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Two Jewish Heroes…Shayis74 – Riemer 1

TORAH-FAX 5774 SHAVUOT YISKOR
SHAYIS74
TWO JEWISH HEROES WHO DIED
BY RABBI JACK RIEMER
It is a sacred custom on the last day of esach! Sha"out and Su##ot! and on Yom
$i%%ur as well! to remem&er those whom we lo"ed who are no lon'er with us! and
we shall do so in a few minutes(
)ut we are 'athered to'ether here today! not only as indi"iduals &ut also as
mem&ers of the Jewish %eo%le( And therefore! I want to ma#e mention today of
two Jewish heroes! who %assed away this year( *ne was &orn in Ham&ur'! li"ed in
+n'land for some years! and then came to America! and settled in the )ron,( The
other was &orn in Toledo! *hio and went from there to the Jewish Theolo'ical
Seminary in -ew Yor#( To the &est of my #nowled'e! these two men ne"er met!
&ut I want to tell you a&out them today &ecause they had a %rofound effect on
Jewish life and learnin' in our time! and they deser"e to &e remem&ered( *ne was
Jaco& )irn&aum! and the other was Ra&&i .eyer $ri%#e(
I ho%e that you #now who they are! &ut /ust in case some of you do not! let me tell
you a little &it a&out them in the moments &efore we recite Yi0#or(
Jaco& )irn&aum arri"ed in the 1nited States in the early 1234s( He came carryin'
inside him a &urnin' awareness of the %li'ht of our %eo%le in the So"iet 1nion! and
he came determined to raise his "oice! and to awa#en the conscience of e"ery
%erson whom he met! on their &ehalf(
Jaco& )irn&aum formed an or'ani0ation that was called The Student Stru''le for
So"iet Jewry 5 the SSSJ( He sacrificed e"erythin' for this mo"ement( It is told &y
those who #new him that he e"en washed his clothes in the &athtu& rather than ta#e
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them to the 7aundromat! in order to sa"e money to 'i"e to the mo"ement( He
turned the little a%artment in which he li"ed into the official head8uarters of the
SSSJ( And it swarmed with students who heard a&out this mo"ement! and who
came from Yeshi"a 1ni"ersity! 9olum&ia! the Jewish Theolo'ical Seminary and
other colle'es in order to &e a %art of it( The a%artment was filled with %lacards and
&ullhorns! and in the center of the li"in' room was a mimeo'ra%h machine! where
notices of demonstrations could &e 0ero,ed(
Some of the youn' %eo%le whom Jaco& )irn&aum attracted in those early years
li#e Ra&&i Yit0 :reen&er'! Ra&&i Shlomo Ris#in! and Ra&&i A"i ;eiss went on to
&ecome Jewish leaders on their own( )ut Jaco& )irn&aum went first(
That is why Anatol Sharans#y! who was one of the refuseni#s whom Jaco&
)irn&aum hel%ed to free! said of him when he heard of his %assin'< =Jaco&
)irn&aum was the -achshon &en Aminada" of our 'eneration>(
?o you remem&er who -achshon &en Aminada" was@ It says that when the
Israelites came to the ed'e of the Red Sea! they loo#ed around and they saw the
+'y%tian army comin' after them! and they %anic#ed( If they stayed still! they
would &e reca%tured and ta#en &ac# to +'y%t( If they went forward into the water!
they would drown( -o&ody #new what to do until -achshon &en Aminada"
lea%ed into the water( The waters reached u% hi'her and hi'her until they reached
u% to his nec# and then the waters s%lit( And the %eo%le were a&le to 'o throu'h in
safety(
;hen Sharans#y says that Jaco& )irn&aum was the -achshon of our time! he
means that he went first( .ost of the other Jewish leaders of those years were
afraid to ta#e a stand! for fear of &ein' accused of mi,in' in American forei'n
%olicy! &ut Jaco& )irn&aum lea%ed into the waters and demanded that America
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must stand for /ustice! that America must s%ea# u% for freedom! and that America
must call out on &ehalf of So"iet JewryBs ri'ht to either li"e as Jews or else to lea"e
as Jews(
And e"entually! e"eryone followed after him( And so there too# %lace that
unfor'etta&le day in American Jewish History when :or&acha" came to America
for his first "isit! and o"er a 8uarter of a million Jews assem&led on the mall in
;ashin'ton to declare< =7et .y %eo%le 'oC> It was the lar'est 'atherin' of its #ind
e"er to &e held in ;ashin'ton! and e"en thou'h Jaco& )irn&aum was only 'i"en a
seat somewhere in the &ac# of the %odium! it would not ha"e ha%%ened without
him( He went first! and there are millions of So"iet Jews around the world who
owe their freedom to the mo"ement that he started(
Jaco& )irn&aum should not &e for'otten( The character of So"iet Jewry! and the
character of world Jewry! would not &e the same if it were not for what he did( And
so! on this day of remem&rance! let us remem&er Jaco& )irn&aum! and let us %ay
tri&ute to his memory(
The second hero who died this year was Ra&&i .eyer $ri%#e( His! too! is a story
that we should remem&er! and his! too! is a memory that we should honor(
.eyer $ri%#e 'raduated the Jewish Theolo'ical Seminary in 12A4( The wee# after
he 'raduated! he married ?orothy $ar% in the Seminary 9ha%el! and then he went
on to hold %ul%its in Racine! ;isconsin! atcho'ue! -ew Yor#! and -ew 7ondon!
