[I’ve been asked to speak in English so that our family and guests from overseas will understand. The truth is, it would be difficult for me to speak about David in anything but my mother-tongue: David succeeded so well in expressing his opinions in articles and books, and he valued even more each opportunity to converse with friends and family, to teach and speak directly to an audience, to tell a story. He always knew how to communicate in the most appropriate manner – whether with a calming voice, offering encouragement, or extending support – to speak from the heart and personally with his total attention and being in the interaction – directly, with nuance, and most essentially: with respect and love. Even in my mother-tongue it will be difficult to find the right words, as opposed to David who so knew always exactly what to say and how to say to say it.]
David was our teacher, our mentor, rabbi, trusted and wise advisor about life, dear friend, and colleague. We could make a long list of the books and articles he wrote, an even longer list of the ideas he conveyed and the values and the Torah he embodied through his career and his activism, and a still longer list of the people he inspired.
Yet if you look carefully through those books and articles, examine the ideas and values, you find not only the themes of justice, human rights, and righteousness; not only a great passion for Jewish Peoplehood and an unswerving dedication to Zionism; and not only many insights into the challenges facing Israeli-Diaspora relations, Jewish education, or a multitude of other issues we face in our lives here in Israel and in life in general.
What you also find is David’s family: Stories he used to illustrate a point, references to indicate his perspective, a family-centeredness that conveys the values he was most passionate about and protective of. Appropriately enough, last week David told his beloved wife Judy that “I want most of all to be remembered for my role as a father and a husband – for being a family man.”
(For this reason, David’s family, only, will speak about him this morning.)
David’s daughters Orly, Shira, Liat and Tamar think of their father as a most gentle, loving father, sensitive, expressive and supportive. Incredibly, when he was traveling overseas and would buy them clothes and shoes – both when they were kids and now that they’re grown – he always knew the exact size and taste in style of each of his four daughters. His sensitivity was shown more profoundly in the time he made for each child individually and his unhesitating and enthusiastic expression of love and pride in each one. He used to say that “quality time” with kids is “quantity time”. He continued to spoil his 7 grandchildren –Sivan, Yami, Yarden, Tal, Zohar, Nitai, and Shani – with his time and his love. Although David was a doting father to his four girls – getting on the floor to play barbies and building doll house furniture from scratch – he also reveled in buying Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics paraphanalia for his grandsons. After all those girls, David held his first grandson on his lap when he was only a week old, hand outstretched saying “giving me five bro” and trying to teach the infant assorted swear words.
David had the ability to inspire confidence in ourselves just as he was very sure of himself. He wasn’t shy in using his huge personality and his strong sense of authority, magnanimously to encourage others to shine. His expectations, conveyed quietly merely by his presence, were for excellence—a non-verbal demand of others that you knew was nothing less than what he demanded of himself. In this way he was a great, great teacher and parent…You couldn’t help but to feel motivated by his own ability to Do and Accomplish. And as the great leader and manager that he was professionally, he knew how to litzamtzem et atzmo – give you space – in order to motivate you to do your best. Probably, David knew that he himself could in all likelihood do it better or faster, but it was also clear that he knew it was important that he let us all make it happen for ourselves. And all the while he never wavered in being a mensch: always forgiving and understanding if our achievements were incomplete, wholeheartedly celebrating and making you feel proud of what you did accomplish.
David expressed this same great enthusiasm and dynamism in everything he did. He always looked on the positive side, was ever hopeful and optimistic though down-to-earth realistic. He never allowed cynicism to embitter his outlook. David was rigorously practical, even in his idealism. He was a Do-er, not a dreamer. He would see things that needed attending to as “challenges” rather than “problems”. A person of action, David would say what he thought and do what he said. Efficient, focused, prolific, David just knew how to get things done. His enthusiasm was contagious, inspiring others to grow their own passion for the causes he was concerned about. He was a leader, and he led by example even as he empowered others to lead by his side.
