Remembering Alan Youkeles

Please use the comment form below to share your memories of our beloved friend and Etz Hayim member Alan Youkeles.

May his memory be for a blessing.

If you would like to make a donation in Alan’s memory, please visit So Others Might Eat, an organization with which Alan volunteered for three decades. You may also donate to Etz Hayim in Alan’s memory with the ‘donate’ button on this page.

Should you wish to share a private message with the Youkeles family instead of posting here, please email your note to

22 thoughts on “Remembering Alan Youkeles

  1. Alan was truly a mensch. He went out of his way to always be kind and generous. Our community will truly miss this amazing man.

  2. Alan Youkeles taught me the meaning of chesed. Literally. Though I grew up in a Jewish community, I had never heard the Hebrew word for “lovingkindness” until we were in a meeting together one day in Rabbi Bass’ office a couple of years ago.

    How fitting that Alan taught me this word, as every word and deed of his I witnessed was said and done with chesed. Every single interaction we had – even when we disagreed – was positive and respectful.

    In that same meeting with the rabbi, he went on to say, “I want our congregation to be known for chesed and doing mitzvot.” I will do all I can to fulfill Alan’s wish.

    His last words to me, at 9:30 p.m. following a meeting, were the same words he said to me every time we parted: “Did you walk here or did you drive? I can always give you a ride home.”

    Alan – we will remember your humility, compassion, and many mitzvot, and honor your spirit by doing all we can to help one another.

  3. Alan was a true mensch, a gentleman like no other, beautifully soft spoken and a friend to all. He departed this world way too early. May his memory be a blessing for all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

  4. Alan was a true leader. He was a “get things done” kind of guy. I had and still have true admiration for this. He was a sweet and kind friend, who our family will miss. We are so glad that our families have grown together in the schul. A better role model for his son, Sam, could not be imagined. Gone to soon. May his memory be a blessing, especially for Mimi and Sam.

  5. Alan was unfailingly kind, and frequently very funny.

    But the act for which I will always remember him is that, when we were discussing participating in the bloodmobile program, he said he never had donated, because he was afraid of needles and unsure who received the donation. I said, my son Sam and are the people you donate to; we use infusions of blood product weekly. Alan participated in every blood drive that came to Etz Hayim after that.

    He gave us the gift of life. We will miss him.

  6. Alan embodied the concept of selflessness. He was always thinking about how he could do Tzedakah both within and outside our community. I had the privilege of volunteering with Alan for the last couple of years cooking a monthly French Toast breakfast for several hundred at So Others Might Eat. The last time we were there in December, I asked him how many times he had missed in the last 30 years and he replied that he could count those absences on one hand. I know cooking breakfast at SOME was one of the things that he was most proud of. I will always look up to him as someone who led by example in pursuit of Tikkun Olam. Alan, you will be sorely missed by every life you have touched.

  7. Alan was the heart of the shul. I saw him every Sunday during the few years I co-taught the 7th grade, and I saw him every Friday night and on holidays when I’d attend with the family. We had been out of the country for a year, and when I started coming back Friday nights over the summer, it was always his friendly face and friendly hand-shake that met me at the door. I looked forward to seeing him there even though we were never more than acquaintances. His friendly demeanor and smiling face seemed to embody the best of what my wife and I see as the Etz Hayim experience. Outgoing, gentle, kind-hearted, welcoming, family-oriented, full of zeal for volunteer activities for the community, and always ready with a weekly reminder about Israeli dancing (!). We’ll miss him greatly. Truly, a light has gone out.

    Offering our deep and sincere condolences to Mimi and the family.

    Ariel and Khandmaa Wyckoff

  8. From the beginning of our Israeli Dance Program at Etz Hayim (Feb2012) Alan had a near perfect attendance. He was delighted with every movement and every new challenge. He gave his all and reached inside his core and gave more to fulfill his enjoyment of the program. His smile and energy demonstrated a commitment to achieve beyond his perceived abilities and project a command performance while being upbeat and proactive. We will miss him. I will miss him. I have lost a friend today.
    May all that knew Alan find comfort in friends and family in this time of sorrow.
    Ethan Halpern

  9. As a friend, neighbor, congregant, and fellow board member, I have gotten to know Alan extremely well since I have been at Etz Hayim. In this time, I am having a very difficult time remembering when Alan ever said no to an invitation or request. On the contrary, he always seemed to be the first person to enthusiastically volunteer for a committee, do extra work to make our community stronger, or invite someone to do something.

    I remember talking with a group of people after a Friday Night Service casually mentioning the fact that I wanted to build a Sukkah this year. Alan heard this and his response was “Excellent. Let’s build a sukkah. How can I help?” As always, he followed through and showed up to my house with enough pizza to feed everyone who decided to help (and refused to let me pay). He readily helped with mundane tasks with a smile on his face and stayed until the sukkah was completed. He showed this same dedication in everything he did – for the synagogue or for the greater community.

    Personally, I feel a great loss. Alan will be sorely missed by our community. Thank you to Alan for everything you did to make our community a better place. May his memory be for a blessing.

