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The Children's Unity Torah is being written through the generosity of

Al & Julia Aroeste in honor of Howard Lapides z"l and The Stein Family.

Torah Dedication is Sunday, May 16, 2021

3/19/20 Video from Rabbi Bergman
Jewish Journal Article

Our Children’s Unity Torah, Etz Chiam, Our Future

by Jeff Lapides


A brand new Sefer Torah is now being written in Israel that will be dedicated at KOT this spring for our use!  It’s being largely underwritten by the generosity of my Uncle Al and Aunt Julia Aroeste, my late mother Betty’s brother and sister-in-law.  It’s actually one of many Children’s Unity Torahs that the Aroeste’s have sponsored.  The last one was dedicated last October 27th for the benefit of the Light of Israel in Rochester, NY, their hometown.


Last October 27th was the 1st anniversary of the Tree of Life anti-semitic tragedy in Pittsburgh.  This calamity was wisely left unmentioned by Rabbi Mammon.  By contrast, instead, the WHOLE community of Rochester joined in dancing, music, eating and joy with our new Torah!  The busy trafficked Monroe Ave. was almost completely shut down.  The protective lights of the squad cars seemed to help us celebrate.  Proud, public practice of our Judaism, especially with a new Torah, is a perfect antidote to the evil hatred of antisemitism.


Almost immediately upon hearing the shocking sad news of my late brother Howard Lapides sudden passing, Uncle Al stepped up to sponsor another Children’s Unity Torah at my Shul, KOT in his memory.  He insisted that this mitzvah was his responsibility in memory of his nephew Howard.  


Since then, KOT has received additional significant donations to help with this huge undertaking of Torah and celebration.  In fact, soon, the whole Buffalo community with an emphasis on our children will be included in contributions sponsoring each book of Moses and each Parsha.  We hope and pray that virtually every Jewish child in Buffalo will donate something.   Even if it only buys one Torah letter!  This will be a great way for our children to literally ‘buy in’ to Torah!  It will be their Torah, their future, our future.


My brother’s Hebrew name is ‘Chiam’ which paradoxically means ‘Life’.  ‘Etz Chaim’ literally means ‘tree of life’. First found in the book of Genesis, it is often used to refer to Torah. 


Life and death are radically extreme opposites.  It’s so very hard for all of us to grasp the beauty and light of life in contrast to the darkness of death.  However, It was the brilliance of the Lubuvitcher Rebbe who advised that ‘Torah is our guide to uniting extremes’.


My brother Howard was a Hollywood Producer, talent manager, and concert promoter.  He was a consummate storyteller that started telling his stories at 15 years of age on Buffalo radio.  He always knew that the story of what kids did was predictive of our future.  From transistor radios listening to rock & roll, the advent of computers, the internet and to smartphones, it is always kids that often show us the way. 


This is also true of Torah.  In fact in my case, I visited our daughter Hallie Cohen studying in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem about 7 or 8 years ago.  I had nothing non-electronic to read on Shabbos, and I love to read and I wanted to be respectful to her practice at the time by not turning on my iPad.  Hallie solved the problem by providing me Torah reading.  I’m sure I resisted at first.  But then:  Dramatic!  Surprisingly fascinating!  Deep!  Rich!  I highly recommend it!


My brother Howard used his many insights and his many talents to celebrate and console you after many Bills games on the WBEN postgame show. He went by the name Michael O’Shea.  He took the O'Shea name in his early days on WSYL-FM when the station gave him a choice between O'Shea and Roger Christian.  He said, 'Being a Jew, Christian would be pushing it,' so I took O’Shea,"


Perhaps he continues to entertain you even today through the clients he ‘discovered’ and managed?  This includes late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel along with reality TV host Dr. Drew Pinsky, actor Tom Green and TV show hosts Adam Carolla and Carson Daly.  


Perhaps he once made you laugh? He previously brought to Buffalo the late great Sam Kinison, Whoopie Goldberg, Jay Leno, Dennis Miller, Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, Bobcat Golthwait, among others.  On a ‘smaller stage’ at his Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Kabaret, you might have laughed at budding comedians Rosey O’Donnell, Bill Scheft, Fred Stoller, Gilbert Gottfried and maybe even Larry David along with many more.


My brother Howard was much more an ‘irreverent’ rather than ‘observant’ Jew.  he loved to laugh and joke around.  He, sometimes mocked, scoffed, laughed at, lampooned, ridiculed, made fun of all and everything often helped with those many famous funny people listed above. Except one thing: my observance, my newly adopted knowledge of and practice of Torah and Mitzvos.  


In fact, my brother, the producer of one of the most irreverent cult classic movies ever produced, ‘When Freddie Got Fingered’, starring Tom Green, asked me respectful and intelligent questions about our Judaism.  Neither of us actually learned much Torah as kids ourselves but he was often eager to hear about and respect my new learning. I sure do miss talking to him and hearing his new stories as well.


Despite a lack of formal Torah learning himself, my brother was able to live his life filled with Torah values.  His packed house tribute memorial at the world famous Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd was tribute to his ability to ‘love each fellow as himself’, and be loved in return. He loved and was loved by most everyone.  


He was always quick to be the ‘peacemaker’ and intermediary between disgruntled people.  He exemplified many of the most admirable characteristics of Moses’ brother Aaron; and both passed from this earth on the same exact date, the 1st of Av, exactly 3292 years apart to the day!


Long before my growth in Torah learning and observance, Howard intuitively knew authenticity.  He could detect and reject any artist whose material was plagiarized.  Howard also somehow knew that all great stories originated in Torah despite any formal Torah study.


Perhaps my big brother Howard leaned that respect by osmosis through our observant maternal grandfather Joseph Aroeste as well as our maternal great grandfather Morris Camhi that we were so blessed to know.  For me, our maternal Uncle Al is a loving bridge between our wealthy past of his Torah observant father & grand father and myself, as I lovingly learn the Torah I never previously knew. 


I hope and pray that all of you and especially all of your kids lend your attention and support to the new KOT Children’s Unity Torah, ‘Etz Chiam’, in memory of my dear brother ‘Chiam’, Howard Lapides.  May his memory be for a blessing.

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