Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blessed is the Judge of Truth

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.

7 comments:

Val said...

What a nice tribute. Hopefully he know how you felt about him while he was alive, too, no?

Churlita said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend's passing. It looks like you were able to appreciate him while he was alive though.

David in DC said...

Val: Yes, at least when I was a teen. I left Rochester for DC for good by my sophomore year in college and, the obit tells me, he left for Bellevue, in the other Washington, shortly thereafter.

But when I was a teen and he was a Jewish education administrator, we were close. I was fond of him and got the idea he was of me, as well.

churl: thanks. Yes, I was, and 100's of kids before and after me were, as well. From what I learned in his obit, plenty of adults, too

mielikki said...

From what I read, both in your post, and the links, he was an incredible man. Think of the legacy he left, all the people he touched, and changed. And, all the people that you, and the others have touched and changed. He may no longer be "here", but, yet, he will always be here.

ciscobaby said...

This post made me cry. But not only for the natural sadness of a loss, but for the immediate pang of warmth and sadness I get when reading a small phrase of hebrew.

I don't know why it affects me that way. This is my first visit to your Blog, but I will surely be back.

I'm so sorry for this loss. It was clearly all our loss.

Babybull40 said...

Losing a friend and someone who has mentored you is a huge loss.. Sorry to hear about your friend..

David in DC said...

mielikki: Thanks. That's a good way to look at it.

ciscobaby: I'm glad the post touched you. And welcome, it's nice to meetchya.

babybull: Thanks. It's sad.

But when you're pushing forty-five, the adults who shaped your youth start failing in health.

I don't know what caused the Post to print this obit of a former resident, a month after his death. But I'm grateful whoever made it happen, did so.