Tel Yehudah and Young Judaea educator and mentor, Mel Reisfield, z”l passed away on January 12, 2021. Mel, as he was known by generations of Young Judaeans, spent summers at Tel Yehudah for almost 50 years. When he was not giving legendary sichot, or sitting on his porch with his wife, Yaffa, Mel was found playing (and cheating) on TY’s basketball courts. In his memory, the three basketball courts will be renamed The Mel Reisfield Basketball Courts. They will be completely resurfaced and ready when camp re-opens on June 23, 2021.
Please partner with us to raise $40,000 as we ensure that a new generation of campers and staff play (and cheat) on the Mel Reisfield Courts. Your donation will be immediately increased by 50% through a generous match by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.
To donate by check:
Camp Tel Yehudah
c/o David Weinstein
38 Bruce Road
Montclair, NJ 07043
Please indicate: Mel Reisfield Basketball Court
Mel Reisfield, our friend, our teacher, our mentor, our role model, our scrappy trash-talking, basketball playing, Hebrew-speaking, Jewish-people-and-humanity loving Zionist Rebbe, has died in Jerusalem, at the age of 92. He cheated death for quite a while – just as he occasionally cheated on the basketball courts — outliving a serious bout with cancer by decades, and his beloved Yaffa by two years. They will be missed.
Seven years ago, when Mel was very sick, so many Young Judaeans and former Hebrew School students sent loving messages — 150 within the first two hours of us posting the news, and nearly 500 within a week. We printed them out and bound them, so Mel had a chance to read your love letters, your thank you cards, your curse-strewn compliments. He knew he was loved — and he loved us all in return.
He was the ultimate educator, a tough Bronx kid who worked as a Jewish educator in New Jersey and a Tel Yehudah “merakez,” for decades before retiring to Jerusalem, where he worked as a tour guide and Young Judaea year-course ulpan teacher well into his eighties. At his best, he combined Mel Brooks’ Borscht Belt sensibility and Mayor Ed Koch’s bombast, tempered by Hillel’s moral wisdom, Theodor Herzl’s broad vision, David Ben-Gurion’s muscular determination, Golda Meir’s humor, and Bill Clinton’s mass seductiveness – although Mel remained devoted to his Palmach-veteran wife Yaffa since they met in the late 1940s.
This is a guy who understood instinctively that the teenagers he worked with were still kid-like enough to enjoy being silly but sufficiently adult to engage in ideological discourse. This Zionist Pied Piper could get hundreds singing “Two is shnayim, three is shlosha, all is fine and all is kosha” – it only worked with a heavy New Yawk accent – “our love will never fail, in Eretz Yis-ra-el,” laughing at themselves while learning Hebrew and discussing Zionism.
We are all the better for having known him, learned from him, worked with him, loved Israel, the Jewish people – and humanity – with him. May his name and memory be for a blessing.