  10. I am so very sorry I will not be able to come to the memorial service. Alan was a lovely man. Always warm and welcoming and with a friendly smile and greeting. He was so wonderful to me recently in helping talk through some concerns about my daughter’s progress in the religious school. He listened, offered constructive suggestions, and followed up several times to see how things were going. Our community will feel this great loss, but will be reminded always of the wonderful contributions he made to each of us.

  11. It does not even seem real that we won’t see Alan dancing at Friday Night services anymore. Alan truly demonstrated what makes our synagogue community so special – his warmth, humor, dedication and zest for life. It was an absolute honor to work with and learn from him on the CEH Social Action Committee. We will continue with all of his work and expand on it – as he would have wanted. I loved it when he lead the discussion during Friday night services. He did it with style and humor like nobody else could. And I was always sure to tell him that. Alan, we will dance in your honor on Friday nights. We will try to emulate your sense of humor when speaking to a crowd. We will build sukkahs and feed people. And we will miss you so very much.

  12. Our congregation has lost a truly loved, admired, respected member. Mimi and Sam have lost even more. His cheerfulness, wisdom, and clear thinking are attributes too often not seen today. CEH has lost a valuable asset. For Mimi and Sam a light unto their lives, I am sure can never be replaced. We will all remember Alan with regret that we do not have him anymore to add to our chesed and to help us to continue in the true meaning of Tikkun Olam.

  13. Alan Youkeles: the most positive person I have ever known. I will always remember how much Alan loved singing v’shamru during services. It was apparent in the way he swayed and bopped to the beat; his energy was contagious.

    I dedicate this version of v’shamru to Alan. The beat is not as fast as the melody that Alan danced to in services, but it is very soothing and rhythmic–a fitting melody to accompany our contemplative thoughts and memories of Alan. May his memory be for a blessing.

    (copy the link below and paste it into your web browser)

  14. Even though I did not know Alan very well, I could always count on him for a kind word or a friendly smile every time I saw him at Etz Hayim. He had such an enthusiasm about him and an easy manner that made everyone feel comfortable and welcomed. My heart goes out to his family at such a sad, sad time.

  15. Alan had an unparalleled warmth, beauty of soul, and gently self-deprecating humor. He touched and embraced us all with his loving manner.

  16. Mimi and family I am So sorry on your loss, and our loss
    Alan you will be missed, you were the image of friendship, your ready smile, your words of concern you made sure that everybody was comfortable, your wisdom on Friday night during the study
    I am truly sorry

  17. Three words and one short commentary; Israeli Folk Dancing: Alan knew I spent a great deal of time folk dancing in Returning to Judaism. The M.E melodies took me back to the Black Shop and the rehearing of Hebrew sung to me. I will smile remembering how he smiled while inviting me to dance. I will smile remembering he and I singing Sheva’s version of Shalom Alayhem in Arabic as well. Smile with hope!

  18. Alan was the first person to make me feel welcome in the shul. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

    part of the human condition I think is we often don’t know if we are accepted in a group. at the time that Fiona was officially given the Hebrew name tziporrah, I usually only saw alan on Friday nights. he was one of the people that showed up at 7am that Thursday morning for the occasion and gave Fiona a gift. can’t tell you how much that meant.

    Mimi and Sam, the only small consolation to offer you is that so many are grieving with you. I think all of us should get some consolation in that he enjoyed his interaction with us.

    I understand one thing better now. in watching my favorite documentary, Above and Beyond, I noticed again that an air squadron, when one plane is missing, doesn’t rearrange itself. it flies on with an obvious hole in the formation. I feel like we will go on but it will be with a tremendous void.

    we all loved Alan; I hope he understood that.

  19. I didn’t know Alan well until I became co-chair of Etz Hayim’s Social Action Committee in late 2014 and Rabbi Lia suggested that Alan serve on the committee. At the time I had no idea how many other volunteer commitments Alan had, both within the synagogue community and elsewhere. He came to our new committee’s meetings, responded quickly to emails, always came up with good ideas, and readily helped whenever the need arose. As a small example, when we could not find a coordinator to lead a park clean-up event last October, Alan stepped in and volunteered Sam to help, too. (Sorry, Sam–I think you were a little less excited about it than he was.) When a few days before the event no one had signed up to participate, I thought we should cancel it, but Alan insisted he and Sam would still go and maybe others might show up, too. In the end it was just the two of them representing Etz Hayim, spending two hours pulling out invasive plants at an Arlington County nature center. That was Alan: calmly, cheerfully doing whatever needed to be done, and playing his quiet but powerful role in Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.

    Most recently, just three weeks ago Alan offered to arrange for the Hebrew School kids to tour the facilities of So Others Might Eat (SOME). He wanted them to see from the inside the work of this important local organization that helps feed the homeless. Alan was proud that Sam’s bar mitzvah project is to help coordinate a benefit concert for SOME on May 22, that Sam may perform in the concert and that he is encouraging other Etz Hayim kids join him in performing. In Alan’s honor we are still planning to organize the tour. We hope many Etz Hayim members will attend both the tour and the concert.

