Andy Griffith, 1926-2012

The entertainer Andy Griffith died today at the age of 86. His career included many roles in television, cinema and theater. He was an accomplished actor, director, producer, singer and writer, but he is perhaps best known for his role in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) where he played the Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina.

In the clip shown to the right, we see how standards have changed over the years.

“Whether´╗┐ a man is guilty or innocent, we have to find that out by due process of the law.”

Surely, Sheriff Andy Taylor would not have approved of the Patriot Act.

Andy Griffith on Obamacare after the jump.

Cheryl Dorsch (z’l)

— by Anita Bihovsky

Cheryl Dorsch of Wynnewood, an active and much loved member of the community, passed away suddenly on May 6, 2012. She leaves behind her husband, Jay, three sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law. Her eldest son, Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, said at the funeral service held on May 8 at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El,

Jewish mothers are our teachers, our booboo kissers, our comforters, our heart-menders… They are our superwomen who don’t wear capes… My mother was the best kind of Jewish mother. Somehow, she managed throughout her life to successfully walk the boundary of being our best friend, our teacher, and our moral compass at the same time.

More after the jump.
Caring and giving by nature, Cheryl was a social worker who was also an active volunteer throughout the years in many Jewish institutions and organizations — including Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Perelman Jewish Day School, Akiba/Barrack Hebrew Academy and Hadassah, just to name a few. She was also Camp Ramah of the Poconos’ beloved “camp mother” for many summers. Staff and campers alike knew they could count on “Momma Dorsch” as if she were truly their own mother.

Cheryl was cherished for her warmth, her wisdom, her fierce devotion to family, friends, and clients — and for a smile that could light up a room. She touched so many lives and will be sorely missed by all who were privileged to know her.

In Memoriam: Maurice Sendak

— by Hannah Lee

What is the measure of a man’s worth?  If it’s durable accomplishments, then Maurice Sendak has left a whoppingly large body of work: author of 18 books/anthologies, illustrator of 78 books by others (if I counted correctly); set designer of more than five ballets and operas, and author of one opera.  However, if we were to include the generations of children whose memories have been indelibly influenced by Sendak, then we’re heading into the stratosphere.

More after the jump.

Our family’s favorite was not Where the Wild Things Are, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1964, nor In the Night Kitchen, his 1970 book of a naked young boy playing in his family’s kitchen after bedtime that has been banned in several states (including Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Texas).  In fact, our copy had a distinctively bad odor that everyone of us still recalls.  No, our favorite was Nutshell Library (Caldecott Collection) which included Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup with Rice, and Pierre. The oft-stated line by the rebellious Pierre was bandied about in our house, because “he didn’t care.”  Later, we were charmed by the animated televised production combining “The Nutshell Library” with “The Sign on Rosie’s Door,” titled, Really Rosie, featuring the singing voice of Carole King.  My sister’s three boys also loved Sendak’s books, identifying with “what sometimes seemed like the hidden message in his books (when so many children’s books are saccharine sweet).”

Born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Polish Jewish immigrants, Sendak grew up in a sad, grim household, shadowed by the tragedy of World War II.  In one interview with Terry Gross of NPR, Sendak recalled often dropping in on his best-friend, Carmine, who lived in the apartment across the hall, because Carmine’s family featured laughter, hugs, and kisses.  And pasta!  He nurtured his love of books when confined to his bed during a childhood illness.  He’d said that he decided to become an illustrator after viewing Walt Disney’s film Fantasia at the age of twelve.

In another interview with Terry Gross, he stated that he never wrote for children, but we readers knew that he understood the complexities of childhood, with its attendant fears, anxieties, and jealousies.  Toward the end of his life, he declined all invitations to school assemblies, because he was appalled that the protocols and instructions by the adults in charge — teachers and principals — had turned him into the children’s enemies — “Behave or else!”  “Ask good questions!”  Sendak preferred that children come to his books on their own, asking their own “terrible” questions.

Sendak died on Tuesday morning from complications of a stroke.  His final book, Bumble-Ardy, was published last September.

Weaver beyond Women: In Memory of Esther Broner

–by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

For more than the last generation, the new tallit of Judaism renewed has been woven of two great strands of thought and action: Hassidism and feminism. On of the most important weavers of the feminist strand has been Esther Broner.  

On Tuesday afternoon, June 21 (19 Sivan), after 83 years of intense life, after the recent death of her life-long husband, and after weeks of worsening illness, Esther’s life-force gave out.
She was surrounded by loving family and friends and by many prayers and messages of love and kindness, coming from many who had been inspired by her — sometimes face-to-face, sometimes  through her writings.

