Hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July experience. One of the frustrating things about this holiday is that there are all of these fireworks going on and you can hear them, but when you are walking around at night, you cannot see them through all the foliage. It is very frustrating. I guess you had to be there.
Anyway, onto this week’s topic. Partners in Torah.
Partners in Torah is an organization that matches up people who want to learn Torah with people who want to help people learn Torah. Some folks want to become more religious through this experience, some just want to become more knowledgeable. There are all kinds. From what I know about the organization, there is a process where they try to match folks up — like really intellectual humans with other intellectual humans. Really philosophical humans with other philosophical humans. And then people like Husband #1 with people like Stan.
Husband #1 and Stan were “partners” for about six years, give or take. It feels like Stan has been a part of our lives for a while. They learned together one morning a week, and I would usually forget, call Husband #1, and get an “I am on the phone with Stan. Is everything okay?” Oops, I forgot again.
Stan has four children. Two are like my oreos and two are unaffiliated. Husband #1 would tell me about Stan’s son, who lives in Lakewood and wears a black hat, and I would be like, “Wow, can you imagine having a kid who wears a black hat?? That is so crazy! How does that happen?” Oh yes, the joke is on me, but life is funny like that.
Stan and Husband #1 have not been in touch for a few months. The last few times they had learned together, Stan hadn’t been well and it was hard for him to concentrate, so they put their meetings on hold. And then last week, Husband #1 got a phone call from Stan’s son that Stan had passed away. Husband #1 was very touched that Stan’s wife had told her son to call him because of their “partnership” and how much it had meant to Stan.
Truth is, if he hadn’t called, there would have been no way for us to know that he had passed.
We went to pay a shiva call in Lakewood. There are many columns worth of material in the fine city of Lakewood, New Jersey. Aside from the fact that though it is only an hour and 20 minutes away, it feels like much farther. The number of Jews there makes Teaneck feel like Alabama. I have never seen so many oreos in one concentrated area since I was in Israel.
But we are going to stick to the topic of Stan.
We pulled up in front of the house and noticed two young men playing basketball in the driveway. Long story short, it turns out that Stan’s grandson learns with Son #1 in Far Rockaway. So in summary, Stan had been learning with Husband #1 and it turns out that two generations of our families knew each other through the learning of Torah. But we didn’t know it, because Stan was only Stan (never a last name) and Husband #1 was always Husband #1 (never a last name).
So it is a really beautiful story, but also sad because Stan will never know about it. (Though, according to some, he does know.) This particular visit was the reason why people pay shiva calls. Stan’s son and Husband #1 had such a meaningful conversation about all of the things Stan learned together with Husband #1 and topics they covered and how proud Stan was of his children. It was very special.
And because everything comes back to food for me, Husband #1 treated me to an elegant and classy meal at a restaurant named “Four Corners,” perhaps because it was on a corner next to a gas station. The meal was meaningful because the only non-oreo guy in Lakewood addressed Husband #1 as “rabbi” and started telling us how he got away with two speeding tickets because of covid. Not sure what one thing has to do with another, but that is how I am choosing to end this week’s Pulitzer Prize-winning column.
May Stan’s neshama have an aliyah and may we all find our partner in Torah.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck would like to encourage anyone interested in being either a teacher or a student to contact Partners in Torah. And the tuna at Four Corners wasn’t bad either…