Monday, November 21, 2011

Remembering the Good in Ourselves

Today, my community suffered the loss of three special individuals, and I am struck by the similarities in their lives, which makes their shared day of death an interesting coincidence.

There is Joe, 104 when he died, who came to temple every Shabbat morning with a list in hand, a collection of names he rose to recite in prayerful hope for their return to good health.

Ina, a strong woman who made her mark in so many ways: ritual committee trailblazer, sisterhood mentor, devoted wife whose husband preceeded her in the same slow, debilitating illness that took her life.

And Bernie, who forever changed the work of Jewish communal service so that it reflects the values and respect our global community has for those who engage in tikkun olam, repairing the world.

Joe, Ina, and Bernie - I didn't know them well - yet my life is better because of their efforts.

I watched Joe rise each week and purposefully walk to where our rabbi would acknowledge his presence and his appeal for Divine intervention. His ritual, his consistent mission, always made me think of someone I knew who might be helped by a prayer. He made me a better Jew.

Ina was a force - an intelligent, Ivy-educated woman who knew her mind and stuck to it. She welcomed me into her temple, her home, her friendship with care, support, and opinion. You knew where she stood on everything...and I respected her for that. She taught me about ritual, devotion and love. We could use more teachers like Ina.

I met Bernie once, a long time before I began to work in the Jewish community. He was a mensch's mensch. As a professor, he made a difference for his students. As the founding director of the Hornstein Program at Brandeis University, he created an institution that forges great organizational leaders. In creating BALI, the adult learning program at the university, he engaged the broadest of communities.

The Jewish community, my community, has benefitted by these determined, mindful souls. We are forever changed by their insistence on doing good. Let us reflect on the good they did, and hope that our good works will reflect back onto their lives.

May their memories be for a blessing.

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