9onnecticut! and then in 1243 he arri"ed in *maha! -e&ras#a! where he stayed for
the rest of his life(
*maha was a small town! and .rs( $ri%#e made some friends there! includin' a
woman named Susie )uffett( You may not #now who she was! &ut you %ro&a&ly
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#now the name of her hus&and! who was /ust startin' out in &usiness at the time<
;arren )uffett(
The two families &ecame friends( The )uffetts in"ited the $ri%#es to Than#s'i"in'
dinner e"ery year at their house! and when the $ri%#es e,%lained that they would
lo"e to come &ut could not eat the tur#ey &ecause they were #osher! the )uffets
arran'ed for a 'ourmet coo# to come in and %re%are a sum%tuous tuna salad e"ery
year for the $ri%#es(
At one %oint! .rs( )uffett ur'ed .rs( $ri%#e to %ersuade her hus&and to in"est
with ;arren )uffett( Ra&&i $ri%#e did not ha"e much to in"est! &ut ;arren
)uffett a'reed to ta#e his money on two conditions( *ne was that he ne"er as# him
what he in"ested it in or why! and the other was that he hold on to this in"estment
and not cash it for at least twenty5fi"e years(
Ra&&i $ri%#e acce%ted these two conditions! and lo and &ehold 5 at the end of
twenty5fi"e years he disco"ered that he was a multi5millionaire(
;hat would you do if you suddenly found out that you had &ecome a multi5
millionaire@ ?onBt answer that 8uestion! &ecause there is no way of #nowin' what
you would do until this actually ha%%ens(
)ut Ra&&i $ri%#e and his wife #new at once what they would do( They
remem&ered that the Seminary had 'i"en them &oth a 'reat education( They also
remem&ered that the Seminary had 'i"en them a %lace in which to 'et married at
no char'e( And so! they %aid &ac# their moral de&t to the Seminary &y donatin'
se"en million dollars for the restitution of the Seminary Tower! which had &een
destroyed in a 'reat fire in 1233(
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Ra&&i and .rs( .eyer $ri%#e are heroes of mine! &ecause! with no fuss and no
%retensions! they made a historically 'enerous 'ift to the cause of Jewish life and
Jewish learnin' in this country( The Seminary 7i&rary is one of the "ery 'reat
li&raries in the world( And the future of Jewish life in this country de%ends in lar'e
%art on what #ind of ra&&is the Seminary and the other ra&&inical schools will
%roduce to lead the ne,t 'eneration(
I am im%ressed &y a cou%le who remem&ered 5 years and years later 5 the de&t that
they felt they owed to the institution that had tau'ht them! and that had &een
'enerous to them when they were /ust startin' out(
If Yi0#or is a time for remem&erin'! then surely we should honor and res%ect
%eo%le who remem&ered! and who were 'rateful! as the $ri%#es were( .eyer
$ri%#e died at the a'e of one hundred! &ut we should remem&er him today at
Yi0#or time! &ecause of the 'ifts he 'a"e that will outli"e him! and &ecause of the
e,am%le of remem&erin' that he and his wife tau'ht us( If Eha#arat hato#B5
'ratitude5 is one of the central "alues in Judaism! then we should e,%ress it today
to the cou%le who demonstrated it so well(
So here are two heroes of our time< Jaco& )irn&aum and .eyer $ri%#e who &oth
%assed away this year( *ne has left &ehind se"eral million So"iet Jews who now
li"e in freedom in Israel! in America and in +uro%e &ecause of what he did( The
other has left &ehind a center of Jewish learnin' that will mold the minds of
thousands of students for many 'enerations to come(
*f &oth! we can say with a whole heart< Yihiyu 0ichronam li"rachaFmay their
memories continue to &e a source of &lessin' to us! and to those who come after us(
And to this! let us all say< amen(