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Rabbi Rievan Slavkin of Smithtown: His impact on others impossible to measure

Rabbi Rievan Slavkin, 85, of Smithtown blows the

Rabbi Rievan Slavkin, 85, of Smithtown blows the shofar during the Jewish High Holy Days. Credit: Slavkin Family

Rabbi Rievan W. Slavkin, of Smithtown, touched so many lives in his 85 years that it would be difficult to document them all.

Start with his family. Slavkin officiated at all the big events, from bar and bat mitzvahs to weddings. He also played the piano at family events.

“He was very good with the piano,” said his wife of 60 years, Rosalie. “He had perfect pitch and he would play all kinds of music. When the children were younger, they would dance while he was playing and he would accompany (daughter) Deborah when she was playing the flute.”

Slavkin died of complications from COVID-19 on April 6, his family said.

Rievan and Rosalie were both from Pittsburgh. It was a connection they carried with them to Long Island.

“He was a big Steelers fan,” Rosalie said. “He would have Steelers hats, jerseys, everything, and we were reminded that [when] he would dress up with my oldest grandson in Steelers clothes when it would be a special holiday.”

Slavkin earned a master's degree in marriage and family counseling from Hofstra University in 1987 and served the congregation of Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore until his retirement in 2001. For several years, he continued to teach Holocaust Studies at the Brentwood campus of Suffolk Community College.

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“He was very kind and caring,” said his daughter, Deborah Faust of Commack. “He was devoted to his family and the members of his congregation.”

The family has heard in recent days from many of Slavkin’s former congregants, including those at his former temple in Jackson, Michigan. Rosalie remembered that Slavkin used to enjoy riding a congregant’s horse along with his other daughter, Susan Smith, now of Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

“And then I was reminded that we went to a birthday party for this horse,” Rosalie said. “It was a rabbinic connection, but it was also just a friendship that we shared.”

Another of Slavkin’s lifelong projects was to create an open dialogue with the interfaith communities and clergies around Long Island.

“It was a very special relationship,” Rosalie said.

Private family services were held on April 7 at Mount Golda Cemetery in Huntington Station.

Slavkin is also survived by sons-in-law Christopher and Jonathan and grandchildren Michael, Julie and Jeremy.

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