Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Azkarah- In remembrance to Rabbi Johanthan Plaut

Azkara - In Remembrance For Jonathan Plaut

I am at the CCAR convention in Long Beach, Ca and today we prayed the morning (Shachrit) services. At the end of the service right before reciting the kaddish, there was a big screen where there appeared the names of the colleagues and spouses of colleagues who died over the passed year. Rabbi Lewis Barth of Hebrew Union College arose to speak in general terms of remembrance about our colleagues and their spouses. At first it reminded me of the same practice that we see today at the Academy Awards but there is no Barbara Streisand coming out to sing "Memories" as she did in this most recent televised performance. Furthermore in the old days of the CCAR there was the custom to write small but oh so intimate and respectful vignettes of those colleagues published in the yearbook. Some were longer than others but there was a record about the rabbis who lived and breathed the rabbinate and passed away and their memories were inscribed in the pages of our communal record-the CCAR Yearbook. Alas, the changes time has wrought and that technology has brought for us. Now we are just a minute or two on a screen and then we are gone. Sounds like a Psalm.
I shall remember one man on this year's list a little more than a mention on a large auditorium size screen. Jonathan Plaut buried his father the famous and revered Rabbi Gunther Plaut and several months later died due to Lou Gehrig's disease. It was tragic and profoundly sad to lose this man at a young age and especially so close after he delivered the eulogy at his own father's funeral.
It must not have been easy for Johnathan to grow up with such a giant in the rabbinate as his father. I always admired how he protected his father's interests and cared for him in his later years in so many ways. He exemplified the miitzvah of "honor thy father and thy mother."
Jonathan was a wonderful rabbi and a great guy. He taught me a lot about being a rabbi and he knew well the practical side and especially the business side of the rabbinate. He was fiercely loyal to his friends. He was a congregational rabbi and had a powerful presence. I loved his laugh and his humor. He could be boisterous in one moment and incredibly sensitive and attentive in another. I have many fun loving memories about him. He was blessed by his wife Carol who is an amazing woman and his son and daughter as well as grandchildren.  I have all the respect in the world for Carol who supported him, steadied him and counseled me as well as my wife when I was an assistant rabbi in Palo Alto just beginning my Rabbinate. Jonathan installed me two times; in Champaign, Illinois and Naples, Florida. I am honored that he came to my help on several occasions and introduced me to a man named George Lane who is now  a life long friend. George and I will always cherish Johnathan, each in our own way and I am so glad we can share our memories of him together. It is comforting for me.
Johnathan Plaut deserves to be honored in the CCAR for having served honorably and been a mentor to colleagues like me and for bringing joy and humor to life. A year has gone by since his passing and I am still saddened and still think about him regularly.

I could not leave this Convention without having written this piece in utmost respect to my colleague and friend and pray that all who read this blog and tribute to him will remember that Johnathan Plaut served the God of Israel with complete faith and dedication. He loved his family and his people. He was a scholar with an earned Doctorate from HUC and embodied the qualities rabbis should all value and aspire to in their lives. Y'chi Zichro Baruch May His Memory be Blessed

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