David’s authenticity, honesty, and caring was what made him a real people person. He always made an impression on people, and people always remember him. More indicative of David, though, is that he remembers them: in the summers he’d remember the names of the entire NFTY staff and form connections with them all. He’d see old friends and colleagues and recount events and conversations and concerns from decades back. He always welcomed to Israel the children of friends and colleagues, showering them with the love and warmth he felt for their parents. Even in the hospitals these last weeks he managed to get to know the staff – remembering everyone’s names and even making up nicknames for them, giving the doctors and nurses the peace sign or a thumbs up.
David was just so full of life: The way he enjoyed – I mean really loved – music, the way he gave himself over to the emotional ups and downs of being a Celtics and Red Sox fan, the satiety and exuberance he enjoyed from a good steak or shwarma, and how he’d pace the room on a winter night waiting to see if the snow that was forecast would really fall—all exemplify David’s extraordinary playfulness and artistry, appreciation and profound passion and the soulfulness he brought to everything he did and rejoiced in. He lived his berachot.
David’s sense of humor was no less abundant. He loved to ham it up, whether onstage with his daughters and their classmates and parents in a Frankel school play, as a song-leader, singing his legendary showdope and shobeedo song, or narrating one of the famous slide shows he used to make for special occasions. Playing a different song for each family member in one such slide show, he chose a dramatic picture of himself to accompany his theme song: ‘he’s got personality, personality…..walks with personality, talks with personality…’
David particularly cherished family vacations, where he really rejoiced in playing and relaxing with the people he most loved. Typical of the pure fun he so enjoyed throwing himself into unreservedly, he created this game in which you count how many times a ball can be batted in the air without falling into the Kinneret. The drama and excitement of it, and him jumping all around, absorbed beachgoers in the action so that they came to watch the action day after day!
The intensity of David’s love for his family and the joy he both expressed and gave was not limited to his wife and daughters. His beloved brothers and their wives, his brothers- and sisters-in-law and his nieces and nephews were embraced by David’s love and enthusiasm and concern that made being with the family the great joy that it is. Later we the sons-in-law were welcomed into that warm embrace. I hope we were able to show our love, respect, and cherishing of you, as you showed your wonderful in-laws. Rest assured: we will care for Judy and your daughters as you would hope and expect.
David: You were an incredibly loving, caring and devoted husband, demonstrating in so many ways and at all times how completely in love with Judy you are, and how you two so successfully entwined your lives and your partnership in creating and nurturing your family. You and Judy are a model for all of us kids about how to make and maintain a successful and beautiful marriage. The way you helped and aided and cared for Judy, your patience as a husband and a father, your always kind and caring expression of just the right balance of support and admonishment, advice and encouragement…will always guide us in the most important endeavor of our lives – our family relationships. Thank you David and Judy for this wonderful family I’m so blessed to be a part of.
David, all of us here with you today – your family, your community, your students, your friends…and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to include as well the conscience of the Jewish People and State of Israel… we are all too young to lose you. You must be needed elsewhere to pioneer the way for us, to speak for us, to lead us, to prepare us and teach us, as you did here.
Samuel said to Rabbi Judah: Keen scholar – snatch and eat, snatch and drink. The world, which we all must leave, lasts no longer than a wedding feast.” [Eruvin 54a]
Although you were called to leave the banquet before you could enjoy all your justly deserved desserts, David, I know that you left satisfied and full of the richness of your life very, very well–lived. V’achalta v’savata u’veyrachta et H’ Elohecha. Your life was a blessing to all of us. And I know your memory will continue to be a blessing for us as well.
As anyone who had the honor and pleasure of sharing your Shabbat table will confirm, your favorite part of birchat hamazon appeared to be:
Migdol Yishuot malco V’Oseh Chesed limshicho L’David u’lizaro ad olam:
May the towering merit of the Torah you taught and lived help ensure great deliverances, and May the compassion and concern you forever showed for everyone created in the Divine Image be returned to you ten-fold by the Creator who has brought you back to Him, and ten-fold to us, your children and students who, learning from you, will forever try to honor and dignify the holiness you taught us to see in others and –through righteous action – in ourselves.
So appropriately for what your life was about, the blessing concludes with a prayer for peace: Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom, aleinu ‘v’al cal yisrael, v’imru amein. – May you, David, and we your children and students, help the One who makes peace in the High heavens to make peace here for us, on all Israel. And together we say, amen.