The Jewish community remembers Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis – Rabbi David Wolpe, Brad Sherman and more
[Do you have a photo or memory of Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis you'd like to share? Send an email here.]
An excerpt from the eulogy of Janice Kaminer-Reznik, president and co-founder with Rabbi Schulweis of Jewish World Watch:
Of all of the visits and conversations I have had with Rabbi Schulweis, it is our very last conversation less than two weeks ago that was perhaps the most profound. It will stay with me forever. Already in quite a weakened state, Rabbi Schulweis was notably agitated about the events that led to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold that killed Eric Garner in New York. He said that these police practices are intolerable and racially biased. He asked why he was not hearing a louder voice of protest from the American-Jewish community.
Rabbi Schulweis was a man who simply could not tolerate injustice … even as his heart was fading — even as he knew his end was near … he would not give up his pursuit of and for justice. And his expectation of us was clear as well — to continue this sacred work. …
A while later that afternoon, Stan Zicklin; Rabbi Schulweis; his wife, Malkah; and I were visiting, and he posed a question. He asked, “How do you know if you have lived a good life? A worthwhile life?” After 40 years of being his student, I did a very Schulweisian thing: I turned it back on him. I asked him, “How would you evaluate whether you’ve lived a good life?”
Without hesitation, he said, “A rabbi who has brought people together — people who were divergent in their views and practices, people who ordinarily would not have connected, people who were estranged, or even simply irrelevant to one another … I would say, that such a rabbi has lived a good life.”
What a remarkable moment to experience … a man, near death, evaluating the essence of his life’s purpose as a rabbi.
An excerpt from the eulogy Rabbi Uri Herscher, founder of the Skirball Cultural Center, delivered at the memorial service for Harold Schulweis:
Over 50 years of friendship, Harold and I shared countless conversations, and none are forgettable. I particularly think of the Thursday evening dinners in recent years, which Myna and I shared with Malkah and Harold, up to the end. Harold’s voice was no longer as strong, but to cite the Torah he loved so much, his eye was undimmed. The Torah, said Harold, is all about character; and Harold, like the Torah, was character itself. A week prior to his death, Harold mentioned a liturgical passage to me, and when I didn’t recognize it, he took me to his home study, pulled out an old prayer book, and unerringly located the passage. It’s not a famous one, not at all. But he noted it, and remembered it, because it was about character. I share it with you now:
“May it be Thy will, O Lord my God and God of my fathers, to deliver me this day and every day from arrogance and from arrogant men, from every corrupt person, from every evil companion; from the dangers that lurk about me; from a harsh judgment and an implacable opponent, whether or not he be an adherent of our faith.”
What moves me so deeply about these words is not just what they say, but how Harold, to the very end of his life, took them so to heart, remembered them, spoke of them, lived them the full length of his days. In the end, character is what we have, and all we have, and there is nothing more precious we can bequeath. Harold taught me this. But even more, he showed me.
Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple:
Harold Schulweis had a fertile mind and a capacious heart. His sympathies ranged as widely as his intellect. Every rabbi knew, coming to him for advice, that you would walk away with seven programmatic suggestions, 12 new sermon ideas and the sense of having encountered a unique human being. My father was a shrewd judge of people. When I first heard of Harold Schulweis, and asked my father what he thought of his former classmate, he answered: “Harold? He is the most talented man in the American rabbinate.” Indeed he was, and his loss is immeasurable.
Bruce Powell, head of school, New Community Jewish High School:
Living in the “Age of Schulweis” has been transformative for our community, our nation and the entire Jewish people. His teaching, writing and eloquence in speaking have inspired generations of Americans, presidents and Jewish leaders throughout the world.
On a personal note, I regard Rabbi Schulweis as one of my teachers and one of the people who helped to shape the moral vision of New Community Jewish High School. One of the powerful messages he taught was that “the best is often the enemy of the good.” This simple yet highly complex idea has helped to shape my thinking about moral vision and ethical action, and is a guide about how to determine what is truly important in our world.
