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Jill Tarlov remembered for her kind and compassionate spirit

59-year-old mom succumbs after being hit by bicyclist in NYC

By Cindy Mindell

Jill Tarlov

Jill Tarlov

Jill Tarlov of Fairfield died on Sunday, Sept. 21, four days after being struck by a speeding bicyclist in Central Park and sustaining a severe head injury. The 59-year-old mother of two had been in critical condition at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.

A member of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, Tarlov was well-respected for her strong commitment to social justice and volunteerism.

A native of Norwalk, Tarlov learned about Jewish communal involvement up close. Her late mother, Harriet Tarlov, and late aunt, Norma Lenore, were both involved in local and national organizations for more than 50 years, including Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Norwalk, the Norwalk JCC, and the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield.

Her late father, Malcolm A. Tarlov, was also involved in local and national Jewish organizations, serving on the boards of the Norwalk Jewish Community Council, the Connecticut Jewish Community Relations Council, Israel Bonds, Norwalk Federated United Jewish Appeal, and Norwalk Jewish Center. A veteran of World War II, he was active in the local Jewish War Veterans of the USA, serving as national commander in the mid-‘60s. JWV Post #141 in Norwalk is named in his memory.

Tarlov married H. Michael Wittman in 1986. The couple settled in Fairfield and raised two children – Anna, 23, and Matthew, 20.

In the wake of Tarlov’s death, Wittman issued a statement:

“My wife was beautiful in every way imaginable. Jill was the most amazing mother to Matthew and Anna, who taught them above all that kindness, compassion, and a spirit for life were the right morals to live by. Everyone who had ever met her was somehow made better by her company. Even though she has been taken from us far too soon, her spirit will live on forever. On behalf of our family, I would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers and request privacy during the difficult times ahead.”

Amy Rich of Trumbull is a fellow B’nai Israel congregant and friend.

“Tikkun olam was a natural part of Jill,” Rich says. “Her joy in life and positive outlook, combined with her smarts, creativity, and willingness to work hard, gave her a singular ability to bring people together in ways that benefited everybody.”

Since 2007, Tarlov fostered a relationship between the congregation and the Classical Studies Magnet Academy in Bridgeport, where she organized school-supply drives and Career Day, recruiting fellow B’nai Israel congregants as presenters.

“Jill made [this] an annual event that truly brought the school and synagogue communities together,” Rich says. “Congregants who were unsure of their abilities to talk to young children about their careers were encouraged and supported by Jill. The children all left excited about the many things they could one day do, and the congregants all left thanking Jill for asking them to be involved.”

Just a few hours before she was struck in Central Park, Tarlov had emailed Rich and other B’nai Israel members asking for input on how to involve the synagogue community in her latest project – building a playground and garden at the school.

“We feel blessed that we have known Jill over the past seven years,” says Helen D. Giles, principal of the Academy. “Jill will be honored in some way through the playground project.”

Rich will remember Tarlov’s genuine warmth. “Jill had that special ability to make the person to whom she was speaking feel truly cared about, whether a small child at Classical Studies or an elderly member of B’nai Israel, or anyone in between,” says Rich. “Her positive impact will last, but she will be sorely missed.”

Fellow B’nai Israel congregant Amy Moorin of Fairfield has been friends with Tarlov since their now-adult children attended Stratfield Elementary School together. The two women worked together on the programming committee, enriching school life with art and music.

“Our relationship through the years has centered a lot on the arts,” Moorin says. “Jill loved the theater, ballet, and music and we always went to the theater together. She was a really nice person who didn’t like gossip, always looked at the good side, was always positive, and really appreciated every day. This is so tragic, but I feel that she lived such a good life. She took the time to talk to people and contribute to the causes she really believed in.”

After funeral services at B’nai Israel, Tarlov was buried in the congregational cemetery in Monroe, on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

“Jill was one of those salt-of-the-earth people who cared deeply about everything and everyone,” says Rabbi James Prosnit, the synagogue’s spiritual leader. “She was a pillar of the social justice work we do as a congregation and her voice, passion, and dedication made us a better, more responsive community. Her death is a huge loss for so many, but her example for us all will linger long and large.”

Comments? email cindym@jewishledger.com.

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