Baruch Dayan HaEmet is something Jews traditionally say when we hear the sad news of a death.
I said it when I read an obituary headlined Gabriel Cohen, 81; Jewish Educator and Activist in today's Washington Post.
I hadn't thought of Gabe Cohen for many years before tonight. The last time I saw him he was head of the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) in Rochester, NY, when I was a teenager there. He had a real influence on my Jewish education, my attachment to Israel, and my image of what a mensch was.
I learned a lot more about just what a special soul Gabe was from his obituary. He lived a righteous life. Do me a favor, give it a read.
As a kid, I knew him as a good grown-up to go to for advice, or for resources to put on a youth group program, or for help funding a 2-month high school study trip to Israel in my senior year. After I came home, he taught me that part of my responsibility upon my return was to report back to the community on what I had learned, so the community would fund future kids' similar trips.
I appeared on a local morning talk show for Gabe once and another time spoke at a Rochester Jewish Federation luncheon, promoting the American High School in Israel program he'd helped me win funding for. He gave me rides, helped me feel confident, and afterwards assured me I'd done him and the BJE proud. I was 17 and I felt like king of the world.
In the spring of my senior year he recruited me to play guitar and sing in an extravaganza he produced in the Jewish Community Center theatre for Yom HaAtsmaut, Israel Independence Day. I still sing some of the songs I learned for that event. I'll surely be humming some of them in the next few days
The world is poorer for Gabe's passing
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.