| Every Soul a World |

Shelley Kurland

You will always be my special sister, Shelley, special to me and exceptional to the world you created


L'zecher nishmas ha'ishah ha'tehorah Rochel bas Harav Chizkiyahu Yaakov z”l



y beloved sister Shelley Kurland a"h was a “special child.” In those days (1948) they referred to her as “slow” or “mentally retarded.” Anyone who had the zechus to know Shelley knew that she was indeed “special.” She was a pure ruach who infused hundreds of people with chizuk and encouragement. She complimented everyone she met with “you look so beautiful or handsome” with her vibrant smile and obvious love for all others.

Shelley was special because at a time when parents often opted not to raise “special children” at home, my parents Rav Yaakov and Miriam Kurland never considered that option and Shelley was raised like every other member of our family. In a home that exuded Torah and hachnasas orchim, Shelley absorbed the niemas haTorah and a love for all people of all stripes. To my parents credit, they were always b'simchah about their matzav, with a tremendous bitachon went on to have three other children (Shelley was the oldest), and gave longevity to what otherwise was expected to be a shortened existence (Shelley lived 72 years). But more than that they allowed her personality to develop and with great charm and an unusual memory, Shelley was mechazeik hundreds of her various constituencies in Baltimore where we grew up; in Hicksville, Long Island where my father served as a rav; in Far Rockaway, New York, and in particular to the Sh’or Yoshuv community where I have been zocheh to teach for the past 45 years; and in the Beis Ezra Women’s Home on E.18th St. in Brooklyn that took such good care of her for the past 24 years.

She was the address for Shabbos visits and the ensuing games and fun that would follow for countless Bais Yaakov girls in Baltimore and T.A.G and B’nos Bais Yaakov girls in Far Rockaway.  Then there were the many gracious people whose homes she would visit on a constant basis. Songs were sung including the famous “Shelley is a friend of mine” and hundreds of other Jewish songs that she had an expertise in from her hours and hours of listening to records and tapes (She knew every tenuah of Carlebach’s Mimkomcha). She was rosh hamedabrim at every Shabbos seudah and simchah, always encouraging the yeshivah bochurim at our table to “learn more Torah and don’t play so much checkers” (I imagine that was her natural way to deter the “sichas yeladim” that is so consuming. She said it all with great exuberance and excitement as it came from a pure neshamah and a ruach tehorah.

A close friend told me that it took nine attempts before she successfully got her driver’s license and she was about to give up many times along the way. It was Shelley who gave her the encouragement to not give up and that she could do it that allowed her to ultimately persevere.

Shelley loved to go to shul and sing along with the chazan without reservation. She was one of the first to dance with the kallah, at times before the immediate family, sharing in everyone’s simchah even if it would never be her own. It didn’t matter to someone so purely selfless. She addressed everyone by their first name that rang out in her inimitable style with absolute love and devotion. Her simchas hachaim was contagious and her constant flow of brachos to others was “Rebbish” as if she was responding to the requests of a kvittel. Somehow she knew what people needed and never disappointed them.

Our love for Shelley knew no bounds. She told me so often that I was her favorite brother (of course I’m her only brother). Shelley, I hope you knew that you were everyone’s favorite sister and friend without exception. No words could ever express who you were and what you represented to so many. This is a meager attempt. You will always be my special sister, Shelley, special to me and exceptional to the world you created. I love you eternally.

Your Brother, Yehoshua Kurland


To My Precious Sister Shelley Kurland, A”H
Your life in this world has tragically come to an end
But to all who loved you - family and friends
You will always be a beautiful legend
You were born at a time when resources were few
For special developmentally disabled children like you
But our parents who were so courageous
Were also kind, loving and tenacious
They raised you at home and nurtured your soul
With a love for life and people which made your limited capacities whole
At a time when children like you were hidden away
You were an integral part of our lives every single day
From you we learned the power of love and acceptance
You taught us patience, appreciation and tolerance
For you loved every one of Hashem’s creations
No matter what gender, color or vocation
You found happiness in the simple things in life
Music, good food, friends, Shabbos, Yom Tov and you hated all strife
Your smile and exuberant voice enhanced every happy occasion
And you excelled in the power of persuasion
At every Simcha and Shabbos gathering you made a special “Shelley” speech
Reminding the men to keep learning Torah
Because you were so charming and sincere - it was ok for you to preach
So much laughter and joy you brought to everyone
Each of us was your “favorite” sister, brother, friend or person
Your homes in Baltimore, Hicksville and Far Rockaway
Became the favorite location for young boys and girls to visit and play
Every Shabbos afternoon you entertained your guests
With your enthusiastic smile, humor and zest
They were doing a big chesed and made you feel so valued and treasured
But it also gave them so much enjoyment and pleasure!
In 1996, Bais Ezra on East 18th Street became your new address
It was hard at first to be away from home, but there you made so much progress
And in your inimitable way you adjusted and became everyone’s best friend
From the counselors to your housemates to the cook
They all fell in love with our Shelley Kurland!
Every morning you called us and many other people you knew
You had an uncanny memory for names and phone numbers
How could this be true?
For although you were mentally challenged in other ways
Hashem blessed you with a superb memory; all who knew you were amazed !
We will miss you so much Shelley!
We will miss your voice, your Simchas Hachayim, your laugh and smile
Your indiscriminate love of humanity, your signature “Shelley” style
We will miss your excitement for all family occasions
From the moment you received your special “inbitation”
We will miss you speeches, your reminders that your birthday is approaching
That we should send you a card, some chocolate or a CD
(sometimes we needed a little coaching)
We will miss you as an integral part of our existence
Your spirit and joie d’vivre and occasional stubborn resistance
Now those who loved you will remember another day
When your Neshama left this world on Ches Nissan Tuf Shin Peh
But we know that you are in a place surrounded by eternal love and protection
Near your beloved parents and the Shechina’s holy perfection.
May your holy and pure Neshama be a Melitza Yeshara for all who loved you
And may you escort Mashiach Tzidkainu to greet us – B’mhaira B’yamaiu!
—Your Sister Mindy





