Hearts Break for Cantor Cotler: More Sad News – October 8 2021

The following letter was sent to the Congregation on October 8, 2021

Dear Or Ami Family,

As a community, we are saddened to share news about another death in the Cotler family. Cantor Doug’s eldest brother Lanny Cotler died Thursday afternoon after a long illness with congestive heart failure. Cantor Doug, having spent the week with him, was at Lanny’s bedside as he left this world. We remember that this loss comes about three months after his middle brother Stephen Cotler and his niece Aria Langley were killed by a drunk driver. Stephen’s wife Ann Mahoney has substantially recovered, while Aria’s husband David remains in long term care.

We hold Cantor Doug, his wife Gail, their children Cantor Rabbi Kyle and Rachel, and Noah and Joyce and granddaughter Josephine, in our hearts, as the family begins to explore memorial services. Most probably, the memorial service will be held in November, as there is currently an upcoming family-only memorial planned for Stephen.

As a community we want to reach out. We want to take care of them. We want to hold and fix the pain.

Know that for Cantor Doug, Or Ami has already given him a most profound gift: we released him of his responsibilities and sent him to sit at Lanny’s bedside and accompany him on the journey from this world to whatever is next. This unique decision reflects our most cherished values of Henaynu (being there for each other) and rachamim (overflowing compassion).

Cantor Doug is especially thankful to the four B’nai Mitzvah families who graciously accepted the substitute musical leadership of Andrew Fromer and Lisa Friedman and have (or will) kvell as their kids still shine. And we thank Sheryl Braunstein, Lisa Friedman, and Scott Rabin for stepping up to provide music for our “Back in the Temple again” Shabbat.

So frustratingly, there is little else to do at this moment. Please provide Cantor Doug and Gail, Cantor Kyle and Rachel, and Noah and Joyce, with the privacy they request at this moment. Questions may be addressed to Rabbi Paul Kipnes at rabbipaul@orami.org.

As a Jewish community, at times like this, we can do four things. We can:

  • Send a card, with a handwritten personal message of love and condolence, to the Cantor. Address it to the synagogue and we will deliver them.
  • Pray for those struggling, thinking about them as we sing Mi Shebeirach (with Or Ami’s chorale), light shabbat candles, and engage in study.
  • Give tzedakah, so the names of the deceased are remembered – and the prayers for the ailing are elevated – through the good work that results from the donations (orami.org/donate to the Or Ami Music Fund)
  • Prepare ourselves (what to say to a mourner?) so that when they are ready for other kinds of support, we are ready.

We wonder, where is God in such devastation and tragedy? Finding answers to this question had been central to my journey as a rabbi. As of now, I answer these ways:

Taking God to Task for a Messed Up World

Why do the Good Die Young?

That time I Had it Out with God

After 11 deaths in 11 days, I Had it Out with God (again)

For now, let us try to remember:

Let go of the small stuff.
Count your blessings.
And hold your loved ones close. Very close.

May we find comfort amidst the sadness.

I’m here if you need me.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes