After fifteen years, Dan Goldfarb has retired from the position of tutor for our b’nai mitzvah program. During this time he has shepherded a generation of children in Agudas Achim from one side of Jewish life to another. He has introduced them to the rhythms of Torah, the words of prayer and the exactitude of when class begins. He has made as indelible an impression on their lives as the rainbow of highlights he has made in their siddurim. Years from now, when these children reflect on their own children’s preparations for bar and bat mitzvah, they will have forgotten the rabbi’s words and the caterer’s menu, but they will remember Dan.
In popular literature (and American television) the teachers who train b’nai mitzvah are often depicted as shlep-alongs, eking out a meager existence through their dependence on the generosity of indulgent parents of indifferent children. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Dan’s insistence on the integrity of the endeavor – a diligence on the part of his students that he met or exceeded in preparing them – comes in a package of baseball, movies, music and a red drop-top Mustang. His commitment to life-long learning is reflected in both his recently-completed pursuit of teaching credentials toward a mid-career change of direction and his interest in attending and planning Jewish educational experiences, including the JTS Wagner program. In these regards, Dan models for his students the kind of life to which they should aspire.
Dan and Andrea also decided to seek out housing in the neighborhood of the shul. By being a part of the local community, his influence extends beyond the classroom.
And that, of course, is the good news: he’s still around. Though I invite you to join us as we honor him on the second day of Shavu’ot (Shabbat, June 7) during services, you will have plenty of opportunity to share your remembrances and consider the future with him. He’s easy to find – he’s literally head and shoulders above the crowd in the sanctuary (at least while we are seated!).
In the course of these years, Dan has instructed my three kids – and one of his own. To a person, they benefited from his urging and instruction. As a parent, I am grateful and in his debt. And so are we as a congregation. Thanks, Dan.