Mourners for Jacki Sundheim urged not to be bitter, indifferent despite cruelty that took 63-year-old’s life

Sundheim was one of those killed during the July Fourth Highland Park parade.

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Mourners hug outside North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe after the funeral Friday for Jacki Sundheim.

Mourners hug outside North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe after the funeral Friday for Jacki Sundheim.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Jacquelyn Sundheim was the petite woman with dark, curly hair, her legs moving “100 miles an hour” up and down the synagogue’s center aisle — checking the sound system, welcoming visitors, being bossy when she needed to be.

On any other Friday, when everything was as she wanted it — perfect — she would have taken her place in the back and out of view at North Shore Congregation Israel, quietly watching others celebrate Jewish life’s most important milestones.

“But this isn’t a normal day. Even in a full sanctuary, the back of the sanctuary is horribly empty,” said Rabbi Lisa Greene.

Jacquelyn Sundheim.

Jacquelyn Sundheim.

Provided

Sundheim, 63, who’d been a part of the congregation for decades — as a preschool teacher and an events coordinator — was among those killed during the July Fourth Highland Park parade shootings. Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among those in attendance at the Glencoe synagogue Friday.

“We are horrified. We are enraged, sickened, aggrieved, inconsolable for the terror that has befallen us and robbed us of Jacki,” said Rabbi Wendi Geffen, her voice shaking. “Jacki died because she was murdered, and in that, there is no comfort for us to take away as we mourn Jacki’s death. There is no silver lining, no light in the darkness that has shadowed over the lives of Jacki’s friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, community members.”

Geffen urged mourners not to let Sundheim’s memory be sullied by the brutality of how her life was “stolen.”

“We cannot allow that to happen,” Geffen said. “Jacki’s life was not long enough. There is an incalculable list of all the should-have-beens. We’ll never be able to tally it.”

Friends and family recalled a formidable woman, a perfectionist in her planning of synagogue events. But also a devoted mother and wife.

“She made you work on High Holidays,” Greene said, addressing Sundheim’s daughter, Leah Sundheim. “You were here at her side and she loved it.”

Sundheim had a vast range of interests, mourners recalled.

“A soap opera lover who could never remember what happened in a movie,” Geffen said. “A wild and fast driver who was terrified of flying — and even the Dumbo ride at Disney. She had no sense of direction, except in a shopping mall. She was fascinated by space. She was an incredible baker.”

Her adult daughter, Leah, was among the last speakers Friday. She recalled how her mother’s sometimes inappropriate laughter could steady her nerves.

“I should not be standing up here,” the daughter said, her chin trembling. “None of us should be here today. [Jacki Sundheim] should be in the corner, in the back, making sure the mic is working.”

The daughter said her mother’s loss “fills me with a rage and emptiness that scares me.”

But she urged others not to be consumed by that rage.

“I want you to take all these feelings that are overwhelming you and, just like my mom, let it leave you with laughter ...,” the daughter said. “Do not let this sadness, this fear, rage turn you indifferent or bitter toward our world because the world is darker without my mom in it. And it’s up to us now to fill it with a little extra laughter and help replace her light and love.”

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