Dear friends, family, loved ones and all those who have gathered here today to pay our last respects to our dearly beloved and too soon departed Dov Ber Rafael Ben Sender… Bob Lubin.I write here this evening in Israel-a place that Bob loved and cared about so much and who’s greatest wish was to return here- and I write in tears and grief. Can it be that my friend..my confidant…my brother…my inspiration is gone? Was it only 8 years ago that you first came in to my and my families lives? It seems like decades ago when we first arrived in Seattle and had a little BBQ in the backyard of Ivy and Jamie Nugent on our “pilot trip” to Seattle from Virginia and you came over to us and in your typical joking and warm welcoming way “warned us” of the challenge that lay before us.
“The Jews here are far gone, rabbi” A bunch of liberals and democrats that value politics over religion…” But you know? Maybe that’s why we need a good Rabbi.” That’s why we need a real shul” You’ve got a rough road ahead” But I”ll tell you what. I will be here to help you…. I’ll be here whenever you need me…”
And thus the West Seattle TLC began. He was the first. Our first Minyan Friday night after spending an entire week calling around the West Seattle federation list and Rabbi Toban’s list of names to get people ended up with just us Bob and a non-Jew joining us.
“Well there’s only one way to go from here” he told his clearly disappointed Rabbi. And move forward we did…
The TLC became his home away from home. Or more correctly his home in addition to his home. There wasn’t a class or program that I gave or that we ran that Bob wasn’t in the forefront of; coming early, setting up and of course taking pictures and more pictures and more pictures for posterity. In our TLC he found his Neshoma-his Jewish soul that he felt he was deprived of the first half of his life. And it was that Yiddeshe Neshoma that once ignited couldn’t be put out… That Neshoma, that never failed to bring light to a room that he was part of. That shined every Shabbos when he lit candles.. when he shared in our Torah sessions…when he enveloped us with his warm smile and always comforting embrace…It is that neshoma that I cry and mourn for…A neshoma that I was blessed to know, teach and learn from…
One thing I can share with you about Bob-our Dov Ber… is that he would not have liked his funeral and his eulogies. One of his favorite jokes was -what does a Jew wish for them to say about him by his funeral?... “Look! He’s still moving… He’s alive!”. Unlike others who live their Judaism out of fear of the consequences of the World to come, or out of Jewish guilt-either from their parents…the weight of their ancestors legacy or their Rabbi-who really wants a Minyan… Bob’s Judaism was out of a deep appreciation of the greatness of Hashem and the incredible beauty and inspiration that can be found in our Torah and heritage. When Bob came to Daven one could see on his face (and I usually had plenty of time to because he prayed longer than I did…) that he was truly having a personal intimate encounter with his Creator. When we traveled to Israel together tears rolled down his face at almost every stop we took along the way. His Neshoma- his special holiness sensitive Neshoma- was touched and moved and it remained with him… and it will remain with me.Yes, Bob would hate his funeral… because he loved so much to be alive…Another mitzvah another class…another joke… another day with his friends…with his wife…with his children and grandchildren… with my children… with me.
Bob would also hate his funeral because he did not like to be the center of attention. He certainly was not someone that would want people to get up, praise and talk about and recall their memories of him… He was one of the most humble individuals I knew. “Salt of the Earth”, “One of the boys”, the guy in the background taking the pictures or in the kitchen or behind the grill roasting, cooking, setting up or cleaning up…The person you could always count on to be there for you in your time of need and at the same time the guy who would somehow disappear right afterwards not waiting to be thanked and not wanting to be in the way or a burden to someone else. “ Where did Bob go?... I wanted to thank him”… was a frequent refrain in our house.
The last few years of Bob’s life were beset with challenges. Economic challenges, problems with his health and personal struggles. Most people, I’m sure, wouldn’t know this, because Bob was the last person to talk about himself. It was other people’s lives that he cared about. When tragedies hit our community Bob was the first to shed tears and share the pain of another. When we celebrated the so many milestones of our TLC family they were his Simcha. Yet when it came to his own milestones and simchas, particularly those of his family who he loved and cared for so much, he became private. He didn’t want to brag or mix his personal “outside of shul” life into the world of his Jewish family at the TLC as much as we wanted to share it with him. And that was perhaps his greatest challenge of all. It is almost unimaginable to be able to lead and maintain that incredible balance of worlds that Bob excelled in creating.
On the one hand, he knew his neshoma and his heritage which were so important to who he truly knew he was and wanted to be, drove him to lead an incredibly religious and inspired life that never stopped burning. The number of Jewish organizations he was involved with is incredible The kollel, the TLC, Chabad, the Jewish prisoner services not to mention the many national organizations. Yet, unlike many who have grown in their Jewish observance and reclaimed their 3000 year heritage of which he was so sadly deprived as a child growing up in the secular assimilated post holocaust era, Bob did not feel the need to impose his beliefs and life changes on his family that he loved and cared for although they were not of his faith. He understood that his wife and his children and much of the large world in which he was raised and which he raised his family in did not have that same yiddeshe neshome and drive. What they had however was his love… his affection… his fatherly advice… guidance… encouragement and his warm husbandly dedication. His religious choices and path were for him and him alone. If they were good, caring responsible and the respectable people he and Sue had raised them to be that was all that he wanted. And regardless they knew they would always have his love.For lesser people that pull and struggle and challenge that Hashem in his Ultimate wisdom-saw fit to put him into, would’ve turned away and rejected a life of Torah and mitzvoth. A smaller tzadik may have felt it would be impossible to continue to grow and learn…if I can’t do it all the way-it’s just not worth it. But not Bob-there was nothing that would make him reject the truth and beauty of the heritage he had discovered. He understood what many of us take a lifetime to understand. That Judaism is not and has never been an “all or nothing” religion or way of life. Each Mitzvah he could do… Each Shabbat he could celebrate and give thanks to his creator. Each chance he had to put on his teffilin…to talk to his loving Father in heaven was meaningful and was Eternal.
Bob knew he wasn’t perfect. He also knew that the chances of him living a fully observant lifestyle- as much as he may have wished in another world and another time he could have been born into that that background and upbringing- was not something he would likely achieve. Yet what Bob also knew and lived for was to become the most perfect person he could. More than anyone he felt and knew that Hashem was his Father who loved and wanted what every Father wants- for their children to become the best that they could become. And it was that which he strived for. To be a better Father… a better husband…a better friend… a better Jew and the best son he could be to his Father in heaven.
It is hard to imagine a world without Bob. His jokes and his laughs will always echo in my ears. His caring for my family, my children, our shul …our community and the entire Jewish people will forever be an inspiration. The pictures that he took for us of our years in Seattle are part of my families history and the journey of so many who felt privileged to have him in our lives. We sat down this evening and looked at those pictures and my children couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Our Bob is gone. Our friend. Who will replace you…? Who will comfort us…?
You were granted another life and we were sure you would fight and be strong enough to once again pull another miracle out of your hat. Your bright red hat…but there are no more miracles left. You accomplished what you were sent here to accomplish and we must move forward as you would want us to. Never giving up. Always moving forward. Always with a smile and a firm belief that what lies ahead of us will be better... Has to be better…
That is the legacy that you leave us and it is with that which you will always be remembered.
May Hashem who always watched over you and who you were so close with, comfort all of us and may your presence in Shamayim together with our friend Yerachmiel/Bob Ross hasten that day when we will very soon once again be reunited in yerushalayim may it soon be rebuilt.
With love and with sadness,
Your friend Rabbi Schwartz