In the quarter century since he immigrated to New York from Uzbekistan, Eliyahu Rakhminov deservedly earned his reputation as a hardworking and observant family man who maintained a daily presence at Bet Midrash TOV, a Kew Gardens Hills synagogue popular among Sephardic Jews. Last Saturday night, after the end of Shabbos, Rakhminov was fatally struck by a car as he was crossing Jewel Avenue near 140th Street. “Hatzolah arrived almost immediately to revive him, but he was dead,” said Moshe Verschleiser, who lives on the block and witnessed the scene. “He was taken to the hospital but could not be revived.”
A 30-year-old driver remained at the scene and was not charged with any crime for the incident. Police have not released the driver’s name.
The unexpected death brought more than 150 mourners to his beloved synagogue to hear words of comfort. They walked past his seat in the back of the shul, and many of the congregants whispered to each other how recently they had seen him in this very building. “It’s very hard to stand here. Eliyahu was just here yesterday on Shabbat and every day,” said Rabbi Menashe Sadka. “We are speaking of a man who was loved by everybody and tried to do all the mitzvot that he knows. He filled the basket of Torah and mitzvot to the last minute.”
With the mitzvas meis requiring a speedy burial, his body was taken to Wellwood Cemetery on Long Island on Sunday morning, while the l’vayah took place in his synagogue in the afternoon. “It is an unexpected death. When a person is ill, the family is prepared for death. In this circumstance, it is doubly painful,” said Rabbi Isaac Abramov. He comforted mourners by contrasting a death from one’s birth, speaking of life as one long swim to the other side. “Life is like swimming. We do not know what to expect. The most important thing is a good name.”
In his 75 years, Rakhminov earned it. Born in Kattakurgan, he is a grandson of Rabbi Efraim Yukhananov, the city’s Chief Rabbi in the pre-Soviet period. Carrying on this legacy, he lived an observant Jewish life that blossomed in his new American home. He immigrated with his wife Tamara in 1991 and he worked as a shoemaker and repairing watches in Williamsburg. He cared for the needy by purchasing matzah at a nearby store and giving the packages to those in need in his neighborhood. “He was buried in the cemetery as there was not enough time, but we know that his soul is here,” said Rabbi Sadka. “The day he died is better than the day he was born, as Shlomo HaMelech said.” Indeed, at one’s birth no one knows the future of the child, but after death, the good deeds that a humble man performed quietly are revealed by the people around him, establishing his good name.
His wife Tamara was also struck crossing Jewel Avenue last February, and was still recovering from her injuries when her husband was pronounced dead. The couple has three daughters and ten grandchildren, all living close to them in Queens. The Yeshiva of Central Queens, attended by two of his grandchildren, sent out the shiv’ah notice to its parents, as it also appears prominently at Bet Midrash TOV.
The punctilious observance of mitzvos and acts of kindness by Rakhminov are the foundations of his reputation, as are his many descendants who follow in his ways. It is tragic that many of us learned of his good name after his tragic and unexpected death.
By Sergey Kadinsky