The April 29 issue of the Standard was surprisingly personal to me. First, I was moved by the yahrzeit tribute to Arthur Hertzberg, whom I worked under as high holiday assistant rabbi for three years in what was his last rabbinic post, a high holiday service at the home of the late Edgar Bronfman Sr., for about 70 people. (Editorial, “Remembering Arthur Hertzberg.) Rabbi Hertzberg gave the installation address for me at my first-time pulpit, in Scarsdale, N.Y., in 2002, and he was a witness on our ketubah. (Alla and I were married in 2001.)
Then there was the story on Cantor Romalis (“Touching people’s souls”). Cantor Morris Romalis was Cantor Charles Romalis’s son, and in 1986 I was Morris Romalis’s last bar mitzvah student. Morris Romalis taught me how to daven. I can attest to Cantor Charles Romalis’s memory of his father’s loyal frustration with Conservative Judaism. We had just moved to Westchester a few months before my bar mitzvah (although I continued to study with Cantor Romalis on a regular basis, then and after my bar mitzvah, until he died). I remember him being very sorry that even as cantor emeritus of a Conservative synagogue, he could not drive from Queens to Westchester on Shabbat. Seeing a very old picture of the cantor, who was like a third grandfather to me, and another photo of one of my rabbinic and academic mentors, two dear late teachers of mine, in the same issue of the Standard made for a surprising if familiar read.
Rabbi Dr. David J. Fine
Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center
Hertzberg — or Elvis?
Thank you so much for your wonderful reminiscences of Rabbi Hertzberg. He was my childhood rabbi (well, I was a teenager when he came to Temple Emanuel) and my lifelong friend. In his early years at Temple Emanuel, we teenagers were privileged to meet and talk with him informally on Sunday mornings.
For years afterward, I again was privileged and honored to audit some of his classes at Columbia. We met from time to time, just to talk. When I spoke at his retirement dinner, I said something like, “When I was a teenager, my friends had crushes on Elvis Presley. Me — I adored Arthur Hertzberg!” How happy I was to read your beautiful personal memories of his later years.
I was especially happy to read the reprint of his essay (“Zionism: Messianic movement or tool for Jewish survival?”). I was struck by how relevant his thoughts are today. His assessment of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is even more on point today. If only folks had listened…