Thank You, Vickie, for 46 Years


June 9, 2020

Thank you, Vickie, for marrying me 46 years ago today. Thank you for putting up with me and infusing my life with purpose and meaning that it could never have had without you.

Thank you for bearing and raising three different personalities and nurturing each to find his/her own way to make the world a better place.

Thank you for nursing me back to health each time I was seriously ill. You watched over me with loving fierceness and were right there to prevent mistakes that medical professionals were about to make.

It was love at first sight for me when I met you, and I am so very blessed that you decided to make the journey through life with me. You combine a wise person’s mind and heart with a beautiful young woman’s body and face.

Thank you for handling all our finances and relieving me of the frustration of paying bills and checking balances. I was not cut out for that.

We have been blessed to travel extensively and share many wonderful occasions. There have also been moments of worry, sadness and heartbreak.

Through all of life’s ups and downs there has been one constant, and indispensible saving grace: you have been there for me no matter what.

Over the years, I have asked each couple who invites me to officiate at their wedding: “Do you think you met by chance, or do you believe that in some way far beyond our ability to fully understand or explain that God brought you together?”

When I ask myself that question and think back on my life before you entered it, my answer is unhesitating. I believe with all my heart that God meant us to be together. Of all the things I have ever strived for, my highest goal in life is to try to be worthy of the priceless gift with which the Eternal one has blessed me.

I love you!


Happy Anniversary Rochelle and Jack

fullsizeoutput_2c3aJune 7, 2020 –

Today marks the 56th wedding anniversary of my sister Rochelle and her husband Jack!

At 18-years-old, I was the head Usher at their wedding!

Together they have raised four wonderful and highly successful daughters who blessed them with wonderful husbands and seven bright and beautiful grandchildren.

Their home in Old Bridge, New Jersey, was for many years the headquarters for countless joyful family occasions and several sad ones as well. Now they kvell, as the family celebrates happy times and mourns our losses in their daughters’ homes.

When we were growing up, I made it difficult for ‘Chelle to be a loving big sister by making a pest of myself whenever her friends would come over. Looking back it is easy for me to see why a 12- year-old girl would not want her 8-year-old brother hanging around when she was in her room with her friends.

But if I made it hard for Rochelle to love me she did anyway.

When I was 7 and in the hospital for my hernia operation (a six-day hospital stay back then), my sister walked 4 miles home from her swimming lesson instead of taking the bus so she could use the money to buy me a present.

When she celebrated her Bat Mitzvah, she used some of her gift money to buy me the coolest present my nine-year-old mind could imagine: a gun with rubber darts that shot ducks off a stand that went round and round.

Speaking of Rochelle’s Bat Mitzvah, it was a pivotal event in my life as well as hers. She became only the second Bat Mitzvah in the 80-year history of Temple Sharey Tefilo in East Orange, NJ. My Dad was against it saying, ”It’s not necessary for a girl,” but Rochelle in alliance with our mother, stood her ground.

I absorbed the message.

If Judaism was important enough for her to stand up to my Dad for the privilege of reading from the Torah, then maybe I needed to look deeper into my religion to find “what’s in it for me?”

When ‘Chelle met Jack, I immediately sensed something different about her.  I liked him right away too.  He was so cool.

I loved listening to his stories about working at Robert Hall Clothes and selling Good Humor Ice Cream on the beach in Far Rockaway. He drove me to and sat through the band concert of a girl I liked in a different town because I didn’t have a license.

Looking back, they were so young, 21 and 20, when they married, but they seemed so ready and so sure and so wise beyond their years.

One of the worst days in my life was when Mom called me when I was studying in Israel (If you got a call from the states in Israel in 1971, you knew it was either a very special occasion or something was very wrong) to tell me that Dad had died. The flight home was beyond painful, but as soon as I saw Jackie, who picked me up at the airport, I began to feel a little better.

Before my wedding, Jack gave me lessons in how to break the glass, so I would do it just right.

And now the years have run by, 56 of them. 

They have seen all four daughters graduate college and shared the joy of each of their seven grandchildren’s B’nai Mitzvah. This fall, a fourth grandchild begins her college journey

 All through those years they have worked side by side as Rochelle played an integral role in Jack’s thriving solo CPA practice. All through those years they have nurtured in their children and grandchildren the same love for Judaism Rochelle nurtured in me long ago.

Happy anniversary, ‘Chelle and Jack! I love you both!

We Are Not at the Beginning

The anguish over recent events—wanton murders, peaceful protests sometimes turned violent – has bought cries of despair from several quarters. Voices proclaim, “We are back at the beginning. It is as though all the progress we made in the 60’s and 70’s was for naught.”

Make no mistake: We are not back at the beginning. 

  • At the beginning the Minneapolis police officers who murdered George Floyd would not be facing murder and manslaughter charges.
  • At the beginning they would not have even been fired.
  • At the beginning no one would have recorded the knee on the neck of George Floyd.
  • At the beginning it would not have been broadcast worldwide.
  • At the beginning the world would not have risen up in outraged protest.

