Sugarman Sinai Memorial Chapel

458 Hope Street, Providence, RI


Joel S. Silverberg

July 8, 1946August 11, 2019

SILVERBERG, JOEL STEPHEN of Providence, Rhode Island, died on Sunday, August 11, 2019, at the age of 73 after a brave battle with Lymphoma.

Loving husband of Patricia (Tish) B.M. Brennan; proud son of the late Irving and Anna Silverberg; proud father of Sarah Mae Brennan Silverberg; and cherished brother of Wendy (Glenn Koocher) Silverberg; Joel is also survived by his niece, Becky (Tim Downey) Koocher and their children Mia and Will, his nephew David Koocher, and his pembroke welsh corgi, Taffy.

Although born in Rockville Centre, NY at the start of the baby boom (July 8, 1946), Joel grew up in Bangor, Maine, where his maternal grandparents emigrated in the early 20th century, and where his father and mother met during World War II. He was proud all of his life to be a Mainer and Bangor boy: Bangor High, Class of 1964; Lt Colonel and award-winning marksman in the BHS ROTC unit, and loved LL Bean even back when it was an old wooden building with a front porch.

Joel earned four degrees from Brown University: AB/Music; ScB/Electrical Engineering; MSc/Electrical Engineering; and PhD/Biomedical Engineering; as well as a postdoctoral certificate from the Institute for Retraining in Computer Science [IFRICS]. Later he held faculty positions at Vassar College, Boston University, Brown University, and Roger Williams University.

Joel had a real passion for music, mathematics, and history, in that order. He played clarinet and saxophone in high school and in college, he studied organ and harpsichord with Prof. William Dineen, becoming a sought-after church organist and member of the American Guild of Organists.

While conducting research at Boston University Medical Center, he started his own early music group and when he returned to Brown for his PhD, much to the dismay of the Engineering faculty, he not only maintained his musical commitments, but added the study of several more instruments, as well as joining the Brown Chamber Choir, where he met his wife, Tish.

Joel loved the outdoors and once settled in RI he developed a passion for sailing. He was a member of the Edgewood Yacht Club, captaining a spunky West White Potter and later a beautiful 27-foot Cape Dory. Off the water he particularly enjoyed birding and spending time in the New England forests and parks.

As a man proud of his Jewish heritage, he valued the Jewish education he had received as a young man and never stopped studying a wide range of Jewish topics, both historical and contemporary. Even in retirement, Joel was the consummate Renaissance man: he taught math for fun to intellectually curious adults at Hamilton House (HH) and also participated in the HH essay discussion group. In retirement he also pursued his long-standing fascination for navigational mathematics as well as the “practical” mathematics of sailors, merchants, surveyors, and mechanics of the 17thand 18th centuries. Even in retirement he was invited to consult on the mathematics and surveying-related material written by George Washington, which are being studied by the University of Virginia Press.

Whether among fellow Jews, musicians, mathematicians, historians, sailors, birders, or just intellectually curious folk, Joel was noted for his steadfastness and compassion as a friend. Once he adopted you into the family, you could count on his affectionate support and subtle, wry humor forever.

Joel supported many worthy causes throughout his life, but he is certainly smiling as we ask you to do something that is strictly “for the birds”: gifts in memory of Joel may be made to The Audubon Society of Rhode Island https://asri.org/donate-membership/in-memory-gift.html.


  • Funeral Service Wednesday, August 14, 2019
  • Burial Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Joel S. Silverberg

have a memory or condolence to add?

Howard Boksenbaum

August 14, 2019

On top of everything else, Joel was a synthesizer and a researcher; in one instance, he combined two facets of what we shared in a unique and generous gift to me - a copy of The Hobbit (Der Hobbit) translated into Yiddish. . . .

Judith Stokes

August 14, 2019

My favorite times with Joel were the Tu B’Shevat seders we used to have when Sarah and our daughters were young. Tu B’Shevat is a pretty obscure Jewish holiday, but when I learned about it, I thought what could be more fun with a bunch of kids than a holiday celebrating trees, including a 3 course meal made entirely of fruits and nuts, interspersed with 4 glasses of grape juice (or wine for grown-ups) in 4 colors made by mixing white and red juice … well, it was fun for all of us, but I think Joel enjoyed it most of all, and he let it show.

What I will miss most about Joel is the way he could make Tish’s face light up with just a few words or a call.

Martha Boksenbaum

August 14, 2019

Joel was a dear sweet man, and one of the many wonderful people my parents surrounded me and my sister with from when we were children. I will miss seeing him at New Year's parties, and remember the sukkots we celebrated with his family in his backyard.

Yajni Warnapala

August 14, 2019

Joel loved math and was always ready for a debate. He loved life and was always willing to give advise.
Mostly I remember him as a devoted Dad to his only daughter!

Michael Grunko

August 13, 2019

Joel and I were friends throughout high school. This was before the title "geek" became popular. With friends like Diana Royce, Mark Smith, Jim Flood, Trudy Nelson, Jeanne Amnotte, George Paine and others we socialized and held our own discussion groups on subjects like the Vietnam War, abortion, religion and civil rights. I was first amazed by his musical talent.

I was lucky enough to stay in touch with him and his wife Tish over the years. He was a man with a great mind.

I will dearly miss him.