Gerald Bubis, founder and professor emeritus of the School of Jewish Communal Service, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR):
We have known the Schulweises since 1953, when the rabbi was head of Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, and I was assistant director of the Jewish Community Center. We had joined Temple Beth Abraham, where I taught and had my first encounter with Rabbi Harold. I soon taught for the school, and we had also become friends. We got into a debate about the need for Jewish community centers and synagogues. We agreed to each write an article in Jewish Reconstructionist magazine. The subject was Synagogue and Centers. After the articles were available to both of us, I realized I had debated with a great mind and man. In turn, I resolved never to submit any article where I knew Rabbi Harold would be in print in the same magazine. Our two families became good friends. He and his wife, Malkah, and my wife, Ruby, were present at many simchas together.
We joined Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) after moving to Los Angeles in 1973. At our first service at VBS, Rabbi announced the beginning of the Yom Kippur War that changed Jewish history.
I went on to learn so much from him over the decades. May his memory be for a blessing. We have truly lost a giant.
From an essay by Steven Windmueller, Rabbi Albert Gottschalk Emeritus professor at HUC-JIR, on Rabbi Leonard Beerman and Rabbi Schulweis at jewishjournal.com:
Rabbi Beerman and Rabbi Schulweis would translate their Jewish passions into concrete actions. For Beerman, as an example, this would be reflected by his embracing the cause of economic justice for farm and hotel workers; for Schulweis it would be about transforming the Jewish story into a universal one by envisioning new ways to engage Jews in the task of healing the world.
Abby J. Leibman, president and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
Years ago, when Jewish World Watch (JWW) was still fairly new, I took my then-teenage son and daughter to a JWW event. There were presentations and speeches by several national political figures and community leaders. It was the role of Rabbi Schulweis to open the program, and the others spoke after him. Despite the fact that he only spoke for a few minutes, that his was not the keynote presentation, and that hours had passed between his remarks and the close of the evening — my children spent the entire drive home raving about him. How he had captured in just a few simple sentences what they had always felt it meant to be a Jew but had never heard anyone say before. He spoke to them, he spoke for them, he inspired them and gave them newfound pride in being a part of a community in which he, too, was a part.
I am grateful every day that I had the chance to know him, however briefly, and that I, too, was among the many he told “call me Harold” with his impish smile, and yet I could not — he was, and always will be Rabbi Schulweis, a visionary, a leader and a truly great man.
Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and author of “Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community” (Jewish Lights Publishing):
It was the summer of 1974 when I arrived in Los Angeles. A friend told me about a rabbi in the San Fernando Valley who was transforming his synagogue into one of the most dynamic congregations in the city, if not the country. “There are a thousand people every Friday night,” he said. When a thousand people were showing up for a worship service, I wanted to know what was happening.
Rabbi Harold Schulweis was happening. On that Friday night at Valley Beth Shalom, I witnessed the future of synagogue life in America, shaped by a rabbi who had a clear vision of what a kehillah kedushah, a sacred community, could and should be. The sanctuary was packed to overflowing. The music was sensational. The Kabbalat Shabbat service was shaped with kavanot, short intentional comments that framed the meaning of the prayers. The sermon was spectacular, engaging, relevant, moving. After the service, there was a beautiful Kiddush and Israeli dancing. It was a happening.
More from the community:
Eich naflu ha-giborim – How the mighty has fallen!
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis was one of a kind, a truly great man, a great rabbi, a great scholar, a great thinker, a great model of activism. He was a rabbi's rabbi and through MAZON and Jewish World Watch, organizations he inspired and founded, he has saved many many lives and given meaning to the mitzvah l'fakeach nefesh. Harold will be remembered by all who knew him not only as one of our true g'dolei dor, but as a man who personified the station and mission of Rav!
It was a privilege to know him, to learn from him, and to be inspired by him.
