There’s a great scene in Annie Hall when Annie askes Alvie Singer if he loves her, and he replies: “love is too weak a word…I luurve you, I loave you, I luff you…” As I considered how to thank you for the celebration of our decade together, I thought of that scene. Gratitude is too weak a word to express how I feel at this moment.
So many people worked hard to create the surprise CJL tribute, the joyous gala, the beautiful program, and the tribute at the Brotherhood Service. There are no words to capture the fullness of my gratitude. So I will simply say a public thank you and tell you that I feel like the luckiest rabbi in world. In the days and weeks to come, I hope to have the opportunity to offer each of you my personal words of gratitude for what you have given me.
At the gala I said that the celebration of our decade together is a celebration of US, not only a celebration of me. Just as I strive to bring out the best in you, this congregation brings out the best in me. In that spirit, I spoke briefly about two books that I have been working on over the course of the past year. Both were inspired by this congregation and I want to tell you more about them now.
The first book was inspired by something I heard on the afternoon of Yom Kippur last year. Members of our congregation’s Creative Liturgy Committee wrote and presented essays about cherished objects that evoked the memory of departed loved ones. Steve Cony wrote about a childhood doll, “Monny,” that had been purchased by his father and dropped into Steve’s crib when he was baby. When Steve was three, his father died suddenly, and Monny became the only tangible object that connected his father to him. Steve’s story moved me, as I know it did many of you.
After Yom Kippur, Steve approached me about the possibility of working on a short book together. I was immediately interested in the proposal, but I thought that I would not have the time to work on it until the summer. But Steve gently pushed me to move ahead. This past year, whenever I found myself with 15 or 20 minutes to spare, I worked on this book. It’s called He’s All I Have: Nurturing a Child through the Loss of a Loved One:
When a loved one dies and leaves a young child, a parent, another relative or a close friend might be there to provide the guidance and love that will see the child through the crisis. But it doesn't always happen that way. This is the story of three-year old Steve Cony, who suddenly lost his father, then heard nothing. From anyone. For years. His only link to his father: a childhood doll. To this day Steve cherishes his doll, and recounts how as a child he would often cry himself to sleep with the doll's face pressed close to his cheek. Read his story, then hear my comments along with a comprehensive collection of loving suggestions. Learn how to create a supportive community for the surviving child and discover my own special motivation to become a natural partner in telling Steve’s story. We hope you will want to use our book to meet Monny, the now 67-year-old-but-still-adorable kewpie doll you will never forget.
We expect He’s All I Have to be available this fall, in electronic and paperback form.
The second book grew out of an experience I had driving home from Temple Israel many years ago. It was late at night and I saw a woman walking alone by the side of the road. I stopped my car and asked if I could help her, and she asked for a ride home. As she left my car, she said: “I prayed to God to send me an angel and then you came along.” It took me a moment to realize that she thought I was an angel.
I would occasionally tell this story to different groups of children to illustrate how we can be “angels” by doing simple deeds of loving kindness. Then a CJL teacher encouraged me to turn my experience into a children’s book. For years I didn’t act on that suggestion, until I saw Ann Reibel’s artistic work and realized that she would make an excellent illustrator for this story. So I wrote a book called The Accidental Angel and Ann generously agreed to illustrate it. The illustrated book is nearing completion. I will let you know when it is available.
Neither book would have been written were it not for this congregation. As one way expressing my gratitude for this congregation for our years together, part of the proceeds from these books will support Temple Israel in perpetuity. It’s a small way of saying thank you for bringing out the best in me.