by Sandy Eller of VIN News
A well known fixture in the kiruv community and a beloved Staten Island resident died this morning in a head on collision on icy roads in Maryland.
Dovid Winiarz was on his way to the Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland when the fatal accident occurred at 7:30 AM this morning near the intersection of Route 23 and High Point Road in Harford County, Maryland.
Maryland State Police have not released any official information about the collision but Chief Rudy Walters of the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company in Harford County said that three others besides Winiarz were injured in the collision which was due to slick road conditions.
According to Walters, everyone was wearing seatbelts when the collision occurred. The other victims of the accident were transported to a local hospital where they are reported to be in stable condition.
Route 23, also known as the East West Expressway was closed for several hours and the Maryland State Police are continuing their investigation. The Harford Fire Blog’s Facebook page listed numerous accidents in the area this morning and warned of exceptionally slippery roads.
Winiarz, who was in the back seat of the vehicle, was one of four people on their way to the AJOP convention.
The father of ten, Winiarz, also went by the moniker “Facebuker Rebbe” in his efforts to reach unaffiliated Jews. His final Facebook post shows a video taken last night at Avos U’Bonim with the words “Before I leave on my road trip I came to learn Torah with my son and his friend…” The founder of Survival Through Education Foundation, a means of reaching unaffiliated Jews, Winiarz also ran a food pantry in Staten Island and was closely involved in numerous communal organizations.
Winiarz’s levaya will take place tomorrow at a location to be named soon, according to Yanky Meyer of Misaskim.
“We are very thankful to the coroner and the chevra kadisha in Baltimore for all their assistance in moving things along on a Sunday and a legal holiday and we thank them for their sensitivity,” said Meyer.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, shared his thoughts on Winiarz.
“Dovid was a one-man dynamo, an unstoppable force, when it came to reaching out to fellow Jews far from Yiddishkeit, and he was just as committed and energetic when it came to helping any Jew in need,” said Rabbi Shafran. “He was indefatigable, always full of joy and caring. It sounds trite, but I really can’t imagine a world without him, without his constant smile and contagiously happy demeanor, without all the wonderful things he did for Klal Yisrael on a daily basis.
“His eishes chayil is a partner in all he did, and his children and children-in-law all realized always what a gift they had in Dovid. May they all have the strength and fortitude to carry on his life through their own good works, and may they, and all who knew and loved Dovid, somehow achieve a nechama.
“Before I heard the terrible news, I noticed how bleak the day was, bleaker, darker, somehow, than other cold, rainy days. It just seemed so… sad a day. Now I feel I know why.”
Yossi Yurowitz of Our Place, who recalled Winiarz’s efforts for the community, described Winiarz’s death as “tragic.”
“Dovid was on a campaign to stop Footsteps,” said Yurowitz. “He organized several meetings with Our Place and askanim in his Staten Island office.”
While journalists are supposed to remain impartial and report just the facts, I cannot do that in this case.
Dovid Winiarz was a close personal friend who literally lived to help others. Passionate about Torah, kiruv and sharing the beauty of Yiddishkeit with everyone, Dovid lived to make the world a better place and to make sure that the light of Torah shined a little brighter on a daily basis. A proud father and grandfather, his Facebook page was routinely filled with pictures of his children and grandchildren in the hopes that he could inspire others to understand the beauty of what it meant to raise a family in the ways of the Torah.
“If there’s one reason why G-d had Facebook be created, it was so that Rabbi Winiarz could reach out to and help thousands of people across the world,” wrote one poster on Facebook.
His cheerful emails were frequent guests in my inbox and not a Friday afternoon went by that he didn’t wish me, and I am sure, countless others, a good Shabbos. He asked me on more than one occasion to send him a picture of my Shabbos table to share on his Facebook wall to inspire the 12,243 people who liked his Facebook page in their own shemiras Shabbos.
Always with a perpetual smile, Dovid lived to spread simcha throughout the world. In one of his last emails to me, he shared his joy about having the opportunity to attend the AJOP convention. His warmth, his simcha and his genuine love for every Jew will be lasting legacies of a life cut all too short.
Just one week ago I was asked to write about Dovid’s efforts as the Facebuker Rebbe. I was elated to be able to write about Dovid. I just never thought this would be the article that I would be writing.
Yehei zichro baruch.