Apparent Suicide of Ex-Hasidic Woman Deb Tambor Sparks Funeral Chaos

Skver Leaders Bury Her Away From New Square

Before and After: Deb Tambor was raised as a member of the Skver Hasidim in upstate New York. She is pictured as she appeared before (left) and after leaving the group.
Before and After: Deb Tambor was raised as a member of the Skver Hasidim in upstate New York. She is pictured as she appeared before (left) and after leaving the group.

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Published October 01, 2013, issue of October 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Confusion and controversy marred the funeral of a mother of two said to have committed suicide after leaving her Hasidic community and being denied access to her children.

Friends and family of Deb Tambor, a former resident of the ultra-Orthodox community of New Square, in upstate New York, believe she killed herself on Friday, September 27 in the bedroom of the home she shared in Bridgeton, N.J. with her boyfriend, Abe Weiss. Like Tambor, Weiss is a former member of the Skver Hasidic sect, which founded and controls New Square, a village about 50 miles north of New York City.

Despite their close relationships with Tambor, Weiss and some 40 former ultra-Orthodox friends of hers who quietly converged on New Square Sept. 29 to witness her funeral and pay tribute to one of their own were unable to do so. Members of the New Square community said that Tambor’s family chose to bury her elsewhere with only immediate family present due to the shame she had brought upon the family and the community.

Deb Tambor and Abe Weiss
Deb Tambor and Abe Weiss

“Who wants to be buried next to this lady?” New Square resident Menashe Lustig told the Forward in a phone interview. “It’s very difficult to know where to put her. I hear they called up the rabbonim in Israel and they told them the decision” that she should be buried elsewhere. Of Tambor’s life and death, he said, “The family is ashamed. They’re very ashamed.”

New Square, which was established by the Skver Hasidic group’s then-grand rabbi, Yaakov Yosef Twersky, in 1954, is considered one of the most culturally isolated towns in America, with sex-segregated streets and female residents who, in obedience to the town’s rabbis, do not drive.

The official cause of Tambor’s death remain undetermined, pending findings from the Cumberland County, N.J., coroner. Weiss told the Forward he rushed home from work in the early afternoon on the day of her death, concerned because he had not heard from her in the morning as usual. He found her lying on the floor of their bedroom, he said, next to two empty pill bottles and a half-empty bottle of alchohol, and immediately called 911. Police confirmed finding her body when they responded to the call.

An official with New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General said toxicology tests can take 12 to 16 weeks to receive. Neither Tambor’s friends nor her family suspect foul play.

According to her friends, Tambor became depressed after leaving the New Square community four years ago and divorcing her husband. Weiss, her live-in boyfriend, said her family had disavowed her earlier, when she told family members that she had been sexually abused by a member of the tight-knit New Square community as a child and they denied it.

Driven by her depression, Tambor checked herself into a psychiatric hospital, said Weiss, which is when family members in New Square moved to block her from seeing her children, who are now 11 and 13.

“Her depression started when she decided to leave the community and was threatened with losing her kids,” Weiss told The Forward. “Her biggest issue was that no one cared for her, everyone blew off all her issues.”

Weiss and other ex-Orthodox friends of Tambor began congregating about 4 p.m. Sunday for her funeral outside New Square’s funeral home, located on a cul de sac at the end of Roosevelt Avenue. According to some of those who gathered, every few minutes a Skver Hasid would slowly drive past them.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.