– Rabbi John Rosove, Temple Israel of Hollywood
I am deeply saddened to learn of Rabbi Schulweis' passing. I cherished his friendship, his warmth, his brilliance, his eloquence. What I learned from him was crucial to my ability to explore rescuers during the Holocaust. When I started what is now the Chambon Foundation to explore and communicate such lessons of hope, Rabbi Schulweis was the first person I invited to join its Board of Directors, where he honored me with his presence for over 30 years.
In 1983, Rabbi Schulweis invited me to address Valley Beth Shalom about what was then a neglected approach to the Holocaust. I have just nostalgically located what I said at that time about Rabbi Schulweis, and it seems appropriate to recall it now: “For decades, Rabbi Schulweis has been trying to get through to us that we must not waste the positive, useful, essential lessons still largely entombed with the six million: that we had friends, too, during the Holocaust, that both Jews and non-Jews need to learn about the goodness—need to learn from the goodness—that also occurred during the Nazi era. Rabbi Schulweis' pioneering speeches on the subject, his creation of the Institute for the Righteous Acts while he was in Berkeley in the '60s, his dogged conviction about all this despite the deafening lack of support that he encountered in the '60s and '70s, his unique role in caring about and alerting us to righteous conduct during the Holocaust—all this has been, dare I say it, prophetic!”
My heart goes out to Malkah and to the family. Prophets live on, of course, and so will Rabbi Schulweis as future generations continue to learn from him.
– Pierre Sauvage, documenatary filmmaker
From the moment I first arrived in Los Angeles fourteen years ago, Rabbi Harold Schulweis has been a blessing and inspiration in my life. What a joy it was to come to know Harold after three decades gleaning wisdom from his writings and serving Oakland’s Temple Beth Abraham, “his shul,” from 1991-2000 (thankfully with several rabbis in between our respective rabbinic appointments).
During my tenure as Executive Vice President of the Board of Rabbis and as Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee, I turned to Rabbi Schulweis as a mentor, teacher and confidante. Harold was always available to proffer sound advice and good counsel on a wide range of subjects, including theology and theodicy, spiritual activism, interreligious relations, and “speaking truth to power.” I fondly recall a seminar featuring Rabbi Schulweis and a cohort of newly-minted rabbis. I felt privileged to witness a master teacher gently and lovingly mentoring his eager students, the new faces of the Los Angeles rabbinate.
I also recall making a rookie mistake during my first meeting with Rabbi Schulweis in his study at Valley Beth Shalom. I mentioned the dreaded “R” word, asking my distinguished colleague if he had any plans to retire. Harold’s reply was forceful and unequivocal, arguably the most resounding “No” I had heard in my life.
As I left his study, I understood that Harold had Divine fire in his heart, mind and soul. Rabbi Harold Schulweis lived and loved the rich tapestry of Torah with passion and conviction. We give thanks for the life of Rabbi Harold Schulweis, one of God’s rare and priceless treasures.
– Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, American Jewish Committee (AJC)
Rabbi Harold Schulweis was a rabbi’s rabbi. He was one of my rabbis. I remember the first time I heard Rabbi Schulweis preach. As a rabbinical student I attended Second Day Rosh HaShannah services at VBS in the early 1990’s. I was young and green. I watched his every move. How he wove his sermons, his passion, his humility, his humor. I drank up the experience. Years later, as a young mother/wife and congregational rabbi, I was grappling with a very difficult professional rabbinic decision. Though he hardly knew me, I picked up the phone and asked if he would meet with me. I laid out all the sides of the issues with which I was struggling. I will never forget his reaction. He looked me straight in the eyes and lovingly screamed at me. He urged me to have a backbone. To stand tall for what I believed in. To be kind but to be firm. Since then, I’ve always thought of Rabbi Schulweis as the rabbi to go to when I need to be put in my place; when I need to be reminded of the right thing to do in our ever-changing and often morally ambiguous world. Somehow he knew how to act with courage and with a conscience.
– Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh, Temple Israel of Hollywood
On behalf of the State of Israel, we offer our deepest condolences on the passing of Rabbi Harold Schulweis (z”l), one of the most influential and beloved rabbis of our time. His work with the Jewish World Watch and the Jewish Foundation of the Righteous, among many other admirable causes, reflected vision and compassion of the greatest of men. His loss will be deeply felt throughout the Jewish world and beyond.
– Consul General of Israel, David Siegel
Today we lost one of our Gedolei HaDor, one of the great leaders of our generation. Though his speaking, his writing, his warmth, and his visionary innovation, Rabbi Harold Schulweis touched the lives of countless Jews and influenced the direction of North American Judaism.
Rabbi Schulweis showed us that we do not have to choose between a particularist or universalist type of Judaism. He showed, rather, that Jewish practice, a love for Clal Yisrael, and a love of all people goes hand in glove with an imperative to stand up for social justice and to live a life of meaning and purpose. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, Mazon, Jewish World Watch – all are organizations that exist because of Rabbi Schulweis’s passion to heal the world.
Rabbi Schulweis also understood better than anyone the needs of ordinary Jews, and taught many of us new ways to deeply engage the Jewish people. Finally, he was a social trailblazer, recognizing ahead of others that it was time to count women in the minyan, treat girls and boys equally in becoming b’nai mitzvah, embrace gay and lesbian Jews, or reach out to interfaith families.
We have lost a truly great person today, and we will miss him sorely. But the legacy of Rabbi Harold Schulweis will endure for years.”
– United Synagogue CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick and International President Richard Skolnik
Rabbi Schulweis was my first real teacher of Jewish philosophy when he taught a course at UC Berkeley around 1969 or 1970. He is one of the main reasons I ended up doing what I do professionally since he was passionate and articulate teacher. If he had been a Hasidic rebbe, I would have signed on as his Hasid.
A small anecdote. I spent a half year in Israel working on kibbutzim in the 1970. When I returned in September, 1970, I went for a Shabbat service at Temple Beth Abraham where Schulweis presided. It was a hot day, so I went to the synagogue in shorts. Schulweis called me up for an aliya. One of the elders of the synagogue protested that I wasn’t dressed appropriately. Schulweis waved him off and declared: “He’s just back from Israel and that’s how you dress there!”
– David Biale, Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor, Director, Davis Humanities Institute
Rabbi Schulweis met a young math student at Berkeley. The family that rescued him and his brothers were Polish-Catholic. The story culminated in the children's book “Jacob's Rescue” by Michael Halperin & Malka Drucker published by Random House
– Michael Halperin
I am deeply saddened by the loss of Rabbi Schulweis. He was my Rabbi and I’ve been a member of his congregation at Valley Beth Shalom since the mid-1990s. As a leader in the community for over 45 years, he was an innovator that transformed the synagogue beyond a place of worship into a true community that fostered activism, counseling, and charity.
My wife and I had the honor of listening to his sermons on many occasions; he was a moving speaker and constant inspiration. My mother, wife and I also had the privilege of joining him and his wife for dinner from time to time where he shared his insight and wisdom.
Rabbi Schulweis was one of the preeminent Jewish thinkers, scholars and intellectuals of our time and the author of many books including “For Those Who Can't Believe: Overcoming the Obstacles to Faith” and “Evil and the Morality of God.”
His leadership taught us the importance of reaching beyond our borders. Jewish World Watch, an organization he founded, brought schools, churches, and synagogues together to combat hunger and genocide across the globe. ‘Do not stand idly by’ was his frequent refrain – referring to the work we all must do together to overcome injustice.
He was also a reformer, who was among the first Conservative rabbis to welcome openly gay and lesbian Jews into his synagogue. His legacy and his writings leave a lasting impact here in Los Angeles and in communities everywhere. My wife Lisa and I send our sincerest condolences to his wife Malkah and his children Seth, Ethan, and Alyssa and the entire Schulweis family.”
— Congressman Brad Sherman
Rabbi Shulweis with my youngest son, Alex Abravanel at his Hebrew School graduation. One of the many memorable moments with Rabbi Shulweis.
