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 A Eulogy for Rabbi David Clayman z”l

Eulogies and Words of Tribute
Responsa by David Golinkin

Insight Israel, Vol. 3, No. 10

July 2003

Delivered at the Shloshim Service, June 25, 2003

When Rabbi David Clayman z”l passed away on the 20th of Iyar, I was in the States, and thus I was not able to participate in the mitzvot of halvayat hamet (accompanying the dead) and nihum avelim (comforting the mourners).  Thus I am very grateful that I was asked to speak tonight, so that I can say now what I wanted to say then.

Ten days ago, Roz Clayman asked me to suggest some verses or quotations, which could be inscribed on the monument. I sent her a few suggestions. One of them was from Pirkey Avot, Chapter One: “Lo hamidrash hu ha’ikar elah ha’ma’aseh” (1:17) – “Not the expounding of the law is the chief thing, but the doing of it”.

Rabbi David Clayman z”l was a doer, an activist.  He spent his entire adult life doing ma’asim tovim, good deeds.  The list of his activities and achievements is almost endless. He was a congregational rabbi, Associate Dean of School of Social Work at Hebrew University, Director of the American Jewish Congress Israel Office, founder of the Jerusalem Conference of Mayors, active in Interfaith Relations, helped set up Israeli feminist organizations – and on and on.  These are some of the many things which David did, because he believed “Lo hamidrash hu ha’ikar elah ha’ma’aseh”.

I would like to talk about one aspect of his ma’asim tovim with which I am familiar, and due to which I had the pleasure of working with him for many years – and that is his connection to Midreshet Yerushalayim and the Schechter Institute.

In 1983 and 1987 David and Roz traveled to the Soviet Union.  I never discussed these trips with David, but clearly they had a big impact on him.  David and Roz were no doubt motivated by the obligation of one Jew to help another Jew, as expressed in the mitzvah of “lo ta’amod al dam re’echa” (Lev. 19:16) – “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow”; and by the mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim, the redemption of the captive; and by the rabbinic dictum  “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh”– “all Jews are responsible for one another” as found in Sifra (to Lev. 26:37)  and the Talmud  (Shevout 39a).

In 1989, David came to Prof. Lee Levine, who was Dean (and later the President) of the Schechter Institute.  David said that Schechter should get involved in educational work in the Soviet Union. At around the same time, two rabbinical students made a similar suggestion. The result was that the Schechter Institute set up the Midreshet Yerushalayim program in Moscow and, later on, in the Ukraine. The first step was to set up a few TALI schools; the next was to set up a Ramah camp – Camp Ramah Yachad.

Thus it was natural that, a few years later, Rabbi Benjy Segal – who was then President of Machon Schechter and who had been a member of Har Zion in Philadelphia when David served there as Assistant Rabbi – asked David to serve as Chair of the Midreshet Yerushalayim Board. David readily agreed to become Chair, and asked his old friends David and Phil Wachs of Philadelphia to support Camp Ramah Yachad in the Former Soviet Union for five years.  That crucial gift enabled the camp to get off the ground and this summer it will celebrate its 11th anniversary with the participation of 185 children.  A large percentage of the TALI children and Ramah Campers in the FSU – over 1,000 – have made Aliyah.  They are all spiritual children, so to speak, of Rabbi David Clayman z”l.

This is why, at the suggestion of David’s cousin Prof. Walter Ackerman, and with the full support of Roz Clayman, we have decided to set up “The Rabbi David Clayman Memorial Scholarship Fund of Midreshet Yerushalayim”, which will enable more and more children to attend Camp Ramah Yachad in the Ukraine every summer.  This is without question what David would have wanted us to do.

In addition to chairing the Midreshet Yerushalayim Board for nine years, Rabbi Clayman later became an active member of the Va’ad (Executive Council) of the Schechter Institute, serving as Assistant Chair for about five years.

I had worked with David before I became President of the Schechter Institute, but we really became friends after I became president three years ago.  I could always call him for advice and good counsel; and I could always call upon him to help out.  He also had a wonderful sense of humor and an infectious laugh.  Indeed, when David told a joke, he usually began to laugh long before arriving at the punchline.

He will be sorely missed by the boards and staff of Midreshet Yerushalayim and the Schechter Institute.  Indeed, I miss him already.

Yehi Zichro Baruch! May his memory be for a blessing!

Tax-deductible contributions earmarked for the “Rabbi David Clayman Memorial Scholarship Fund” may be made out to “The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Inc.” and sent to:

475 Riverside Drive

Suite 244

New York, N.Y. 10115-0244

  1. S. A.

Or to:

The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies

P.O. Box 16080

Jerusalem 91160 Israel


All four volumes of Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin’s Responsa In A Moment – Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues as well as other books by the author are available for purchase from the Schocken-JTS Press Bookstore.

 

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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