When I was a kindergarten student in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1951, my recess play partner was usually an African-American named Dickie Harvest. We had a great time throwing an orange, volleyball size ball back and forth in the Ashland School playground. We went to each other’s birthday parties, and we played in each other’s homes.

But even then I was aware that most of the other White kids and Black kids kept to themselves. I was also aware that schools in the south were segregated, and people of color there were forced to stay in separate hotels, eat in different restaurants, drink from separate water fountains and ride in the back of the bus.

In my kindergarten naiveté I asked my Dad, “Why don’t they just make a law that all people everywhere must be treated the same in all things?”

My Dad responded, “That would be a wonderful thing, my son, but that day will never come.”

I don’t remember when Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line, but I do remember when Elston Howard became the first African American player on the New York Yankees.  Back then when all players had roommates at hotels on road trips, Elston Howard had a room by himself. 

Those days are distant memories. We are quantum leaps forward from “back at the beginning.”

Times have changed enough so that we can envision the day I asked my Dad about as a child. Our profound rage and sorrow over events of recent weeks should not lead us to despair. The perpetrators will answer for their crimes. Their cases will come to justice.

Of course these things should never have happened, and we as a nation must live with the reality. That reality is not that we are back at the beginning. That reality is that we still have such a long, long way to go. 

Where should we start?

Recently we read from the Torah about the vows taken by Nazirites. The restrictions seem strange:

  • No haircuts
  • No wine
  • No contact with the dead.

As strange as they seem these outside the box activities enabled the two known life-long biblical Nazirites, Samson and Samuel, to better fight the Philistines and lead the Israelites respectively.

Maybe we need to think outside the box as well in the fight for racial justice.

Our rabbinical student son, Leo Fuchs directed me to the Twentieth century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas who taught: “God’s face is found in the face of the Other – the face of the one who disturbs us and make us feel that we should do something.”

When asked recently why he joined a protest march, Rabbi Adam Schaffer of Woodland Hills California, responded, “Just trying to do my small part to bend the proverbial arc of history just a little.”

If we all do just a little, we could end up doing a lot.

Many of us have long thought of ourselves as allies and partners in the struggle of People of Color for equal justice, equal access and equal opportunity. No doubt we have been. But these times call for more.

To be sure we are not at the beginning, but we are at a fork in the road.

Perhaps if we look deeply into the “face of the other” and listen closely to their words, we shall see the path God would have us follow as we continue the sacred march toward liberty and justice for all.

In the Face of Injustice

The day before he was indicted I tweeted that Derek Chauvin should be charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.

A friend of 56 years tweeted angrily in reaction: “It is unbecoming for a religious leader to interfere in a matter in the temporal world …you are not the prosecutor, and you don’t know all of the facts…Judaism has absolutely nothing to do with what happened in Minneapolis.”

I responded:

“Judaism has EVERYTHING to do with what happened in Minneapolis … and as for the facts: Three cops looked on while one of their number pressed his knee into the neck of a handcuffed man until he died. If Mr. Floyd did anything to mandate his arrest, the manpower was clearly there to do it without killing him. This is murder.”

In the days following Mr. Floyd’s murder, Jews around the world celebrated the Festival of Shavuot, which marks the anniversary of when God transmitted the Torah to our people on Mt. Sinai.

Our tradition teaches that all Jews everywhere and all future generations miraculously were there to take part in that singly important moment in our religious journey.

To stand at Sinai does not mean simply to worship, give charity and to study.

To stand at Sinai means to pledge our utmost to fill the world, as God charged Abraham,   “with righteousness and justice.” (Genesis 18:19)

To stand at Sinai means among many other things:

To worship no other gods, not to swear falsely, not to bear false witness, to treat the stranger with dignity and respect, to care for the widowed and the orphaned and not to follow the crowd to do what is wrong.

To stand at Sinai means to have special consideration for the minorities and the disadvantaged.

On Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, one of the sins we ask forgiveness for is “abuse of power.” There is no more intimidating symbol of power than a uniformed officer of the law. And there is no group of people abused by that power more frequently in our country than those who are Black .

Unless we protest injustice especially when perpetrated against minorities and the disadvantaged, then we Jews today deserve the indictment hurled by the prophet Amos at the Jews of Samaria in the name of God almost 3000 years ago:

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” (Amos 5:21)

Unless we raise our voices to protest the murders of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin and countless other Black men and women murdered for the “crime of being black” then all of our Sabbath, Holy Day and Festival observances are abominations in the sight of God.

Make no mistake. I do not condone violent protests that burn buildings, damage property and inflict bodily harm.  But I am violently opposed to the callousness of a system that allows the abuse of minorities to continue unchecked until anger and frustration boil over.

Though none of us can bring this scourge to an end singlehandedly, each of us can raise our voices in protest. Each of us can reach out to those we know in the African American community to acknowledge the pain they feel and express our support.

No, none of us can end oppression by ourselves, but with understanding and compassion we can move the world just a bit closer to another time of which the prophet Amos dreamed: “When justice will well up as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)