Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis remembered with tears and laughter at funeral


My immortality, if there be such for me, is not in tears, blame or self-recrimination.

But in the joy you give to others, in raising the fallen and loosening the fetters of the bound.

In your loyalty to God’s special children – the widow, the orphan, the poor, the stranger in your gates, the weak – I take pride.

 

As was often the case, Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis said it best, even at his own funeral service, in the excerpts, (a portion of which is reprinted above), from his poem “For Those Beloved Who Survive Me,” printed in the program.

Despite the rabbi’s admonition, there were tears at the funeral service on Dec. 21 among the more than 1,500 speakers friends, congregants and admirers who overflowed the large Valley Beth Shalom sanctuary and into adjoining rooms. Rabbi Schulweis died on Dec. 18 at 89.

But there was laughter, too, as rabbinical colleagues, family members and others profoundly touched by the rabbi’s warmth and wisdom recalled anecdotes from the rich life of the man who was arguably the most influential synagogue leader of his generation.

Three rabbis who had worked closely with him, Joshua Hoffman, Stewart Vogel and Noah Farkas, recalled Schulweis’ modesty, erudition and their difficulty in addressing their revered mentor as “Harold,” despite the latter’s insistence. “For most of us, the voice of God was Rabbi Harold Schulweis,” Vogel said. But he was also marked by “rabbinic humility.” Vogel added.

Rabbi Schulweis’ younger cousin, Harvey Schulweis, observed that when the former spoke “he looked into your soul, and there was no one else in the room but you and me.”

As if to illuminate these words, sunlight, reflected through a stained glass window, streamed across the bimah.

Janice Kamenir-Resnick, whom Schulweis enlisted as co-founder of the Jewish World Watch, thanked her mentor for “making us leave our comfort zone” and for “opening your mouth and opening my eyes.”