    Elisa Rosman, Paula Levin-Alcorn, John Faith and I will miss terribly Alan’s participation the Social Action Committee. It’s hard for me to think about even having our meetings or our email discussions without him. More importantly, his passing leaves a hole in our hearts that will not soon be mended. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mimi and Sam. At this painful time, we want you to know how deeply Alan touched our lives and the lives of so many others. May his memory be for a blessing to us all.

  20. alan always said hello tm and asked how I was doing his leading the discussion on Friday was always interesting had no problem saying what was on his mind when leading the talk he always seem tobe everbodies friend he in best sense a real mensch. he will be really missed

  21. Two Jewish kids, a Protestant kid and a Black kid all walk into a room; sounds like the intro of an inappropriate joke, doesn’t it? But its not, it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. One that has stood the test of time for more than 40 years. You see, I met Alan on my first day of public school in fourth grade. It was sort of a culture shock for me. My mom moved my sister and I from a predominantly Black neighborhood in Mid-Town to the Hollywood-Fairfax area of Los Angeles. We were the 1st Black family to move in. Oy!

    Alan was the first person I met at Melrose, our elementary school, he’d been summoned into the office to be my guide, and to gently indoctrinate me. He put me in the seat next to him in our fourth grade classroom; kind of stereotypical way for the Black kid to start off his first day, stealing the chair of the kid who used to sit in the seat? But that was that; I was his friend.

    After that first day Alan, Mike, Andy and I would spend nearly every day of elementary school together, especially during summertime. Remember the days of running around from the time the Sun came up until the street lights came on, and it was time to go home? Remember running in an out of your friend’s houses, the front and back doors open and unlocked? Remember when your parents knew your friends as well as they knew you? Those are the days I’m talking about.

    These are the most important friendships.

    My friendship with Alan taught me about tolerance and acceptance. It taught me about diversity, and it taught me about love. We had a true bromance before that was even a word.

    Like many of you, I’m on FB. When I told many of the people we were in grade school with of Alan’s passing, there were so many who wanted me to share their condolences, prayers and good thoughts and memories of Alan. One in particular, Jason asked me to share one with you. When Alan broke his arm once, Jason was his scribe, he had to write his notes, thoughts and homework out for him. Jason said that’s the closest he ever got to being the class valedictorian.

    Alan wasn’t on Facebook, as a matter of fact, there wasn’t a FB when I went on that new thing called the internet in search of my old friend. It’s hard to explain my excitement when I found Alan, but I was thrilled beyond words when I found his email address about fifteen years ago. I was excited to be able to rekindle the friendship and the relationship that I had with one of the best man I ever knew. I was able to share the small things and just participate in small talk even if it was just in an email or the infrequent phone call, keeping up with each other.

    5 years ago, I actually got a chance to see him again. The last time I’d seen him before that was June 23rd 1981, our HS graduation. You see went off to college in Northern CA, I stayed local, and then he moved east started working and a family here. Back in 2010 I made a trip here for work, I got to meet Sam. I got to meet Mimi. I remember I showed up just in time for Sam’s sport day at school. Alan and I would take turns participating in the events with Sam. Alan and I laughed hard with probably at each other, because it soon became obvious we were not as young as we used to be. I enjoyed the day immensely nonetheless. I got to spend the day and night with my friend and his family. Then I left for New Jersey because I had to go to work for a few days. But I came back down and I brought my motorcycle in for Sam’s class. Alan & I conspired to surprise Sam and his classmates. I just wanted to make my friend as proud of me as I’ve always been of him. Hopefully it made impression. It certainly made an impression upon me.

    Coincidentally on the 23rd, the day before Alan passed I sent him an email. In the email I let him know I was worried because I heard that a big snow storm was going to be at direct hit in an area I knew my friend’s family lived. He assured me everything was going to be okay and that they were prepared. We exchanged a few emails back and forth and I told him, Bridget and I expected to be back in the area in May. I was hoping he, Mimi and Sam would finally meet her. I signed off my last email with “be safe.”

    I will always remember the boy who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes of public school. My best friend.

  22. I got to know Alan because our sons became friends and he and I both enjoyed volunteering at their school. Such a warm and friendly person- I instantly liked him. He was also a wonderful father. We both went on a school camping trip during the boys’ 5th grade year. The weather was miserable. It was cold and rainy and the tics were plentiful. The area set aside for parents to set up their tents turned swampy overnight. Needlesstosay, while the parents were exhausted, the kids had a blast. So, did Alan. He remained cheerful as ever and so proud to be sharing the experience with Sam. He delighted as the kids played in the creek, discovered frogs, and dug up rocks. He took Sam canoing and fishing and helped make hot dogs and s’mores. Come breakfast time, he was up early, helping make home made donuts and clean-up camp. He was a pleasure to be around and I admired him greatly. My dearest condolences go out to Sam and Mimi.

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