The founder of Congregation Shomrey Emunah in Southfield died of COVID-19 on April 26, 2020, at the age of 87.
Officially, the name of the striking, stone-exterior property on Southfield Road near 10 Mile is Congregation Shomrey Emunah. But for nearly 50 years, it has been referred to as “Rabbi Zachariash’s shul,” in reference to the spiritual leader who gathered a congregation by making phone calls and meeting neighbors.
Rabbi Shaiall Zachariash, of Lakewood, N.J., died of COVID-19 on April 26, 2020, at the age of 87.
“He was an incredibly self-sufficient man,” said his daughter Orah Jundef. “When he was 10, his parents made the sacrifice to send him from their home in Los Angeles to Yeshiva Torah Vodaath in Brooklyn. At around age 15, he became a sofer (scribe) and was a walking encyclopedia.”
He was also a teacher, a mohel (circumciser), shochet (ritual slaughterer), baal koreh (Torah reader), baal tefilah (prayer leader) and served as head of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit.
“For his congregants, he was a marriage counselor and helped them make important life decisions,” Orah Jundef said. “He was hands-on, not just spiritually but in practical matters. He was a one-man show. Not a jack-of-all-trades, but a master. He took every opportunity to make a difference and seize every moment.”
After studying at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Rabbi Zachariash served congregations in New York, New Jersey and Ohio. He brought his family to Michigan in 1964 so his children could attend Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, where he also taught for 25 years.
In 1966, he became the rabbi of Shomrey Emunah in Detroit. When many members moved out of the city, he stayed, picking up those who needed a ride to weekday services.
At the same time, he also worked to start a new Shomrey Emunah in Southfield. “In the freezing winter, he would stay in our Detroit home for Shabbos dinner and shul and, at seven the next morning, would walk to Southfield for minyan in the basement of the house of Alice and Marvin Berlin, two of the synagogue founders,” Orah Jundef said.
When there were not enough members to make a minyan at the Detroit synagogue, the Zachariash family moved to Southfield. There, the rabbi held services in the living room and dining room of the family’s new home until 1972, when the building currently used for the congregation was constructed.
When the rabbi’s wife became ill several years ago, he moved with her to Lakewood, to be near medical care. “He always said, ‘You should honor your wife more than yourself,” Orah Jundef said.
The Zachariashs’ grandson, Rabbi Levi Jundef now serves the congregation.
In 1986, Rabbi Zachariash established a second synagogue, Ohel Moed of Shomrey Emunah in West Bloomfield, pioneered and developed by Orah Jundef and her husband, Rabbi Eli Meyer Jundef, who serves as its spiritual leader. Rabbi Zachariash also made sure there was a mikvah (ritual bath) built on the synagogue grounds.
Orah Jundef says her father was a living example of everything he asked others to do. “He was never in it for himself. He was such a community person and my mother shared him with everyone else. When someone called the house and he wasn’t home, she would always say, ‘Did you try the shul first?’”
Rabbi Zachariash was the cherished father of Rivkah (Rabbi Avraham) Schwartz, Orah (Rabbi Eli Meyer) Jundef, Avigail (Rabbi Eli) Teichman and Rabbi Avrohom Baruch (Chana) Zachariash; brother of Yekusiel Zachariash and Chana Gartenhaus. He is also survived by grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Rabbi Zachariash was the beloved husband of the late Brachah Zachariash. Contributions may be made to Congregation Shomrey Emunah, 25451 Southfield Road, Southfield, MI 48075.
Interment took place in Israel.
Photos and memories of Rabbi Zachariash may be emailed to the family at: firstname.lastname@example.org