On that particular Saturday morning two weeks ago, Mr. Silverman, 61, Beth El Congregation’s first vice president, was serving as the gabbai, the honorary synagogue member who coordinates services. The synagogue had a double-b’nai mitzvah and a baby-naming ceremony that morning and the first aliyah had just been called up to the bimah.
Around that time, Mr. Silverman recalled leaning over to Art Wien, director of Beth El’s b’nai mitzvah program, saying, “I’m in trouble.” After that, he said he has no recollection of anything until hours later when he woke up in a hospital.
But congregants in the main sanctuary said they saw Mr. Silverman stumble and fall to the floor.
“I saw Mr. Silverman’s body position didn’t look right. I walked briskly to [the bimah] and heard the sound he was making. It was very serious,” said Len Newman, an emergency medical technician who volunteers for the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Dept.
Fortunately, the Pikesville synagogue owns three automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
Mr. Kleiner said he had stepped out of the sanctuary minutes earlier. A congregant raced to find him, and within three minutes from the time Mr. Silverman fell, Mr. Kleiner ran in with an AED.
Mr. Newman, who was giving CPR to Mr. Silverman, administered the defibrillator.
It took about 11 1/2 minutes from the time Mr. Silverman collapsed until an ambulance arrived and EMTs administered intravenous drugs and hooked him up to a heart monitor.
But it was the congregation’s defibrillator that likely saved Mr. Silverman’s life, according to Mr. Newman.
For this High Holiday season, Mr. Silverman said he will be particularly reflective. “One of the images brought home on the holidays is the picture of God as a shepherd,” he said. “In my mind, I keep going back that I am one of the sheep and God took a look and said, ‘Maybe this is the time to scare the hell out of him, not the time for him to die.’”