Dr. Jerome "Jerry" Feldstein, co-founder of two synagogues on Long Island, was known for his unassuming character, sense of humor, thirst for knowledge and photographic memory.
Feldstein, of Stony Brook, died of Alzheimer's disease at the Long Island Veteran's Home in Stony Brook on Saturday night with his grandson Justin by his side, said Vivian, his wife of nearly 56 years. He was 85.
"He was a gentleman and a gentle man with a fine sense of humor," she said Sunday. "And he was very respected in the community. He was kind of a Renaissance person."
Feldstein graduated from Harvard University in 1949 and later received his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. He was on staff as an internist at St. Charles and John T. Mather Memorial hospitals in Port Jefferson from 1964 until he retired in 1993.
Feldstein, who co-founded Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook and later co-founded Temple Beth Emeth in Mount Sinai, both Reform congregations, was known for his interest in world history, geography and music. He was especially talented at blowing the shofar during the Jewish High Holy Days and would often teach children at the synagogue how to do it as well as he did, said Vivian Feldstein. The couple would have celebrated 56 years together on Saturday Dec. 29.
"He was a very modest man. He had a lot to be proud of, but you'd never know it," she said.
"He was such a person to talk to. When the children were growing up and we'd talk about England or something, he could tell you the whole genealogy of the English royal family. . . . And if he didn't know something, we had an Encyclopaedia Britannica here and he would go to it and he would read and he remembered everything," she said. "I guess that's why he was such a good doctor. He was very fastidious about reading all the journals that came, and he was an easygoing kind of person."
Then, five years ago, Feldstein was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"It robbed him, but it also robbed us," said Vivian Feldstein, adding that her husband lived with her at their home in Stony Brook until 13 months ago. "But it became very difficult. Every now and then, his old self would shine through and he was able to say something to me, but very little."
In addition to his wife and grandson Justin, Feldstein is survived by his sons James, of East Setauket; Roy, of Stony Brook; and Jonathan, of Manhattan. He also is survived by another grandson, Jordan.
A memorial service for Feldstein will be held at 9:45 a.m. Monday at Temple Beth Emeth, 52 Mount Sinai Ave., Mount Sinai. Burial will follow at Mount Ararat Cemetery in East Farmingdale. Shiva will be observed at the Feldstein home Monday through Thursday, from 1 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m., with a shiva minyan service held at 7:30 p.m. each of the days.