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Rabbi Hier's Eulogy for Rober Novak

EULOGY FOR BOB NOVAK
MAY 15, 2007


MY FRIENDS, ON BEHALF OF MY WIFE, MARLENE, WHO IS HERE WITH ME, MY CHILDREN, AVI AND ANNIE, AND ARI AND SANDY, ON BEHALF OF OUR COLLEAGUES IN LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK, TORONTO, PARIS, BUENOS AIRES AND ISRAEL, IT IS SO DIFFICULT TO SPEAK OR EVEN TO COMPREHEND THE IDEA THAT OUR BELOVED FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE OF SO MANY YEARS, BOB NOVAK, IS NO LONGER AMONGST US - THAT THIS DEDICATED LEADER OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY WHO TILLED THE SOIL AND WORKED IN THE FIELDS FOR JEWISH CONTINUITY WILL NO LONGER BE ANSWERING HIS PHONE, NO LONGER BE WORKING HIS MAGIC, ENCOUNTERING PEOPLE IN MIAMI, AVENTURA, BOCA OR AROUND THE COUNTRY. 

A BELOVED FATHER AND DEDICATED HUSBAND, HE WAS TAKEN FROM US IN THE PRIME OF HIS LIFE, BEFORE HAVING THE PRIVILEGE OF WALKING HIS CHILDREN TO THE CHUPPA - WITHOUT EVER HAVING KNOWN THE JOY OF HEARING THE LAUGHTER OF A GRANDCHILD.
WHAT IS THERE TO SAY OR SPEAK?  WHO CAN EASE THE PAIN?  WHAT EXPLANATION CAN WE OFFER TO EDIE, TO RACHEL, TO JESSICA, TO ALEEZA AND TO [BOB’S BROTHER] STEVEN?

ALL WE CAN DO, I’M AFRAID, IS TO FILL THE VOID BY LIGHTING A CANDLE FILLED WITH HIS MEMORIES.

WHO WAS THIS WARM AND ENGAGING MAN, BOB NOVAK -- OR BOBBY, AS WE ALL AFFECTIONATELY CALLED HIM -- OR REB BINYAMIN BEN MIRTZA?  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT WAS HIS MISSION IN LIFE?

YES, IT IS TRUE THAT HE WAS A VERY PASSIONATE AND PERSUASIVE INDIVIDUAL.  IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT HE WAS A GREAT MOTIVATOR, DETERMINED TO SUCCEED WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE OF OVERCOMING ALL OBSTACLES.  BUT THESE ARE SKILL SETS YOU WILL FIND IN MANY OTHER ENDEAVORS -- IN FINANCIAL SERVICES, IN REAL ESTATE, AND IN THE INVESTMENT WORLD.  SO WHY WAS BOBBY SO IMBUED WITH THE IDEA OF SERVING THE JEWISH COMMUNITY? 

THE ANSWER WAS GIVEN BY BOBBY HIMSELF.  HE OFTEN SAID THAT IT WAS NOT BY ACCIDENT THAT HE WAS BORN IN A CENTURY WHERE, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2,000 YEARS, A JEWISH STATE CAME INTO BEING, ONLY A FEW YEARS AFTER HITLER’S GAS CHAMBERS ALMOST EXTINGUISHED THE ENTIRE JEWISH PEOPLE.  BOBBY FELT THAT LIVING IN SUCH A TIME HAD SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND THAT EVERY INDIVIDUAL MUST STRIVE TO DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS -- TO CARRY THE EXTRA LOAD FOR THOSE TAKEN FROM US.

BOB NOVAK WAS NOT A RABBI, NOR WAS HE THE PRESIDENT OF A SHUL, BUT HE PLAYED A SIGNIFICANT PART IN HELPING TO STRENGTHEN THE WORK OF THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER IN FLORIDA AND AROUND THE WORLD.