Many who wrote were, I am sad and joyful to say, responding to the Shalom Center‘s alerting us all to her illness.

Esther wrote The Women’s Haggadah; Her Mothers; A Weave of Women; The Telling: The Story of a Group of Jewish Women Who Journey to Spirituality through Community and Ceremony; and Mornings and Mourning: A Kaddish Journal.
For me, Her Mothers and A Weave of Women – her mid-’70s novels (the second about a semi-fictional group of women from all around the world, gathered in Jerusalem, who were reinventing Judaism with new ceremonies and midrash) were a crucial opening in my own rebirth.  

And her memoir of the Seder Sisters who have gathered for more than 30 years each Pesach to create and recreate their own Haggadah was both an affirmation and a beyond-growing of my work on the Freedom Seder.

Her pioneering mark on our thought and lives have already made her into a permanent presence, fuller than a memory, of tzaddik-hood.

Her daughter Nahama quotes her mother’s writing in Bringing Home the Light (p.168):

I see the day fade like smoke,
like fog in the harbor.
Tomorrow, the fog will burn off
in the morning sun.
The boats will depart,
the trees emerge,
so I live in and out of my life,
so I border on yours,
on the pillow of the past
and the brink of the day.

The family suggests that donations in her memory may be sent in Esther’s name  to one of the following three organizations:

B’nai Jeshurun Rabbis’ discretionary fund to Rabbi Rolando Matalon or to Rabbi Marcello Bronstein-2109 Broadway, Suite 203, New York, NY 10023-2106 or

Center for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, NYC 10012

New Israel Fund (Projects focusing on women)

Beside these, I suggest as an act of creative memory and more than memory, reading or rereading A Weave of Women.  Through fiction set in an Israel of struggle and hope, it stirred many of its readers to help create the facts of a transformed Judaism, shaped especially but not exclusively by women, drawing on new forms of prayer and celebration and new acts of peacemaking.

Not only that novel but all her writing and her work as well can  help us do what the tradition calls us to: “Chadesh yamenu k’kedem, Make new our days as they were long ago.”  Not just in nostalgia celebrating the “good old days” of that early wave of Jewish feminism and neo-Hasidic renewal,  but making our own days new and full of creative energy as those days were in their own time.

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1941-2010)

Richard Holbrooke died Dec. 13, 2010, from complications of the torn aorta. According to The Washington Post, his last words were: “You’ve got to end this war in Afghanistan.”

— David Street

Distinguished diplomat and longtime foreign policy icon Richard C. Holbrooke had the unique distinction of having worked in every Democratic administration since the 1960’s and was also a notable specialist in the affairs of multiple regions throughout the world. President Barack Obama said that during his long career in the Foreign Service, Holbrooke established himself as “simply one of the giants of American foreign policy.”

Holbrooke will be especially remembered for his ability to bring warring enemies to the peace table, as he did with the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia. After such a distinguished and involved career, Holbrooke’s absence in Washington will be felt for years to come.

A detailed account of Holbrooke’s life is available from The New York Times. JTA reported that Holbrooke had a fondness for discussing and openly displaying his Jewish roots. One example is a column that he wrote for The Washington Post to commemorate Israel’s 60th anniversary. His column emphatically praised President Harry S. Truman for his recognition of Israel and urged all Americans to admire Truman’s courageous decision.

Theodore Sorenson 1928-2010

— Rabbi Avi Shafran

Most people will be forgiven for not imagining that the late Theodore Sorensen, President John F. Kennedy’s close confidant and speechwriter, born in Nebraska to a father whose first name was Christian, might be Jewish.  But in the eyes of halacha he probably was.

Mr. Sorensen, who died on October 31 at the age of 82, was born to a Russian-Jewish mother, Annis Chaiken, although he was raised as a Unitarian.  He was responsible for much of the soaring oratory associated with President Kennedy, who once called the celebrated speechwriter his “intellectual blood bank.”  Sorensen had an extensive role (some say a full-fledged ghostwriting one) in producing Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage, and the president included him in important foreign policy discussions, including those revolving around the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a truly hot point in the Cold War.

More after the jump.
Although Sorensen was not a self-promoter, his death brought focus to the considerable role he played in the Kennedy White House and, thus, in American history.  And, for those who take pleasure in (or are suspicious about, or just find curious) the influence that Jews – recognizable as such or not – have come to wield on world affairs over the ages, he was but another good example.

