Mourning a Jewish Man of Laughter
He was a prankster who loved to wear purple. He was a devoted father of two young girls. His phone contact for his wife Laura was “love of my life.”
This is how family and friends described David Kimowitz to the hundreds of people who gathered to pay their respects to him last week at a funeral chapel in Livingston, New Jersey.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Kimowitz, 40, and the family’s au pair, Karen Bermudez Rodriguez, 26, were killed. Joseph D. Porter — Rodriguez’s ex-boyfriend — was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
“When someone is tragically taken from this world, from our lives far too soon, there are no words to be said,” said Rabbi Jesse Olitzky.
Reflecting on the then-upcoming Tisha B’Av holiday, Olitzky said, “Today we are the city of Jerusalem. Today we all cry. Today we mourn this unthinkable and untimely loss. David was our temple. He brought us together.”
Kimowitz had first been involved in real estate, but switched careers to own The Stand, a comedy club and restaurant that recently got a new location in Union Square. He also managed comedians. He would connect people from different social circles, said Olitzky, who drew a big laugh from the crowd when he recalled how Kimowitz was kind enough to set up a comedy night at their shul.
“When I asked him in advance if the comedians were going to be appropriate for synagogue, he smiled … and he said, ‘hell no,’” Olitzky said.
Kimowitz had a devotion to his two young daughters that “every father should strive to emulate,” according to his younger brother Rich, who came up to the lectern next.
Many in the crowd, which filled the pews and spilled into two other rooms, teared up when Rich addressed his brother.
“We’re in shock,” he said. “But the only way we can get through this time is to celebrate the awesome legacy that you created. … We will honor you, keep your memory alive, and celebrate you. We will find joy once again, and we will keep on doing as you would want us to do, and smile.”
Comedian Jay Oakerson, who spoke after the rabbi and family members, said that their words were heavy and joked that he should have followed Kimowitz’s barber. Oakerson said he recently got the chance to spend several days with Kimowitz at the Montreal Comedy Festival, and told him he loved him and appreciated him. He was shocked to hear of what happened.
“When I heard this news, I absolutely couldn’t believe it,” Oakerson said. “I immediately fell down onto the bed.”
He recalled a great moment when he found out that he was getting a special on Comedy Central, and Kimowitz came up to him and kissed him on the cheek. He remembered that eight years ago, he wasn’t sure being a comedian would bring him success, but someone took a gamble on him.
“When I had zero financial value and nothing on the horizon, Dave and his partner Chris approached me and sat me down, asking to take on the challenge of helping me in my career,” Oakerson said.
Kimowitz’s older brother, Adam, urged people to email the family stories about David, saying it would help them in this difficult time.
“This is the fuel we need,” he said, adding that laughter is the best medicine.
He said the brothers were like the three musketeers, and would text each other to see when their wives fell asleep, and then would go meet up for a drink. His mother and father taught them to be strong, and he said the family would not be defined by this tragedy, as his brother’s energy would live on.
“Dave would want us to be laughing now,” he said.