by Sue Ann Rybak
Ronald Fischman – a cantor, a poet, a writer, a teacher and a father – will be remembered above all as a man who was constantly seeking a genuine and authentic relationship with God.
Fischman, 54, a longtime member of Mishkan Shalom in Roxborough, was stabbed to death in his East Mt. Airy home on the 200 block of East Phil Ellena Street on Sept. 30 after he confronted a former house guest, according to a police report.
Police arrested Jonathan Williams, also known as William James, after a witness saw him fleeing Fischman’s residence.
According to the police report, officers stopped Williams near Fischman’s residence and observed a laceration on his right hand.
Police have charged Williams, 33, of the 300 block of Upsal Street, with murder, burglary and other related offenses in connection to the home invasion and fatal stabbing.
Lead Rabbi Shawn Zevit, of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue, said Fischman was an esteemed member of the community and was going to be profoundly missed.
“Ron was a person of numerous gifts, and he had a deep spiritual commitment to Jewish life, including helping us lead various parts of the synagogue’s Rosh Hashana services.” Zevit said.
He added that Fischman was equally committed to social justice issues, particularly those relating to poverty, climate change and sustainability.
Rabbi Yael Levy, a supporting rabbi at Mishkan Shalom, described Fischman, who was a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H.L. Miller Cantorial School in New York, as a seeker. She said he was constantly seeking an authentic and spiritual relationship with God.
“He loved to read from the Torah,” Levy said. “He did it in such a beautiful heartfelt way. It was really a place where his soul shone forth.”
Mishkan Shalom’s president David Piver said Fischman lived life according to the principals of Tikkun Olam/Tikkun Hanefesh – repair, renewal and rebalancing of our souls and of the world.
Piver said Mishkan Shalom is “a place where people’s souls are nurtured, honored and embraced.” He added that Fischman had a passion and love for Jewish life and was constantly looking for opportunities to nurture and honor other people.
Charles Still, who owns Masters Touch Auto Repair in East Mt. Airy, said Fischman was a longtime customer, who loved his children.
“His children were his life,” he said. “He was very proud of his kids.”
Still said even when Fischman was down on his luck, he never hesitated to help others.
“Ron wasn’t a wealthy man,” Still said. “Sometimes, he had to make special arrangements to pay for repairs on his car. But, he was a man of his word. It’s rare that you meet somebody with integrity. He lived his life passionately. But, most of all he loved his children.”
Fischman was looking forward to the release of his book of poetry, “My Book of Days,” which is scheduled to be published Oct. 24.
On his crowdfunding campaign page to raise money for the book’s cover art, Fischman wrote that the book was inspired by a promise he made to his congregation to write a poem each day of the Days of Awe, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
He also wrote that he wanted to focus more on his writing.
“I used to serve God with my voice and my soul as a cantor,” Fischman wrote. “As a poet, my voice is channeled in a different way, but the soul that reaches out is thirsting for an authentic relationship with God as a hart for water.”