a deal.

When I didn’t hear back from him after some time, I checked in to see what was causing the delay. He admitted that he had given it some additional thought and decided it would be best not to take me up on my offer and wound up going with a different company.

He was concerned that since my team would be building the website gratis, he might be reluctant to impose on us with requests for tweaks.

“The website for this tzedaka needs to be 100% perfect and it wouldn’t be fair to short-change them just because I’m getting it for free,” he said.

My final interaction with Yossie was on October 19th of 2020 shortly before his petirah.

I walked into shul where his son-in law Shimmy and I daven together and saw Shimmy shteiging with a sefer. I surreptitiously took a picture and sent it to Yossie via whatsapp along with a message that he should have nachas from all his children.

His response was immediate:

“My tazddik. The real deal. Baruch Hashem.”

A short while later the Aibishter took his “tzaddik Yossie,” “the real deal” to be with him next to the kisei hakavod.

When I heard the news, I was shaken to the core.

Joe Yurowitz! How could it be? He was so fully of life with such vitality and simchas hachayim. It was unfathomable to me that he was gone. How is it fair that someone like Yossie shouldn’t be able to live a long life, I asked myself in disbelief. I was dumbstruck by the fragility of life and how one of its greatest ambassadors could be taken away in the prime of his own life.

But the truth is, the question itself presupposes that Yossie was denied the ability to fulfil his tafkid to make the best use of his time on this earth to properly prepare for a long and beautiful career of “netzach netzachim” in olam habah.

When Chazzal talk about arichas shanim, they quantify it with a number, as it says Y’mei Shenoseinu Shivim Shana, V’im bigevuros Shmonim Shana.

80 years plus is considered arichas shanim; – long years.

Interestingly however, I’m not aware of any chazzal that places an age on arichas yamim; – long days.

I believe the reason for this is simple and this is a theme that has repeated itself throughout the millenia.

Arichas Shanim and Arichas Yamim are two definitions that are not mutually exclusive.

Many people live long lives that are empty and devoid of any fulfilment, spiritual or otherwise.

While it is true that they had arichas shanim, they most certainly were not zoche to arichas yamim.

Arichas Shanim is a gift and a matana we receive from the aibishter. It is free. We don’t earn it. It is handed to us because of a cheshbon only Hashem knows.

Arichas Yamim is something entirely different.

Arichas Yamim is something we earn. Only we get to decide with our own bechira and free will whether we will be zoche to arichas yamim.

Yossie loved his family, his friends, and his life. He wasn’t ready to leave any of it or any of us behind.

He lived every day to the fullest and was constantly growing as a person and as an eved Hashem.

Because of a lifetime of healthy choices and accomplishments, Yossie himself ensured that he was zoche to tremendous arichas yamim.

This was his own accomplishment and with this he was zoche to fulfil his tafkid and create a lichtige olam haba for himself.

But Yossie isn’t gone at all.

His enduring legacy is in the room with us tonight.

Chazzal tell us that when a person comes up to shamayim at the end of his life, he is asked certain questions by the bais din shel ma’ala (“tzeepisa leyeshua, nasata vnasasa be’emunah, etc) and goes through a “yom hadin.”

Chazzal also tell us that when mashiach comes, there will be a “Yom Hadin Hagadol, a great day of judgement.”

The question is: what is the purpose of a yom hadin hagadol, if each person is judged individually upon their death?

The answer is that our individual Yom Hadin revolves around the deeds and actions we personally did during our lifetime.

However, human beings don’t live in a vacuum. We live amongst our family and friends. We are constantly imparting lessons to those we care about and influencing those around us.

We leave behind indelible impressions that can be good or bad and we influence people who act upon those lessons.

When we influence someone to do a mitzva and he in turn influences another person to do the same, we get credit for that. However, those zechusim cannot be fully tabulated because they continue to accumulate until the end of time when mashiach comes and there will be a Yom Hadin Hagadol to add all the zechusim to our individual cheshbonos.

The magnificent family that Yossie built together with you Mrs. Yurowitz is a testament to a life well lived and the beautiful lessons he taught. This will no doubt be an everlasting zechus for his neshama until the end of time.

I’d like to end with a heartfelt bracha that you and your entire family should move forward from this point onwards with tremendous nachama and joy. Yossie should be a Melitz yosher for you and your entire family and extended family and friends until we are reunited with him once again with the coming of mashiach Tzidkeiu b’mhaira vyameinu amein.

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