– Lisa Abravanel
He gave a sermon about problems of being a conservative Rabbi. As an example, he described converting a woman to Judaism, telling her that she was now favored in G-d's eyes because she chose to be Jewish. She asked him to marry her to her beloved and he had to tell her that a conservative rabbi may not marry a Kohen.
– Judy Salz
I remember Rabbi Schulweis coming to visit my philosophy of religion class as an undergraduate at The Ohio State University. It was soon after his book “For Those Who Can't Believe” was published, and I was in awe of his revolutionary thinking. Years later as a rabbi myself, I have read and re-read his books, articles, and sermons, which have been an endless source of wisdom and inspiration. May he rest in peace.
– Rabbi Adam J. Raskin, Congregation Har Shalom
There was no one like him. I attended Valley Beth Shalom Day School from 3rd grade through 6th. His door was always open. He was there for my parents and I every step of the way. Rabbi Schulweiss also conducted the service at my bat mitzvah. His words and mere presence kept everyone in awe. Several years later, in 1998, I called him to speak to him about my upcoming wedding (he always took calls personally. I always found this amazing given the importance of this man). And he remembered me. By name. He remembered most everyone that he met. He told me that he did not do weddings that much anymore, but that he would do mine!! I was so very happy and touched. He shocked me when he said he would not charge for his service. A man of his caliber. “Just make a donation to the temple”, he said. He also gave me other advice about mezuzahs and keeping kosher. He shared stories about his father with me. He was so open, open-minded, and modern. So humble, gentle, and kind. I was concerned that my wedding was not going to be “glatt” kosher and other rabbis had a problem with that. He said that he didn't believe in this. And that it was ok. I asked him if every door in my home should have a mezuzah and he said only the front door that blesses the home. He made being Jewish easy and fun. “Do-able”! My fiance (now husband) and I met with him in his humble office before the wedding. My husband had had bad experiences with Rabbis and Judaism in General. Rabbi Schulweiss changed his negative ideas around in that one meeting. My husband loved him and his teachings as much as I did! I can't say enough, how special this man was. To the world, to Judaism, to every family and every single individual he touched. After the wedding I gave Rabbi Schulweiss a meaningful Jewish tapestry (at the time I really didn't know what the scene depicted). I went to visit him, some time after the gift and after the wedding. To my surprise, he had proudly hung the tapestry right in his office. I thought to myself, this man must receive so many gifts, he must have so many nice, important possessions. And he hung mine up! In his small, private office. And, in such a beautiful way. With a light shining just right on it, and a beautiful mount. He took the time to explain to me that it portrayed Aaron from the Torah. Well, my third child, who is now 4, is named Aaron. He has impacted my life in so many ways. I must also say, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” His wife is amazing, understanding, caring, strong, and loving as well. What a beautiful couple. G- d bless his soul and continue to bless his beautiful wife.
With Love and Gratitude.
– Elizabeth Ahdoot-Ebrahimian
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis with other L.A. Conservative Rabbi's at the 2011 Masorti Foundation Dinner.
– Barbara Berci
I knew Rabbi Schulweis from the 1960s when he was a rabbi in oakland. I was in my teens. So sorry to hear he passed. may the gates open wide for him. Would be pleased to share my reflections.
– Judith Bendor
I had the privilege of having Rabbi Harold Schulweis as my philosophy teacher at HUC-JIR LA. It was an amazing few months. The highlight, of course, was when he introduced his notion of “Predicate Theology”. His thinking and his social activism have been an inspiration ever since. We were fortunate to have him for so many years.
– Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, Beth Shir Shalom
Seventeen years ago my daughter living in Sydney Australia at the time had a baby boy. The Brit was conducted by a physician and a rabbi. After my daughter said the required prayers in perfect Hebrew the rabbi turned to me and commented that my daughter had had a good Hebrew education and asked what synagogue did we belong to and who was the rabbi. When I told him Valley Beth Shalom and Rabbi Schulweis he was almost jumping up and down with excitement that we knew Rabbi Schulweis. Our beloved Rabbi Schulweis was a great influence even half a world away. May his name be a blessing for the whole world.
