Hillel honors life of student

Abbey Stirgwolt

As students and families assembled at the Hillel building for the weekly Shabbat service, a sense of change seemed to hang in the air. Yet in spite of the cold that fought to seep into the building’s clapboard walls, an impermeable sort of warmth pervaded the atmosphere within.

It was like a large family gathering, with the tantalizing aroma of dinner wafting from the adjacent kitchen and friends and relatives gathering, speaking to one another in hushed whispers.

One wouldn’t guess they were assembled for a memorial service. The boxes of tissues subtly tucked into the living room’s corners and the printed blue papers bearing a Jewish mourning poem placed upon select folding chairs were perhaps the only hints that this Shabbat would be different from the rest.

Though Friday’s Shabbat continued almost as usual, the nearly 40 people who gathered there had an additional purpose: not so much to mourn Melanie Scheinberg’s loss as to honor her life. Scheinberg was found dead in her Engleman Hall room on March 16. The Portage County Coroner’s Office ruled she had taken her own life.

Friends stood up to share their memories of Scheinberg and many of the stories brought laughter as well as tears.

Jenny Schoenherr, senior early childhood education major, recalled her early years at Kent State when she and Scheinberg first met.

“We bonded when her roommate went crazy,” Schoenherr said.

Schoenherr went on to tell of Scheinberg’s outgoing personality and her faithfulness as a friend.

“The only time she wasn’t there for me and didn’t talk to me was during the ‘Oprah’s Favorite Things’ episode,” Schoenherr said with a smile.

Another friend recalled how Scheinberg “always ate faster than everybody else would, and we would always laugh about it.”

Several of Scheinberg’s friends noted how she called them everyday just to see how they were doing.

Brandy Richmond, senior early childhood education major, related how Scheinberg had persuaded her to take a trip with her to Ireland. Richmond had been unsure at first, but eventually decided to go and had a great time with Scheinberg.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Melanie,” Richmond said.

The final student speaker was a friend from Scheinberg’s childhood who grew up with her in Pennsylvania. After an emotional recollection of his and Scheinberg’s shared childhood, he spoke of an unresolved tennis match between himself and Scheinberg.

“One day I’m actually gonna play her in tennis,” he said.

Scheinberg’s mother closed the service by sharing a recorded song about friendship. She addressed the listeners with two final thoughts.

“There are two lessons that we can learn from Melanie,” she said. “One: Life is precious, so cherish it. Two: Life is fragile, so hold onto it.”

Contact religion reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].