Synagogue Caretaker, Egg Farmer Morris Ostroff Dies at 93

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Morris Ostroff
Morris Ostroff

Morris Ostroff was an egg man who delivered eggs hatched by the thousands of chickens he raised to customers across South Jersey.

In later years, he was a butcher who’d mingle with the folks who came into the shop and maybe slip them a little extra.

And before, he received a Distinguished Service Medal for his infantry service during World War II, specifically during the occupation period following the battle of Okinawa, where he helped release POWs from Japanese camps.

But what Ostroff, who passed away Dec. 22 at 93 from congestive heart failure, was best known for was being caretaker of Beth Israel. That’s the small house of worship literally attached to his farm in Rosenhayn, N.J., which was described as “like a two-car garage” and nicknamed the Garton Road Shul.

“His father had taken care of it before him,” said his wife of 65 years, Helyn Ostroff. “They never had a rabbi.

“Just the Ostroffs would fill the synagogue. My father-in-law had three brothers and a sister and between them and their children, they’d come in for High Holiday services. The women sat upstairs. The men downstairs. The kids ran around and ate from the garden.

“It was his dedication to maintaining the synagogue when no one really cared anymore. He undertook to have siding put on and fix the windows at his expense when it was starting to slope.

“He was just a good person who didn’t look for someone to say to him, ‘You’re doing a good job.’ It was his mitzvah.”

“It was very personal to him,” son Robert Ostroff said. “High Holidays the shul was like an Ostroff family reunion.

“People really liked him. A lot of seniors would chat and spend time when he worked at the butcher shop.”

His children also recall their father from his days delivering all those eggs.

“He went door-to-door delivering eggs for years,” Robert Ostroff said. “He’d go into Bridgeton, the nearest town, several days a week, for both residential and commercial customers.

“At one time, he had 30,000 chickens in cages. It was a tremendous amount of work. Between running the farm and going out delivering eggs was very time-consuming.”

His family will miss the warmth he spread throughout the area.

“He was just a warm, generous, kind man who’d do anything for anybody,” daughter Shelley Brownstein said. “And Dad loved his garden. He grew a variety of vegetables just for the family. This past spring, one of the neighbors plowed the land so he could have some vegetables.”

Morris Ostroff was a past commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 610 in Vineland and an active member of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth Abraham, as well as an associate member of Sons of Jacob.

He was buried at Beth Abraham Cemetery on Dec. 26. Besides his wife and children, he is survived by three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Donations in his honor may be sent to Beth Israel, 612 Garton Road, Bridgeton, N.J., 08032 or to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, Ala., 36104.

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729