As he was an example of the particular prominence of Jews in progressive causes.  In his teens, Sorensen registered with the military as a conscientious objector and in his later years he relentlessly championed liberal ideas and ideals, working with Nelson Mandela on voter registration in South Africa and with President Obama’s presidential campaign.  He served, too, as a board member of the International Center for Transitional Justice, which seeks to pursue accountability for human rights abuses.

Such activities well fit the stereotype of the American liberal Jewish activist, which engenders pride or disdain depending on the observer.  What is striking, though, is how noticeable Jews are on the other side of the American political spectrum as well.  The Kristols and Podhoretzes, peres et fils, are examples that most readily come to mind.  But there are many others.  New York Times columnist David Brooks famously observed that for some people, “con” in the word “neocon,” is “short for ‘conservative,’ and neo is short for ‘Jewish’.”

So how exactly does one make sense of the fact that Jews, presumably channeling some deeply-ingrained ethnic inclination, end up moving and shaking both ends of the political seesaw?

One approach is to simply note that Jews tend to be cerebral (a generalization, to be sure; many of us don’t seem to do much thinking at all) and so there will always be a good sized pool of bright and motivated Jews from which influential political players and activists of varied stripes will emerge.

But there is something else at work here, and it has less to do with brainpower than with a sense of Jewish mission, of wanting to better society.  To effect, in the phrase fashionable these days in some Jewish circles, tikkun olam – the “perfection of the world.”

And that drive, holy at its roots if not always in its fruit, has long taken Jews in different, sometimes diametric, directions.  Wherever on the political/social spectrum they may end up, though, what drives them there – often without their realization – is sourced in a desire… to serve G-d.

Yes, G-d.  The Torah makes clear that the Jew is intended to be an instrument of the Divine, to help bring the rest of the world to recognition of His glory.  That is true tikkun olam, as the phrase is used in the Aleinu prayer. Every Jew is hard-wired to want to do the will of the Creator.

The shame lies in the obliviousness of most Jews to how, in fact, they can create a better world.  To be sure, Jewish tradition requires empathy and charity; as it does personal responsibility and morality – “liberal” and “conservative” ideals alike.  But the Torah’s bottom line is that the observance and study of its laws comprise the ultimate path to perfection – our own personal perfection and that of the entire world.

Many Jews would – and do – scoff at that contention.  G-d, if they think of Him at all, is there to be beseeched for sustenance, health and success.  But making a better world, they insist, requires political or social activism; observing often challenging or arcane laws and studying ancient texts could not possibly lead to world peace, security and human welfare.  Of course, the scoffers will happily use their computers without a thought to how this or that click here or there manages to yield this or that effect.  But to imagine that the Engineer of the universe may have programmed His creation to respond to Jews’ observance of the Torah’s laws somehow taxes their imagination.

And yet, the seed of that truth lies waiting somewhere in every Jew’s soul.  Sought out and nourished, it will grow.

The nourishment might be said to lie in a paraphrase of a thought often associated with Theodore Sorensen (although he insisted the words were those of his boss, the 35th president):  

Ask not what your Creator can do for you. Ask what you can do for your Creator.

Tom Bosley (1927-2010)

Tom Bosley played Mr. Cunningham on the TV Show Happy Days (1974-1984). Howard Cunningham was ranked #9 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dad’s of All Time.”

Here is how Howard Cunningham ended the final episode of the show:

Well, what can I say? Both of our children are married now and they’re starting out to build lives of their own. And I guess when you reach a milestone like this you have to have to reflect back on, on what you’ve done and, and what you’ve accomplished. Marion and I have not climbed Mount Everest or written a great American novel. But we’ve had the joy of raising two wonderful kids, and watching them and their friends grow up into loving adults. And now, we’re gonna have the pleasure of watching them pass that love on to their children. And I guess no man or woman could ask for anything more. So thank you all for being, part of our family… To happy days.

Happy Days was a spin-off of a February 1972 skit on Love, American Style, and had a number of famous spin-offs of its own: Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983), Blansky’s Beauties (1977), Mork & Mindy (1978-1983), Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980) and Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-1983).

Although well known for playing a Catholic priest-and numerous Protestants-Bosley was actually Jewish.

Bosley died at 4:00 a.m. of heart failure on October 19, 2010, at a hospital near his home in Palm Springs, California. His agent, Sheryl Abrams, said Bosley had been battling lung cancer.