Temple Beth Israel remembers and celebrates the remarkable life of Joe Stupel, 21 September 1933 – 2 January 2023. Beloved husband, father and grandfather, and a pillar of the Progressive Jewish community.
Joe Stupel was born in Lithuania in 1933 and studied music at the Conservatorium in Munich. His love of music and of Judaism led to a lifetime of service in the Progressive Jewish community of Melbourne. With Eva always by his side, he started as an organist at Bentleigh in 1960 and because Leo Baeck also had no organist, he would alternate between the two congregations. He served as Musical Director at Bentleigh until he and Eva joined TBI in 1991 and he was promptly made Musical Director at TBI as well.
In a Kol Yisrael article in 2019, we noted that during his 58+ years of devoted service to the community, Joe accompanied 5,637 services, and served 24 Rabbis, 2 Cantors and 23 cantorial soloists.
His devotion to community service is a hard record to match but it was his devotion to Eva and his family that also set him apart as a person. Joe and Eva were the first couple to receive the JCCV Community Recognition award as a husband-and-wife team. Apart from being president at Bentleigh and her own service to the Progressive community, anytime Joe was in the building (or any building), playing the multitude of concerts, rehearsals and services he was part of, you could rest assured Eva was not far away – greeting people, helping and listening with a practiced ear. By the time Joe retired from services, Eva was probably due an honorary Doctorate of Jewish Music!
In 2019, TBI created a new scholarship in honour of both Joe and Eva for their incredible dedication to service in our community and providing generations of our congregants with a musical connection to prayer.
He was a big man with a bigger heart and an enormous and wonderful collection of music-themed ties that he wore most Shabbatot. He volunteered behind the scenes at so many concerts and in so many contexts: at B’nei Brith, Kadimah, in aged care homes, interfaith concerts and memorial services. The choirs will remember his endless patience and good humour during rehearsals and performances alike.
On a more personal note, I have known Joe for more than 30 years. He helped me to learn the progressive repertoire and integrated me into the team of progressive soloists. I may never have become a cantor were it not for Joe’s encouragement and musical partnership, which inspired me and so many others who had the joy of working with him. We performed innumerable concerts together on an almost weekly basis for many years. Joe was a friend and colleague and will be missed.
Zichrono livrachah, May his memory be for a blessing!
Cantor Michel Laloum