– Sharon Thompson Glass
While getting my hair done one day, I picked up a copy of the Heritage, an eight-page now-defunct Jewish newspaper and read that Rabbi Harold Schulweis was giving a lecture at 8 p.m. on Friday night on the subject of Kiruv, conversion to Judaism and I needed to be there. Raised Catholic, I rejected that philosophy in early adulthood, and here and there attended Jewish lectures, including one at the Jewish Federation by Valley Beth Shalom concerning Jewish acceptance of gays and lesbians. Someday, I would have to check out VBS, but had never got around to it.
I sat far back in the shul in case I might become uncomfortable and want to leave. As Rabbi Schulweis started to speak, I was mesmerized by what he had to say and how eloquently he offered the opportunity to be part of the Jewish people. Ten minutes into his talk, I understood that I was meant to be there, that I had found my people, that I had come home to my faith. Rabbi Schulweis was a masterful presenter of Judaism, what we Jews had done well, done badly but were meant to heal the world. He was an influence that stuck in your mind and is as clear today as it was the moment he spoke.
My life has forever been changed for the better, and for the people I have learned to help, because he had a vision of welcoming sincere people into the Jewish faith. I will miss his presence in this life, but Hashem has welcomed him to Gan Eden for the reward he justly deserves.
– Bracha Sarah Meyerowitcz
Rabbi Harold Schulweis z”l and I began our San Fernando careers in 1970. I started at Los Angeles Valley College the first accredited Jewish Studies program at a public college in the State of California and he at Valley Beth Shalom set the standard of the ideal American Rabbi and why Shul matters. We shared Bronx birth and moxie, Yeshiva Rabbi Israel Salanter musar (ethical teaching), and Yeshiva University contact (I at MTA High School and he at Teachers Institute). He spoke at LAVC and I spoke at VBS (Auschwitz Convent Controversy). In typical Salanter tradition we disagreed on what we disagreed. A Bronx tale. I was a guest at the Shulweis home on the first night of Passover 1975. Traditional readings, outstanding commentary,geschmaked pesachdik food, and all is well. Then the Open Door for Elijah and Shulweis proclaimed that he doesn't plead to the Almighty to pour out His wrath upon the nations that know Him not for if they do they would not devour Jacob and laid waste his habitation. That night's additional Passover question asked by me, why not? The Rabbi responded that the “curse of nations” is medieval tradition and further not respecting the Other. Like hell it is not as I rushed to the open door and shreied in the Encino Hills the justice paragraph of the Haggadah. Returning to the table of befuddled guests, I said, “Harold, a couple of months ago the United Nations declared “Zionism is Racism.” That is why the shefokh chamatkha is justified. This past summer's “Operation Protective Edge” and ant-Zionist and Jewish hatred related matters cement the importance of this charge. Barukh Dayyan Ha-Emet. May all be comforted in and by the legacy of Rabbi Harold Shulweis z'l.
– Prof. Zev Garber. Emeritus Professor and Chair Jewish Studies and Philosophy, LAVC
How does the voice of a man make the world a better place? How can this man's dreams touch the poorest of souls on the other side of the world? How can a man live his life with Tikkun Olam as his goal and have this quest for world repair spur those around him into social action like ripples on water? The quiet voice that was yours, Rabbi, that I heard from the bimah and on your house phone when I called in need, was the voice that gave sound to your strength, sound to your soul, and offered insight into the situation. You always had the wisest of answers to life's issues. Your quiet voice, your voice of strength, offered answers that brought quiet to my personal fears; your voice illuminated a paths of action for your congregation which melted problems into a road of just and righteous possibility. Your leadership was our synagogue's beacon; we understood by your voice which couched great wisdom what needed to be done; your ideas then were brought into bloom and then flowered to benefit those in need. I will sadly miss your life which nourished my learning.
My deepest and life-long appreciation to Rabbi Schulweis, z'l. Baruch Dyan haEmet.
