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April 23, 2020 11:14 am

William Richard Harrell Jr., 63, Harlem Pastor Who Spoke Fluent Yiddish

avatar by Gary Shapiro

    William Richard Harrell Jr.

William Richard Harrell Jr., 63, a Harlem pastor who was a rarity in being an African American clergyman who was adept at Yiddish, died on April 17.

He was the senior pastor at the St. James Community Full Gospel Church in Harlem. His Yiddish ability was honed as a volunteer when he drove a Hatzolah emergency vehicle in Brooklyn for many years.

“He left so soon but will be greatly missed and his legacy will go forth in his family,” his widow JoAnn Harrell wrote on the charity platform,, which has a page to raise funds for the family. She noted that they were married for 23 years and had five children whom “he loved and taught them everything and gave them all the wisdom he had.”

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The page elsewhere describes him as “a cheerful, friendly leader of his community and friend to all. He was beloved by people from all walks of life.”

The entertainer Yoely Lebovits wrote on Twitter, “Lost a friend and a good person to the Coronavirus. He was the sweetest man, spoke a fluent Yiddish, we worked together on a few video presentations where he starred. Pastor William Richard Harrell Jr. RIP.”

Some videos of his Yiddish speaking can be found on YouTube and WhatsApp. According to the Chabad news web site, one clip finds Harrell in a furniture store complaining in Yiddish about the cost of marrying one’s children off.

He moved to New York from North Carolina in 1978.

According to a post on Facebook, Harrell worked as a minister under the leadership of Bishop Johnnie L. Anderson Sr., Pastor of Little Bethlehem Apostolic Faith Church of God in Christ, in Brooklyn. He became an Elder of the church in 1980.

Harrell was the Founder & President of The International Crusade Fellowship For All People, Inc.

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