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!
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • 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.