Rabbi Efry Spectre, Z”l

All of us in the Adat Shalom family and Detroit Jewish community were stunned and saddened to hear about the passing of Rabbi Efry Spectre.  Rabbi Spectre was our shul’s rabbi for twenty-two years and served with great heart and devotion.

I never had the privilege of working with him directly, but I would like to share a couple of memories that touched me personally.

When I was in college, Rabbi Spectre offered a class on Jewish philosophers at the Hillel House. He taught a session on one of his favorite teachers. This is the first time I had ever heard of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Spectre’s class inspired me to read everything I could of Heschel. Heschel is one of the reasons I became a rabbi, and specifically why I chose JTS. Rabbi Spectre, then, was at least partially responsible for my being a rabbi, and ultimately being a rabbi at Adat Shalom.

My other memory is how much the unity of the different Jewish denominations mattered to him. As the president of the Michigan Board of Rabbis, which is mostly composed of non-Orthodox rabbis, he arranged for us to have a meeting with the Vaad HaRabbanim, the Council of Orthodox Rabbis. Just getting together , and help open some warm lines of communication between the two groups. I greatly respected and admired Rabbi Spectre’s determination to put together this rewarding but highly complex project.

I will just add one more example of Rabbi Spectre’s great wit, which he was able to combine with his Torah knowledge. He was bringing greetings to a meeting, and said, “The Torah tells us that we should rise in the face of the gray-haired. However, everyone here has dyed away all the gray. I am not sure what to do.”

I am sorry that I never got to really know Rabbi Efry Spectre, but I am proud to follow in his footsteps.

Haiti

There is not much I can say about this extraordinary tragedy. Here is a great place to donate for relief: https://www.jdc.org/donation/donate.aspx

We should also be directing our prayers to the people of Haiti, whether at home or in shul.

Finally, just for those religious leaders who said the Haitians deserve what they got, I have a book for you to read. It is called the Bible. It talks about compassion for the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

Introductory ideas

In this blog I will mostly share my favorite teachings from our tradition, and hopefully show why they still have profound things to show us. From time to time I will bring in teachings from other traditions that have helped me understand Judaism better.

This will not really be about politics or current events, though I am interested in thinking through the potential long-term consequences of some of the issues we are dealing with at the moment.  I will, however, add some links from time to time that give a range of opinions. I may not necessarily agree with them, but it is usually better to get information straight from the source and make an informed opinion, as opposed to getting it second or third hand.

I believe we are in one of the most exciting times to be Jewish. Exciting in terms of new possibilities. Exciting in terms of uncertainty. We are in a moment of huge transition caused by the two most cataclysmic events in thousands of years of Jewish history occurring within a decade of each other, namely the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. This has caused so many people to think about what it means to be Jewish and how to live Jewishly in a thoughtful manner. Reflex and nostalgia are no longer compelling, nor should they be.

I am not completely sure where we are heading as a people, but I think history will look back on us as the generations that maintained a powerful and meaningful Judaism, one that embraced the best this whole world has to offer, while at the same time bringing our light to the rest of the world.

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