We Remember Isaiah

by Arliene Botnick, March 31, 2024

He was not officially a member of the education committee, but he was at every event the education committee planned. As soon as he heard we were planning a class service, a Shabbat luncheon, a family school breakfast, he would call and in that caring, gentle voice and ask, ” What can I do to help, and what time should I be there?'” And he came and helped – no fanfare; just always there to help. He was not on the religious committee, but he was at almost every Friday service, serving as Shammas, making sure the candles and the wine were set out, the coffee was prepared, the oneg food on the table. He would also be another security volunteer, keeping an eye on the synagogue door, making sure we were all safe, lending a helping hand without ever being asked.

Isaiah joined us just over three years ago, as he enrolled in our Jewish information class. This is the path in life he wanted. He truly felt he needed to be a part of the Jewish people, and even after he graduated from the class and went through Beit Din and Mikvah, he continued to come to the class and study on a regular basis. And he also continued to learn by attending the Rabbi’s Torah class on zoom on Sunday mornings. Whenever he had questions or concerns or needed something explained, he would call or text and ask for explanations or more information. In his quiet way, he was open to asking for help in understanding this new path of life he so passionately had chosen. He was exceedingly proud when he learned how to be a hagba and took a screen shot of himself holding the Torah and used it as his Facebook picture for a while.

His next goal was to have become a bar mitzvah. He felt he had to be officially recognized as a “man” in our community. We told him how much he was valued and that he was really a Bar Mitzvah already; he was the son of the commandments, but he wanted the official recognition. We explained that he really was fully a part of the Jewish community, and he didn’t have to formally prove that by standing on the bimah, but he wanted the full commitment that a bar mitzvah signifies. And it wasn’t easy for Isaiah, this shy young man who needed affirmation! Speaking publicly would have been very hard for him. He had experienced many traumatic events in this lifetime, and thus needed as much positive affirmation as possible. He wanted to belong and fit it.

And many people at Solel made that a reality. He enjoyed a wonderful group of Solel friends at Solel, on Facebook as well as on What’s App. He played online games with some of his Solel friends, and I know they often went out for dinner or drinks together after services! I wish he had recognized how special he was and how important he was to Solel and how much he was truly valued and appreciated.

And it is so meaningful at this point to say that Isaiah’s contribution to Solel will not be forgotten. Through the generosity of so many of his friends and of our general congregation, we have been able to raise enough money to purchase a memorial plaque in his memory, so that each year on his yahrzeit, we will all stand and remember our friend Isaiah. Isaiah was very young, just 28, and to continue to honour and remember him, we have also raised enough funds to buy, in Isaiah’s memory, a plaque to be affixed to our Jerusalem stone wall. And finally, there has been such generosity in his memory that a significant donation has been made to the Torah Fund in his honour.

Eternal life can be achieved through a good name, and good deeds, and Isaiah, you will be eternally remembered at Solel, remembered by your family, remembered by your friends. I wish you could’ve lived to be on the Bimah, to be blessed by the Rabbi, as you formally became a bar mitzvah. But we want to assure you, Isaiah, that you have truly been the son of the commandments, that you were a valued member of our community, and we will miss you.

“May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.”

Filed under: Educator's Message

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