Friends, kin mourn a ‘religious sparkplug’

Friends, kin mourn a ‘religious sparkplug’

Dorothy Thompson was the honoree at a Greenbriar at Whittingham federation event several years ago; with her are her husband, Dr. Edward Thompson, and son, Dr. Stephen Thompson. 
Dorothy Thompson was the honoree at a Greenbriar at Whittingham federation event several years ago; with her are her husband, Dr. Edward Thompson, and son, Dr. Stephen Thompson. 

Dorothy Thompson was remembered by those who knew her as a woman who “lived with a Jewish heart.”

Thompson, 76, who died July 19, was a resident of the Greenbriar at Whittingham adult community in Monroe.

After moving to Monroe in 2002, she and her husband, Dr. Edward Thompson, became active in what was then the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, serving as copresidents of the Greenbriar federation division and chairing the Monroe Township Intercommunity Council. 

She also participated in many federation events and was designated a Lion of Judah in recognition of her financial contributions.

The couple, who previously lived in Edison, were also longtime members of Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen. Rabbi Gerald Zelizer, religious leader emeritus, said that they came for Shabbat services as usual the Friday night and Saturday morning before her death.

“Her energy and passion for a strong Jewish future spurred her tireless activism,” said Susan Antman, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ. “She faced life with grace and humor and has inspired me to continue to take bold action to create a better world for all of us. She will be the shining light that stays with us always.”

Zelizer said several hundred people attended the funeral in Bloomfield-Cooper Jewish Chapel in Manalapan July 21.

Zelizer said that at the funeral he made an analogy “about a plant in Israel called the malkat halaila, the ‘queen of the night,’ because it blossoms at nighttime rather than the day.” 

Thompson “overcame with a bubbly, cheerful, assertive personality challenges any one of which would have derailed anyone else,” said Zelizer. “She overcame her own genes because everyone in her family, her parents and siblings, died at a young age. She overcame not one, but two cancers in her life. She lost not one but two children — one as a young child and one as an adult.”

Zelizer said he had known Thompson for 40 years, “and by her own admission she could be a nudzh — but I welcomed that happily because I knew that assertive cheerfulness was compensation for having to overcome so many serious challenges.”

Zelizer also said that “nothing Jewish was outside her radar,” calling Thompson “a religious sparkplug.” 

Thompson grew up Orthodox in Baltimore, and brought her husband, a secular Jew, closer to the tradition.

Just days before she died, of a dissecting aortic aneurysm, the couple visited Zelizer, who is retiring after 45 years, to present him with a bottle of fine wine and a card.

“We sat in my office and talked about mutual bucket lists, never forecasting that days later I would be talking at her funeral,” said Zelizer. When he opens that bottle, he said, “I will drink it with some nostalgia, melancholy, and celebration that I had the rabbinic privilege of serving a woman who was the queen of the night.”

Thompson was also active in the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe.

“She was a leader among the Jewish people and carried on the legacy of her namesake, the prophetess Devora, with great pride,” said Chabad’s Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky. “She was a visionary in the Monroe community in terms of bringing Yiddishkeit and people of all backgrounds together. She had a deep sense of responsibility in caring for the well-being of the Jewish people. She didn’t talk about it but acted upon it, and she was a tremendous leader and role model.”

The Thompsons previously resided in Bayonne, where he had a dental practice and she served as vice president of the sisterhood at Temple Beth Am. She later served on the board of Temple Emanu-El of Bayonne and as its membership chair. She was also cochair of UJA Super Sunday and president of the Bayonne UJA Federation and was on the board of the Bayonne Jewish Community Center, the Bayonne chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and on the Bayonne Holocaust Committee.

A life member of National Council of Jewish Women, she was also a life member of Hadassah, former copresident of its Bayonne chapter, and an active member of the Alisa chapter in Monroe at the time her death. 

Thompson was also a member of ORT, the Edison/East Brunswick chapter of Brandeis Women, and Greenbriar Brandeis Women, where she served as events vice president. 

In addition to her husband, Thompson is survived by a son, Dr. Stephen Thompson, and two grandchildren. Burial was at Beth Israel Cemetery, Woodbridge.

Memorial contributions can be made to Jewish Federations of North America, Congregation Neve Shalom, Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe, Alisa chapter of Hadassah, or the Make-A-Wish Foundation of NJ.

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