L’dor vador. Generation to generation. I never understood the opening of Pirki Avot more than when we honor and celebrate our colleagues who have been 50 years in the rabbinate.
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets handed it down to the men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.
At the Shacharit services the first morning of our conference, we honor those who have reached the milestone moment of 50 years in the rabbinate. I always tear up as they are called to Torah along with their spouses as we honor theses rabbinic families. The rabbis and their spouses, these leaders have given of themselves to bring Torah to the world. They have taught and comforted and lifted up the Jewish people and built bridges to the non-Jewish world.
This year “my rabbi” was celebrated for his 50 years as a rabbi. Rabbi D, as I always still lovingly call him, read Torah this year for his classmates ordained by the College-Institute in 1964. Rabbi Harry Danziger, rabbi emeritus of Temple Israel in Memphis, TN taught me, encouraged me, helped me, and mentored me to become the rabbi I am today. Always embracing me with motivation was his beloved partner in life, Jeanne Danziger. It was their direct encouragement that helped nurture me through my teens and college years to consider becoming a rabbi and urging me to apply to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Rabbi Danziger’s leadership of our congregation and the Memphis Jewish community and his work on interfaith relationships was always a model for me of the possibilities that would be available. His leadership of our Conference as president of the CCAR also showed me the absolute necessity of rabbis supporting rabbis. His care and leadership led our Conference through a critical period with his usual deliberate judgement and diligence and menschlikite, which to me always beams through his bright smile and open heart.
As President-Elect of the Conference, Rabbi D continues to model for me the best of being a leader, a rabbi, and a caring spouse and parent. I am grateful for his many kindnesses to me. And that here in the safe and supportive space of our CCAR Convention, we can honor those rabbis who came before us, who raised up many disciples and taught us to protect and uplift the Torah.
Rabbi Denise Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami and is President-Elect of the CCAR.
Read Rabbi Harry Danziger’s reflections on his 50 years in the rabbinate.