Loss of a leader

I'm in Cleveland this week visiting family.  Last night, we got an automated call from the local synagogue. Rabbi Dessler had passed away at age 90.  The Hesped was this morning in Cleveland and the funeral will be in Israel Tuesday night at 6:15pm at Shamgar in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Dessler was a pillar of this community.  His children spoke about his midos, his personality.  He was a very quiet man who never raised his voice and worked to maintain control at all times.  All this was true, but that is not what I recall.

My first recollection was as a student in the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland.  Rabbi Dessler was the principal of the school.  He was GOD.  We saw him here and there, but he was a busy figure.  I had the luxury of visiting his office a number of times due to my propensity for annoying and aggravating my teachers.  Rabbi Dessler was always polite, spoke quietly and pretty much let me do what I wanted.  Who could ask for anything more!

Seriously, Rabbi Dessler created the Hebrew Academy.  His thesis was that every Jewish child deserved a Jewish education, regardless of how they dressed, how their parents behaved or whether they had a TV in their house.   Rabbi Dessler implemented this model for more than 60 years.  To this day, the Hebrew Academy will accept anyone.  If you don't have money to pay, that's ok.  Somehow a grant can be found.  The most important thing is to be inclusive.

My sister was very ill as a teenager. Rabbi Dessler and his wife were at her side and with my parents.  My family was not particular close with the Dessler's, but because my sister was a student, the rabbi and his wife took it upon themselves to become involved.  They organized the school so that someone visited each day.  They turned a bad situation into one of support and education for everyone involved.  My parents received much needed comfort and support during those trying times.  My sister got better, but we will never forget the kindness of Rabbi Dessler and his wife.

May we remember Rabbi Dessler and learn from his examples.


Dov said…
May his memory be a Blessing.

Or better yet, an example!

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