Friday, October 17, 2014
Touching Lives, Leaving a Legacy
The world stands upon three pillars: Torah, divine service, and acts of loving kindness.
~Pirke Avot 1:2
At the end of this month, the staff and residents of the Jewish Home will bid a fond farewell to Rabbi Anthony Elman. Rabbi Elman came to the Home as an intern in 2004. He became rabbi of Grancell Village in 2006 and director of spiritual life for the Home in 2012. The impact Rabbi Elman has had on everyone at the Home is truly remarkable. His intelligence, kindness and compassion have served us well at every turn, in times of tremendous grief and sadness, joy and laughter, and teachable moments.
Before beginning life as a spiritual leader, Rabbi Elman had three very full careers: attorney, social worker, and psychotherapist. “Law is about being organized and being able to write,” explains Rabbi Elman. “Psychotherapy taught me how to listen in a way that can bring out what really may be going on. These skills have been very helpful to me as a rabbi.”
While there are many memorable moments Rabbi Elman will take with him, a few really stand out. “My first High Holy Days at the Home I gave two sermons. The first was formal and carefully prepared, given from the bimah. The second I went into with a few notes and sat on the front of the bimah. I talked about how God had opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a spring which she hadn’t seen before,” he remembers. “I used that as an idea of how people may think they see nothing in their lives, but, if they could just open their eyes, they might see what was always available for them. Afterwards, a woman who was attending with her mother, a resident, told me how much those words meant to her and how she was trying to get her mother to be able to take advantage of what is here. I was touched to know a sermon could actually have the possibility of reaching people.”
Another of Rabbi Elman’s fondest memories is of working with three ladies who lived in the Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center (JEKMC). Despite advanced age and medical issues, all three attended his classes and services regularly. Together they decided they wanted to be Bat Mitzvahed. They worked together and helped each other. “One day I was looking for them, and there they were, in the arts and crafts room, studying Torah together,” recalls Rabbi. One of the woman completed her studies and celebrated her Bat Mitzvah with family and friends.
And finally, on the day of Rabbi Elman’s ordination, several of the Home’s residents were in attendance. “As my turn came to speak, Morris Steinberg stood up, raised his cane in the air, and exclaimed “That’s my Rabbi!” That memory still brings a smile to Rabbi Elman’s face.
There are many programs that were created or enhanced by Rabbi. His monthly letter reaches several hundred people, both here at the Home and in the community. He put great thought and care into creating a Friday Night Siddur for our residents. Rabbi was instrumental in our Seder at the Japanese Home as part of the Jewish Home’s Centennial celebration.
“My most precious repeated event here has been the Friday night service in JEKMC,” Rabbi Elman confides. “Usually about 40 people are gathered together closely. As I’m talking and singing — although I’m not a singer! — I just put all my energy into it. I believe the residents often feel lifted by that.”
Rabbi Elman also put his special touch on Veteran’s Day and Martin Luther King Day programs. “My goal is always to lift people to some sense of awe and to educate. The two go hand-in-hand.” And then there was Purim, a great day of fun and celebration…and dressing up!
As he prepares to move forward in the next chapter of his life, Rabbi Elman summarizes his years at the Jewish Home. “This has been the happiest time of my life. I’ve never found such joy as I have here. It’s like everything I give comes back to me double. How I will miss the residents and staff.”
Rabbi Elman, you will be greatly missed here at the Home. You have touched the lives of so many with your thoughtfulness. As a spiritual leader, you have lifted many. As a co-worker, you always went above and beyond and were the ultimate team player. As a man, you are a mensch.
On behalf of the residents and staff of the Jewish Home, we wish you great happiness, health and peace. You will always be a part of us.