The Jewish community of Houston, Texas was deeply shocked and agrieved by news of the tragic fire that claimed the life of Eva Lou Chapman, a”h, and left her husband, Julius (Yosef Chaim Alter Ben Malka), in serious condition. The Chapmans have been pillars of Jewish life in the city for nearly half a century, and were instrumental in efforts to strengthen the ranks of their kehillah.
“We are all overtaken by a sense of deep and heavy sadness,” Rabbi Barry Gellman of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston told Hamodia. “This Shabbos was very hard for those of us who knew the Chapmans, and the pain was only exacerbated by the unspeakable way in which Mrs. Chapman perished.”
The fire occurred on Friday just before the onset of Shabbos. Neighbors attempted to help and the fire department responded quickly, but the blaze consumed the house quickly. Mrs. Chapman was no longer alive by the time responders extinguished the fire. Mr. Chapman was brought to the hospital with serious burns and smoke inhalation, but is expected to recover.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds gathered to bid farewell to Mrs. Chapman at a levayah held in Houston. From there, the body was flown to Eretz Yisrael for kevurah.
“As the news spread and more and more people began to share their memories of her, we saw just how many lives she was involved with and started to feel the full brunt of the loss,” said Rabbi Gellman.
The Chapmans moved to Houston long before the city boasted an established Orthodox presence and were seminal in building the infrastructure of Torah life. For many years, the community’s mikveh was in their home.
They were the driving forces behind efforts to increase Torah observance in what was then a very small community, directing both adult education efforts as well as youth programming to increase commitment to Yiddishkeit.
Their home was was open to Jews from near and far, often hosting many guests for Shabbosos and Yamim Tovim. Mr. Chapman has been a leader of Houston’s chevrah kadisha for decades, and was profiled in a local newspaper for his work as a shomer and other efforts to ensure kvod hameis.
“They have served as role models for many other frum familes,” said Rabbi Gellman. “They were looked up to and were always available to help others to navigate the waters of Jewish life in Houston.”