One could say that Rabbi Eli Baitelman was a walking fountain of joy, kindness and Jewish inspiration. He served for more than a decade as a beloved Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi in Pacific Palisades, Calif., an affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles, and then continued to share the joy of Judaism with everyone he met in a subsequent career in construction.

Baitelman passed away on Shabbat, May 6 (15 Iyar) after suffering a heart attack, just two days before the bar mitzvah celebration of his son, Sholom, was set to take place on the joyous day of Lag BaOmer.

Eliyahu Baitleman was born in 1982 in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., to Rabbi Avi and Yocheved Baitleman. He was named for his great-grandfather, Eliyahu Simpson, a pioneer of Chabad in North America and longtime aide to both the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, and the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Growing up, he watched as one by one, his six older siblings married and took up posts as Chabad emissaries, mostly on the West Coast.

After his father’s sudden passing just two weeks after his bar mitzvah in 1995, his bond with his older siblings grew even stronger, and he spent his time off from yeshivah helping them in their respective Chabad Houses.

After his marriage to Elka Berger of Ottawa, Canada, he became an official member of the staff at Chabad of Pacific Palisades, co-directed by his sister, Zisi, and brother-in-law, Rabbi Zushe Cunin.

Eli Baitelman - File photo
Eli Baitelman
File photo

In time, he became a contractor. Yet even in that capacity, he continued his primary goal: sharing Jewish observance and uplifting anyone he came in contact with or happened to meet.

“He cared about everyone and went out of his way to help everyone,” says Adom Stauber, a friend and a client. “From a CEO to a laborer, he treated everyone with respect and was there for everyone.”

Stauber attests that it was widely known that he would put on tefillin with any Jewish people who would come to one of his job sites, and that he was ready to literally give the shirt off his back to a person in need.

He was one of the nicest human beings,” says Stauber, “and he changed me as well. His goodness was contagious.”

In addition to his mother and his wife, Baitelman is survived by his children: Avi, Henna, Sholom, Miriam, Rosie, Chana and Matti. He is also survived by siblings Rabbi Yechiel Baitleman, Rabbi Yossi Baitelman, Rabbi Yochonon Baitelman, Zisi Cunin, Rabbi Ari Baitelman, Rabbi Yanky Baitelman and Rabbi Sruly Baitelman.

A special fund has been established to assist the Baitelman family here.

Following the funeral, Baitelman’s employees, mostly migrants from Mexico, lingered to pay their last respects to the man who treated them with equity, integrity and care.
Following the funeral, Baitelman’s employees, mostly migrants from Mexico, lingered to pay their last respects to the man who treated them with equity, integrity and care.