– Marion (Manya) Phillips, Stamford, Connecticut.
What I learned from my Rabbi, makes me Jewish in the way that I am Jewish.
I learned to struggle with God and darkness in our world
That I needed to define my Judaism as the vehicle for those struggles
That when we bring good to the world through our actions
We bring God into this world
Darkness is the absence of God and Good
And it is our role to listen to our conscience to evoke goodness and struggle with the God within through that process
To embrace the “Isra” (struggle/fight) with “el” God in our daily thoughts and actions on earth
I learned that we are One
With everyone and everything
That we are connected through time and space
Not only to ourselves but to the stranger, and those injustices
Not only done to us and our ancestors but to those far away from where we are
This is poem inspired by what I learned from my Rabbi and how I aspire to live my life as a Jew due his teachings and lived “dugma” (example). May his memory be blessed.
May we learn to see the sacred spark
in every person
May we learn to see that glowing warm light
in ourselves and
through the eye of
May we become agents
in the ongoing creation
May our day to day actions
the spread of a canopy of peace
That protectively hovers
over and within
you, your loved ones,
and those we’ll never meet
– Ron Avi Astor Ph.D., Lenore Stein-Wood and William S. Wood Professor of School Behavioral Health, University of Southern California
I have had the honor of being involved with Jewish World Watch and Rabbi Schulweis for the last 10 years. By allowing me to be part of his extraordinary vision, Rabbi Schulweis altered my view, not only of the world, but my place in it. By starting JWW, he challenged me and many others to leave our comfort zones and recognize that we can in fact DO something in places that seem so far away and remote. And he allowed me to connect with people in remote areas whose humanity touch me in a deep and profound way and whom I now carry in my heart always. I see the world and our interconnectivity differently because of Rabbi Schulweis.
But most of all, I have been so touched by his inclusiveness. I love that JWW embraces anyone who needs us and that while steeped in Jewish tradition, we welcome and embrace all faiths. It is a powerful message that the world needs more of.
— Diana Buckhantz, Board Member, Jewish World Watch
I am one of the fortunate thousands who had the privilege of learning from and being a friend of Rabbi Schulweis.
He listened, he heard, he understood, he inspired, he gave his heart and his mind. He unwrapped my Jewish soul.
His soul lives on.
I came to celebrate the high holidays with a friend, and her family. I am not jewish, black, and born in England. The good Rabbi reached out to me, dressed me in the clothes worn at the ceremony, and welcomed me to the tribe. He was a wonderful man that had love in his heart for all. His sermon was inspirational, and though I met him only twice, was compelled to write to you when I learned of his passing.
I was deeply saddened for your/our loss of a great teacher. A man that truly walked the path of a loving God. He will live forever in my heart, as I am sure he will in that of his congregation.
In Pirkai Avot, Ben Zoma asks: Who is wise? …and answers… One who learns from every man. Rabbi Schulweis derived meaningful lessons from wherever he could. How fortunate we are to have seen much of the world through his eyes, his mind and his heart.
It is rewarding and uplifting to sense the man he was through his words.
Here are some of them:
By reviewing the aftermath of the Korach rebellion, finding that the Lord commanded that the firepans of the rebels were to be made into beaten plates for a covering of the alter, he taught us that “something holy from something unholy – even sinful, could be created.”
“The objects of idolatrous adorations, the Rabbis warned, were not in themselves evil. Stars, moon, trees, sun are not unholy. It is the worship of portions of creation as if they were the whole of creation that eclipses the unity of God’s world and profanes it. When institutions or ideologies arrogate to themselves exclusive truth and dismiss all others as aberrations, the plentitude and grandeur of Judaism are impoverished.
(Moment magazine, September, 1985)
“Whoever glorifies himself by humiliating someone else has no share in the future world.”
(Quoting Maimonides, Moment magazine, December, 1985)
“In the first chapter of Genesis, God does not create something from nothing. His key contribution is dividing – setting up a value system.”
(Sermon – 11/1/86).