I began working as a psychologist at OHEL with developmentally disabled adults in October of 2017. One of my tasks is to counsel the one hundred or more special individuals who daily attend the Bais Ezra day hab program.  On my second or third visit, as I was barely learning the ropes, I noticed an elderly looking woman, stooped at the head of a long table. Naturally, I went over to see if she was well.  I asked for her name and she said “Shelley.” “And your last name?” I asked. “Kurland,” she replied hoarsely, raising her head with the unmistakable Kurland family face-forward slant which I immediately recognized.
At once, Shelley excitedly talked about her illustrious parents Z”L, who I had known in the 1960's in Baltimore, and she expressed how much she missed having them with her. In fact, I had boarded with a family near her own home when I was eleven and had studied in the Talmudical Academy Yeshiva with her renowned brother, Rabbi Josh Kurland Shlita. As well, I recalled her exceptional sisters, Dassy and Mindy and I remembered seeing Shelley frequently in my early teens.
‘"ave you read my brother’s five books?" she asked loudly and insistently. When I sheepishly responded that I had not, she retorted without a moment’s hesitation, "Well then go buy them! I read them all and they are great!”  
Now she looked at me intently with her familial, mischievous half-smile, asked “And what is your name?” and I, realizing that she had no idea who I was, blurted my last name ‘Munk’. 
“Rabbi Munk! How is your son Gabriel doing? Is he OK? Is he well?”
And I froze. While I understood her blurring my face with my father’s zt”l, how did Shelley, who had probably not seen me more than once or twice in the past fifty-two years, remember my name, and that I had been through a rough patch decades earlier while in my twenties?
With a great smile on my face I replied, “Shelley, I am Gabriel and I am doing well.”
Evidently, innocent souls through their consistent concern for the well-beings of others are not distracted by time and space and thus never forget. Perhaps the simple statement of ‘I remember you, and are you well’ represents the essence of a lifetime relationship.
Indeed, Shelley possessed a virtuous neshama, which invariably remembered her love for family, friends and acquaintances, wanting them to be simply content and well.
Yehi Zichra Baruch! We will not forget her.
—Gabriel Munk, Psychologist OHEL Bais Ezra


I was zoche to be Shelley’s counselor at Camp HASC for 2 summers and to work with her a few times a week during the year, through OHEL, when she still lived at home. Shelley was one of a kind. She had so much personality and was so fun to be around. She was a ball of positivity and always had a compliment to give to everyone. She was a breath of fresh air in a world that can be so negative and judgmental.
I’ll never forget my bridal shower where she sat next to me and opened every present with me. She didn’t just attend a simcha, she participated in every aspect of the simcha, front and center.
It was a zechus to have this close relationship with her and at the time to establish kesharim with her siblings and her father as well. They are such a special family, so close knit and loving, and always so protective of Shelley.
We lost a great and pure neshama. May we all merit to emulate her temimusdic spirit and her joy of life.
— Yocheved Goldberg


My friend worked at the Bais Ezra home that Shelley lived out. I used to visit often and my fiend brought Shelley to my house many Shabbos afternoons.  Shelley’s visits were a highlight for my whole family. We looked forward to it.  She used to have “Diet Coke” dates with my father. They would learn together and drink Diet Coke. She made us all so happy when she came over. She always had a smile on her face and a twinkle on her eyes. She was a very special person.
— Fayge Freedman


Shelley was so much part of my childhood! Every Shabbos the plans were “we will meet by Shelley.” She was pure simchah she always had a kind word and a song.
—Sarala (Feurst) Lefkowitz

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