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August 21, 2014 By:
Lee Stanley, Rodeph Shalom’s Unofficial Historian, Murdered
When Lee Stanley was found murdered inside his Center City home on Aug. 15 — a victim of “blunt chest trauma,” according to the city medical examiner — the repercussions could be felt just blocks away at Congregation Rodeph Shalom.
It was at Rodeph Shalom, say those who knew him, that Stanley, the son of the synagogue’s late cantor, Harry, served integral unofficial roles as both keeper of the flame of the congregation’s history and as a chronologist of its liturgical music.
Reportedly a man with ragged edges and an unkempt appearance, Stanley nevertheless had a meticulousness about his interests that extended to his shul.
“Everyone knew Lee” at Rodeph Shalom, said Ed Snitzer, congregant and former synagogue president. He was part of the fabric of the congregation’s long history, “a delightful man who was very interested in music.”
He was emphatic about preserving his late father’s legacy, compiling records of Harry Stanley’s cantorial accomplishments. His thoroughness in this task was in keeping with his longtime job as an archivist with the city’s Department of Records, from which he retired a decade ago.
He was also a very gentle person “who would never harm a soul,” Snitzer said, which made news of his murder even more shocking and perplexing.
“Why would anyone harm such a harmless man?”
Police said there were no obvious signs of a break-in or of anything taken, indicating the possibility that Stanley may have known or even admitted his killer or killers into the home. The city is offering a $20,000 reward for information in the case, but so far no arrests have been announced.
At Rodeph Shalom, the 65-year-old historian also served as a librarian and participated in Torah study classes. His interest in music was manifested through his membership in its chorus.
“He was one of the people who was here all the time,” noted Rabbi Jill Maderer. “The congregation as a whole knew and loved him.”
Many Rodeph Shalom members took on a protective relationship with Stanley, checking up on him when he was ill or incapacitated. He had been struck by cars twice in recent years.
His vast knowledge of music and Rodeph Shalom’s history came in handy when anyone had a pertinent question, Maderer said. “Lee was somewhat of a savant; he had an incredible gift and passion for the history of the congregation and for Jewish music.”
He was able, she marveled, to offer the history of any prayer sung in services, “telling you the date the congregation introduced different prayer music” or changed it somewhat.
“No one will ever take his place,” Maderer said. “Some of the congregation’s oral history has died with him.”
Burial is scheduled Friday at Montefiore Cemetery. The congregation will also hold a memorial service for Stanley on Sept. 14.