Saturday, December 27, 2008

barack obama on arnold jacob wolf z"l

some of the jewish content and knowledge of arnie's life in this piece sound as if the president-elect had help with his homework. however, i still take it as a heartfelt tribute to the life and work of his neighbour the rabbi.

"Letter from President-Elect Barack Obama
Funeral of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf
December 26, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who was not just our neighbor, but a dear friend to Michelle and me. We are joined in this time of grief by the entire Hyde Park community, the American Jewish Community, and all those who shared Rabbi Wolf's passion for learning and profound commitment to serving others. Today we bid farewell to a titan of moral strength and a champion of social justice.

Rabbi Wolf always remained true to the meaning of being a rabbi: he was a teacher. He took great pleasure in delving into Judaism's ancient texts, drawing out lessons about right and wrong, and inspiring young people to engage the world and strive to improve it. He transformed the historic tradition into a catalyst for Tikkun Olam - the sacred pursuit of repairing a broken world in our own time. He taught us by example that we must pray not just with words, but with deeds - and that we must truly live the meaning of "love thy neighbor as thyself."

In the great Rabbinical tradition, Rabbi Wolf was passionate and provoc ative in this work - and my conversations with him were always lively. You knew that if he disagreed with you, he would let you know in no uncertain terms - especially if he thought you were overlooking the moral dimensions of an issue, or rationalizing your own failure to live up to the highest moral principles. But he did it with kindness, and often with a smile or a laugh to let you know that even though you were just plain wrong, and had no idea what you were talking about, he still loved you.

Rabbi Wolf's commitment to justice started early in life. As a young rabbi serving at a turbulent time for our nation, he was determined to fight discrimination of any kind, and his involvement in the Civil Rights movement alongside Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel helped strengthen the bonds between the Jewish and African-American communities.

Rabbi Wolf embarked on an historic experiment with the founding of Congregation Solel on Chicago's North Shore. Solel, which means "trailblazer," describes him well. He was proud to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an honored guest speaker. He was among the first to introduce to Chicago the writings of Elie Wiesel and Holocaust studies. And he never shied away from controversy or challenge when he saw an opportunity to advance the cause of freedom.

Throughout Chicago and in Jewish homes and classrooms across our country, Rabbi Wolf's name is synonymous with service, social action, and the possibility of change. He will be remembered as a loving husband and father, an engaging teacher, a kindhearted shepherd for the K.A.M. Isaiah community, and a tireless advocate of peace for the United States, Israel and the world.

And I will always be personally grateful for the support he showed me as I embarked on my own journey. In a piece Rabbi Wolf wrote on my behalf months ago, he wrote that he was proud to be my neighbor and that he hoped to someday visit me in the White House. In the end, however, the honor was all mine. And while he may not have lived to pay that visit to the Oval Office, I hope that his spirit of love, his love of learning, and his deep dedication to serving others will live on in the work I do each day. May his memory be a blessing and a comfort to us all and an inspiration for the generations to come."

ps it has really not been a good couple of days. one of my oldest and dearest friends, with whom i have shared the journey of rabbis' daughters who become rabbis, has suddenly lost her beloved father rabbi barry h. greene z"l

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