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HTC Remembers Mr. Sheldon Schaffel

Updated: May 24

A Pillar of Leadership and Guidance at HTC

Mr. Sheldon Schaffel

They called him Coach, but he was so much more than that.

Hebrew Theological College mourns the loss of Mr. Sheldon Schaffel, a revered member of our community whose impact was felt across many facets of our institution – as a basketball coach, guidance counselor, general studies principal, parent, and fan.

Mr. Schaffel's journey with HTC began in 1973, when a friend recruited him to assist with the Yeshiva’s fledgling basketball program. His passion for the game and dedication to coaching were immediately evident as he not only coached the team but also led them to their first tournament at the JCC, continuing as the coach until 1995, missing only a couple seasons in the late 1980s.

Though his arrival in 1973 marked his first experience coaching, Coach Schaffel, a former high school athlete himself, embraced the challenge wholeheartedly. "When I first met them, I needed to teach them some of the fundamentals of the game, but they were very enthusiastic and eager to learn," he recalled during an episode of the Yeshiva Show Podcasts.

Despite limited practice times, he ensured his players were fundamentally sound, a dedication that paid off in memorable victories. One of Mr. Schaffel’s most memorable moments at the Yeshiva, which he recalled at the HTC Alumni reunion in 2023, was the exhilarating first win against the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in 1981.

Beyond the basketball court, Mr. Schaffel's commitment to HTC extended into the classroom and administration. He first joined the high school team as a guidance counselor, and then in 1996, he began serving as the Assistant Principal for General Studies curriculum for the boys and leading the faculty. One of his most underrated roles, however, was as a teacher of psychology, where he relished the opportunity to teach a class of all boys who were serious about their secular studies. His passion for education and his students was palpable and deeply appreciated by his students.

The 1986 senior class recognized Mr. Schaffel's profound influence by dedicating their yearbook to him, highlighting his role not just as a coach, but as a guidance counselor and a mentor who took a personal interest in each student. "He has taught the members of the team to play not as individuals but as one tightly knit group," the dedication reads, a testament to his ability to inspire teamwork amongst his students.

Long after he retired from the bench, he was still a fixture at Yeshiva basketball games, cheering on the team from the stands. Mr. Schaffel retired from HTC in 2009 and later made aliyah with his wife, Cookie.

“Mr. Schaffel was a huge positive influence on my life,” said HTC CEO Rabbi Shmuel Schuman, who played two years for Coach Schaffel on the varsity team, and then later worked alongside him as a colleague at the Yeshiva. “He was the consummate mensch and taught us so many fundamentals of not just basketball but what it means to work hard, how to treat everyone with respect, and to be genuine. Those lessons inform my choices and actions until today, and will for the rest of my life.

“He cared deeply for his players and the students,” continued Rabbi Schuman. “Beyond his contributions on the court and in the halls of the Yeshiva, he exemplified the life of a Torah-committed Jew making a difference in his community. That is precisely HTC’s mission, and he exemplified that.”

Mr. Schaffel’s passing is a significant loss to the HTC community. He leaves behind a legacy that shaped the lives of countless students. As we remember Mr. Schaffel, we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, his children, alumni Rabbi Mark Schaffel and Rabbi Gershon Schaffel, Tzina Stein, Caryn Gerecht, and Jordana Epstein, and to all who knew and loved him. His memory will undoubtedly be a blessing for the many lives he touched.

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