Teachers, inspirations, influences

Moshe ben Raphael
Spoken at Ira Kaufman Chapel
Burial at Workman’s Circle Cemetery
Friday, January 13, 2012

He grew up here. We all grew up here. We grew up in large measure because of him, Mickey, Dad, whatever you called him. I’m here because I grew up because of him.

This is what he taught me: as it is written in the tributes given to him when he reflected on his efforts for PFLAG and the ACLU and the Triangle Foundation: justice. Justice. I want to see justice, is what he said.

Mickey was a quiet firm steady reliable presence in my life. I suppose in yours too. I have him in my mind’s eye sitting on that couch on Kenosha street, in the uniform he wore to work every day, I imagine he put a good day of work in when he went to work. He came home and he looked as if he had been to work.

Harriet held court on the other couch, smoking Kents and opening the house to all of us who hung around because of her. That laugh, I hear it as I am speaking. Their house was a welcoming place — if you were hungry you went into the refrigerator, if you were tired you found a bed and went to sleep.

When Burt built his den of unmentionable activities in the rear of the house, you could go there for sin and other preoccupations of adolescents.

In the front room however, you went for education. There was an educating function of their living room. Mickey was a holy man in training long before he became a holy man by virtue of age and experience.

Once when I visited him the hospital here in Detroit, all he wanted to talk was Torah. He had a Chumash, a book of Torah that he was studying. He had a dozen questions about Torah, good questions, serious.

Then he was sprung from the hospital and spirited across country. I imagine he was given up for dead here, but he was not dead. He was given life by what I hear is a loving group of caring friends and family in the community that Burt and Joyce and Zakai and all of you created in California. Mickey became everybody’s Zayde and he as much as everyone around him was grateful every day of the life he was given after he left here. How many years – four years, five years, this is what love grows. Love grows life.

Burt and I were talking on the phone the other night. “What happened to my Dad?” Burt asked me. What he was asking is: how did he become such a holy man, how is it that his teaching became “We are all children of G*d.”

Yes we are all children of G*d and Mickey wasn’t just a schlepper who toward the end of his life transformed into a child of G*d that breathed and taught G*dliness and kindness and zayde-hood to whoever he met, we are all in training in life for death, we are all growing into the people we already are and Mickey always was a teacher of justice and a partner to his wife in her politics and a teacher of virtue and steadfastness and when the place he lived in needed a voice and a hand and a commitment Mickey always stepped up because he wanted to see justice. He lived it, he always lived it, he was always the person he became and he became a serious holy man and I’ve learned so much from him that I can hardly cry at his death — I just want to thank him for being in our lives.

As he wanted it, no tears, don’t be sad when I’m gone, celebrate my life, I’ve had one good ride.

And you here who were privileged to live with him and grow up with him and love him you are Mickey. Roseanne you always had your mother’s face and her glance and her spark and you boys all of you: you are your Daddy you are all your Daddy and we are all who we came from and for some of us it is a privilege to come from people to whom we can aspire to be as large as they were in our own little lives —

G*d bless that beautiful man Moshe ben Raphael, we are all blessed to know him.

jsg, usa