AS RABBI SOLOVEITCHIK ONCE POINTED OUT, SOON AFTER THE BATTLE BETWEEN JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS, WHEN THE BROTHERS LEFT HOME, JACOB ASKED JOSEPH TO GO AND FIND THEM.  BUT WHERE DID THEY GO?  WHICH ROAD DID THEY TAKE?  WHERE SHOULD HE START LOOKING FOR THEM?  HE HAD NO IDEA.  SO THE TORAH TELLS US THAT AS JOSEPH GOES LOOKING FOR THEM, HE FINDS A MAN THERE ON THE ROAD AND HE PUTS IT TO HIM, “I AM SEEKING MY BROTHERS, CAN YOU HELP ME?”  AND WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT, MY FRIENDS, THAT MAN ON THE ROAD HAPPENED TO KNOW EXACTLY HOW TO CONNECT HIM WITH HIS BROTHERS. 

WHO WAS THIS MAN THAT DESTINY PLACED ALONG THE WAY AT THAT MOMENT, WITHOUT WHOM JOSEPH WOULD NEVER HAVE BECOME PRIME MINISTER OF EGYPT?  THE ANSWER IS, THAT MAN WAS THE CONNECTOR OF THE GENERATIONS, A PROTOTYPE OF BOB NOVAK, WHOM DESTINY PLACED ON THE ROAD HERE IN FLORIDA -- SO THAT WHEN ANYONE INQUIRED, ‘I WANT TO GET INVOLVED - I AM SEEKING MY BROTHERS, DO YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE?’ - HE WAS THERE TO CONNECT THEM, TO BEFRIEND THEM, TO GUIDE THEM, TO FILL THEM WITH PRIDE AND INSTILL THEM WITH FEELINGS FOR THE LAND OF ISRAEL.

I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND WHY HE FOUGHT SO HARD TO COME BACK FROM THE HOSPITAL IN NEW YORK IN ORDER TO ATTEND THE SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER’S MIAMI AND BOCA RATON DINNERS.  THERE HE WAS FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE, RECOVERING FROM MAJOR SURGERY OF FOURTH STAGE ESOPHAGEAL CANCER.  HIS DOCTORS HAD INFORMED HIM THAT HE WOULD REQUIRE ADDITIONAL CHEMO AND RADIATION SO WHY PUT SO MUCH STRAIN ON THE RECOVERY PROCESS BY GETTING ON A PLANE AND GOING BACK TO MIAMI?

“NO,” HE TOLD EDIE, IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR HIM TO BE THERE.  WHEN HE CAME TO THE BANQUET SOME OF US NOTICED, FOR THE FIRST TIME, A SLIGHT LOOK OF DISCOURAGEMENT IN HIS EYES, AS IF BOBBY KNEW THE END WAS NEAR AND THAT HE HAD COME, IN FACT, TO SAY GOODBYE TO THE PEOPLE HE CARED FOR.  HE HAD COME TO SAY, CARRY ON MY FRIENDS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND ALL YOU’VE DONE, AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO FOR OUR PEOPLE. 

ONE FINAL THOUGHT - TONIGHT I DELIVERED THIS EULOGY FROM JERUSALEM TWO BLOCKS FROM THE WESTERN WALL - WHERE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF JEWS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD HAD GATHERED TO SING AND DANCE AND WAVE THE FLAG OF THE STAR OF DAVID, CELEBRATING THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REUNIFICATION OF JERUSALEM.  BUT, BOBBY, WITHOUT PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO CARED, SACRIFICED, AND DEDICATED YOUR LIFE TO THE SERVICE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE, SUCH A CELEBRATION MIGHT NEVER HAVE TAKEN PLACE.  SO NOW, MY FRIEND, GO IN PEACE.  YOU HAVE ONE MORE BIG EVENT TO ATTEND AND WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT HEAVEN’S GATE, A VOICE WILL CALL OUT - “HERE COMES BOB NOVAK, WHO EVERY DAY CALLED OUT ‘I HAVE SOUGHT ONLY TO HELP MY BROTHERS’.”  YEHEY ZICHRO BARUCH - MAY HIS MEMORY BE FOR A BLESSING.