Memorial service planned for Rabbi Robert Sternberg

By Allen Young

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-14-2023 3:54 PM

ATHOL—A memorial service for the late Rabbi Robert Sternberg, formerly of Springfield, will be held at Temple Israel, 107 Walnut St., Athol, on Sunday, March 19, at 1:30 p.m.

Rabbi Sternberg, 73, died suddenly Jan. 31 at his home in Sun City, Arizona. He had left his position in Athol several years ago and relocated from his Springfield home to a new home and job in Arizona.

Rabbi Sternberg lived alone and there are no known survivors.

Information about his death was obtained by members of Temple Israel and made available to the Athol Daily News. Since he died without someone present, an autopsy was required. The cause of death was determined to have been Covid-19.

Friends of the rabbi from Connecticut learned of his death and worked with the rabbi of the Beth Emeth Congregation of Sun City West for the interment at Mt. Sinai Cemetery in Phoenix on Feb. 19.

In Sun City, located adjacent to Phoenix, Rabbi Sternberg acquired a new single-family house and was employed as curriculum director for a large daycare center.

Over his lifetime, he had wide-ranging interests and work involving his devotion to the Jewish faith as well as culinary arts, history and writing.

He had been director of the Holocaust Information Center in Springfield and taught Holocaust history and literature at Westfield State University and American International College. Some of his work as a teacher continued remotely after his move to the Southwest.

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Prior to coming to Massachusetts, he directed a Holocaust information center in St. Louis, Miss. Earlier in his life, he resided in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he held an interfaith position and met with spiritual leaders of all faiths within Canada as well as visiting dignitaries.

Rabbi Sternberg had attended the Great Jewish Books Teachers Summer Program and had recently completed the writing of an English translation of the Yiddish children’s classic ”Yingele ringele”and was in discussion with a publishing house about the book’s publication. This book, written and published in 1929, had never been translated into English. Yosl Kurland of Greenfield, who provided music at Temple Israel with Sternberg’s services, hopes to complete the work for publication.

Rabbi Sternberg was born Dec. 14, 1949, in Denver, Colo., and spent his childhood there, where he was especially close to his grandmother. He became fluent in Yiddish, leaning the language from her and frequently mentioned his grandmother—often with obvious emotion—during services he conducted at Temple Israel.

Rabbi Sternberg loved cooking and his email address name was “ChefRob.” Collaborating with Temple Israel member Myron Becker of Wendell, he edited “Food for the Body and Soul,” published in Athol by Haley’s. This book is a collection of recipes from traditional Jewish cuisine submitted by local residents and compiled in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Temple Israel.

He was previously the author of ”Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet’s Approach to Jewish Cooking” and “The Sephardic Kitchen: The Healthy Food and Rich Culture of the Mediterranean Jews” and undertook other editing projects. He had worked for the College Board of Princeton, N.J., grading essays submitted by students.

The master of ceremonies at the memorial will be Mitchell Grosky of Athol, a Temple Israel member and retired educator and community activist. The event is being coordinated by Peter Jefts of Hubbardston, who converted to Judaism under the tutelage of Rabbi Sternberg and stayed in touch with him after his departure from Athol.

Following the memorial program at 1:30, there will be refreshments and fellowship at 2:30.