Ahavah = 13 (Numerology)
13 x 2 = 26 = Yehovah
“If you want to believe, then love.”
(Rabbi Schulweis quoting Martin Buber, 12/29/90)
“Science measures and weighs what is; faith is concerned with what ought to be.”
(Rabbi Harold Schulweis in VBS the Shalom 18 #7 March, 1991 p3).
“The word for miracle in Hebrew is Nes, a sign. Hence significant.”
(Rabbi Harold Schulweis, Friday, 12/9/1994 with Cardinal Mahoney)
“In her book, Today’s children and Yesterday’s Heritage, Sophia Fahs suggested a game to answer the “where” question. (Where is God?) I decided to adopt her game with my daughter. I asked her to touch my arms. She did. I asked her to touch my chest. She did. I asked her to touch my nose. She did. I then asked her to touch my love…she could not. She smiled. The exercise was an introduction to a deeper understanding of faith.”
(Harold M. Schulweis. For Those Who Can’t Believe. Harper Collins, NY, 1994 p22)
“Godliness, like love, is located not ‘in me’ or ‘in you’ but between us. Love is not ‘on’ the object or ‘in’ the object but between them. Like the experience of Godliness, love points to a relationship with an ‘other’.
In Judaism, the importance of ‘betweeness is expressed in the high value that tradition places on community. Acts of holiness, such as the recitation of the mourners kaddish and the public reading of the Torah, require a minyan, the quorum of 10 representatives of the community.”
(Harold M. Schulweis. For Those Who Can’t Believe. Harper Collins, NY, 1994 p24)
“A window shut open is as useless as a window shut closed. In either case, you’ve lost the use of the window.”
(Philopher Carlyle Marney quoted by Harold M. Schulweis: For Those Who Can’t Believe. Harper Collns, NY 1994 p27 (taken from Stages of Faith by James Fowler in Psychology Today 11/83).
“Where man ceases believing in something, it isn’t that he believes in nothing, but that he then believes in anything.”
(GK Chesterton quoted by Harold M. Schulweis – For Those Who Can’t Believe; Harper Collins, NY 1994 in Religious nature abhors a vacuum. P27)
“There is nothing that we can rightly pray for that does not make demands on us. The object of petition is to energize us to act outside the threshold of the sanctuary.”
(Harold M. Schulweis. For Those Who Can’t Believe. Harper Collins, NY, 1994.p39)
“True wisdom is the ability to act when it is necessary on the basis of incomplete information.”
(Robert Frost quoted by Harold Schulweis – VBS vol 23# Nov., 1995, mentioned in the Yom Kippur sermon).
“Shema is the central prayer of Judaism. It talks of God, not as all powerful or as all wise or as eternal – but as one. We are the witnesses of God’s existence, which is demonstrated by our actions.”
(Rabbi Harold Schulweis Rosh Hashana sermon 10/1/1997 on Echod: We are one with God and with each other.)
“To paraphrase George Santayana, the effort to embrace humanity in general is as foolhardy as the attempt ‘to speak in general without using any language in particular.’ Judaism is the particular language through which Jews address humanity. Although the Bible originates out of the needs, intuitions, and revelations of a particular people, its wisdom and ethics burst into the public domain of humanity.”
“Sharansky cited Cynthia Ozick’s telling of the Jewish folk tale in which a naif asks the rabbi why one blows the shofar through the narrow side of the ram’s horn rather than through the wide side. The rabbi answered, if you blow it into the wide end, no sound will be emitted. But if you blow through the narrow side, it will reach into the outer limits. Like charity, compassion begins at home, but it does not end there.”(Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, From: I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl. Edited by Judea and Ruth Pearl. Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2004, pages 177-81)
“Whatever the situation under discussion, God is not to be found in the cause; God is found in the response.”
(Harold Schulweis, Jan 31, 2005 evening meeting about Darfur).
“The mark of a civilized human being is the ability to count…and to cry.”
(Harold Schulweis quoting Bertrand Russell…in the context of Darfur)
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