Rabbi Maltzman was the founding Rabbi of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. He had been hired by Temple Beth El in West Philadelphia in the early 1960s. Realizing the very limited potential of that community, Rabbi Maltzman worked to bring his diminishing congregation into the small yet vibrant community of Temple Beth Hillel. Once the merge had been concluded, Rabbi Maltzman became the rabbi for Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El.
As the leader of this community, Rabbi Maltzman guided the cadre of young Beth Hillel families, urging them not to see themselves as a small suburban group. He pushed them to see themselves as a community with great potential for the future. He pushed them to build our sanctuary building, which included a sanctuary, social hall, kitchen and offices. And he filled the building with a range of activities, classes and programs. It was his vision which enabled our synagogue to believe in itself and to grow strong and vibrant.
Among the many accomplishments which he enjoyed was his early support for providing full participation to women in the context of religious services. Although this change encountered some stiff opposition, Rabbi Maltzman stood firm in his desire to create a traditional yet egalitarian congregation. By the time I arrived at TBH-BE, the egalitarian nature of this congregation had been accepted and embraced.
Rabbi Maltzman used his pulpit effectively to teach, to inspire and to build. He was a masterful speaker, drawing material from traditional Jewish sources while interspersing his presentations with poetry and quotable lines from great thinkers and writers. And one would be hard-pressed to find an example of a speech he gave that did not begin with, or included in the body of the speech, a humorous anecdote or joke. Whether one liked his humor or not (which depended on whether one liked hearing puns), all must agree that this practice was part of his ongoing attempt to present Jewish life in a way which evoked laughter, joy and spirit.
Rabbi Maltzman’s love of learning was also transmitted to his community. Under his direction, this synagogue gained a reputation for serious study and education. After retiring, he developed a “second career” serving as the “scholar-in-residence” on numerous cruise ships. He was known for his reviews of books, his passionate advocacy on behalf of issues which he championed and for his ability and skill as an educator.
It is difficult to speak of Marshall Maltzman without speaking, as well, of his beloved wife, Ruth, z”l. They worked as a model rabbinic couple. While Marshall oversaw matters of the larger congregation, Ruth became a great teacher and administrator for the religious school and for adult education. Together they would write and produce elaborate community plays, parodies and purim schpiels which left wonderful and indelible memories in those who were involved. These productions also created a legacy of creativity and humor which persists to this day.
The funeral for Rabbi Maltzman will be held on Sunday, November 1st at 11:00 am at Har Jehuda Cemetery in Upper Darby, PA. After the interment, family and friends will be returning to the Maltzman residence at 126 Foxhound Drive, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444. Evening services will be held on Sunday evening only, at the Maltzman’s home.
Following Rabbi Maltzman’s retirement twenty-five years ago, many in our community did not have the opportunity to meet him. Nevertheless, although a personal relationship may not have been formed, the impact and influence of his tenure as Senior Rabbi, for over three decades, continues to be felt throughout our synagogue community. I know that you join me in extending sincere condolences to his wife, Amy; to his three children and their spouses: Rabbi Jonathan and Julie Maltzman, Seth Maltzman and his wife, and Susan and Larry Gordon; to his grandchildren and his extended family. We hope that they will find comfort knowing that the thoughts and prayers of our entire congregation are with them at this most difficult time.
There is a verse from the Bible which reads as follows:
Ki mot namut u’kha-mayim ha nigarim artza asher lo yaiasfu
We must all die. We are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up.
These words were spoken to King David in the midst of a conversation with a very wise woman from Tekoa. At first these words seem to suggest not only the relative brevity of life, but the futility of life. I believe, however, the wise woman’s words contain a message of comfort as well.
Even if our lives are absorbed like water in parched earth, that water is necessary to provide sustenance and hope for that which is yet to grow. The death of a rabbi is similar in many ways to every other death. But when a rabbi dies, the sweet waters of Torah which flowed from his lips help to awaken the seeds of idealism for the future, thoughts of goodness and of devotion to God and Israel in the hearts of children and adults alike.
Water spilled on the ground cannot be gathered again. But for those beneficiaries of that sweet water, the growth that it fostered continues, remains an ongoing tribute and legacy to a life well lived.
May the memory of Rabbi Marshall Maltzman, z”l, remain always as a treasured blessing.
Tehay nishmato tzirura b’tz’ror ha-chayyim.
Visit Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s memorial page in tribute of Rabbi Maltzman. We will continue to add material to this section. Remembering Rabbi Maltzman