(Given the circumstances, I'm going to break my usual blogging protocol of using nicknames and initials)
Last night, a good friend and member of the neighborhood chevra, Marc Weinberg (שמעון אלימלך בן אלחנן דוד הכהן וסימה רבקה), passed away at the young age of 35 after a gallant three year fight with Leukemia and GvH.
Marc and I met back in 1993-4 while learning in Gush and despite Marc's general dislike for Americans, we became good friends. When my wife and I moved to England in 1999, Marc and I had a chance to reconnect --- by then he was dating his future wife, Natalie, an old friend of Mrs. NF's brother. Marc and Natalie in characteristic fashion were incredibly warm and welcoming. On Yom Kippur, the NF and his wife davened in the Bnai Akiva Bayit and each mitpallel was given a time to do shmira by the front door of the shul to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. The gabbai giving out the times gave me the 10 minutes at the end of Neila. Marc noticed this and insisted on taking my time slot --- telling me that giving a newcomer the worst shemira time slot possible is not appropriate hachnasat orchim.
Years later we all connected again in our new neighborhood in Modiin. Marc and Natalie insited on having us over for supper the day we moved into our new home. Something that Marc said that day really stands out in my mind. As Natalie brought drinks to the table, Marc quickly offered my two older kids some juice. He then turned to his older daughter, Yona (then about 3) and explained that part of hachnasat orchim is offereing your guests food and drink even before taking for yourself. For me, Marc's simple statement to Yona was representative of a key part of Marc's persona --- a complete dedication to Jewish Education and making every opportunity an educational one.
Marc was the ultimate student (and teacher) of Judaism. the phrase "ושננתם לבניך ודברת בם" was central to him. Looking at his impressive library, Marc loved delving into classic texts, philosophy and history. Any new thought provoking book, article or film needed to be discussed and analyzed. When mentioning that I had just fininshed a book or seen a film, his response was always, "Nu", an indication that he wanted to borrow what ever I had just finished so that we could discuss its contents.
When it came time to select a school track for his older daughter, we spoke for hours debating the pros and cons of each option. Marc wanted the educational framework that would ensure that his daughter would be a knowledgable, sensitive and engaged Jew when she reached adulthood. Marc ultimatly selected the option that would require the most effort from him and Natalie telling me that other options might provide a stronger framework in the early years but only significant investment at home would instill in his daughter the love of Judaism that he was seeking for her.
Marc was not just a student of Judaism. He was also an engaged member of the greater Jewish community that took the phrase "וכל מי שעוסקים בצרכי ציבור באמונה" very seriously. He was mazkir artzi of Bnai Akiva in the UK. Later, Marc was a founder of the Alei Ziyyon minyan in London and was a co-founder (with the NF) of the first Shabbat and Yamim Noraim minyan in our new neighborhood. Even after falling ill almost three years ago, Marc made significant efforts to fundraise for our shul.
Marc was blessed with a pleasant voice and an excellent ear. As a child he sang in the London School of Jewish Song and in honour of BA's 60th anniversary in the UK, he helped put out (and sang on) a CD. This past Rosh Hashana he led Maariv on the second night, davening beautifully inspiring those present.
Marc was much more than just student of Judaism and an engaged member of the commmunity. I'm sure that both at the leviya today (at 5 PM in the Modiin cemetary) and over the course of the shiva, people will provide their perspectives of this most unique and special person.
יהי זכרו ברוך
To his wife Natalie, daughters, Yona and Maayan, parents, Henry and Sema and sister, Deborah ---
המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים