There are two celebrated people in my life who I met 38 years ago. One of them is my wife, the other welcomed me to the life I chose at the age of 21. If we pay attention to people around us, we should be able to recognize those who bring meaning — real meaning — to our lives.
I consider it a gift to have found Judaism and life as a Jew. I met Rabbi Shalom Salfer in 1979 a couple of months after I met Gail, my wife of nearly 38 years. He sparked a new perspective for me to consider and set me on a path to understand what a mensch really is, as well as to share a little Yiddish from the bimah.
While I knew him from Winands Road Synagogue, I have spoken with him even more since joining Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah. Quite often, we would chat about the eruv, as I seemed to notice every break, and I would call him on his cell to remind him of the location and put him into action.
Rabbi Salfer helped me grow as a Jew even while he knew I was not Jewish … not yet anyway. He brought great meaning and a unique presentation of “understanding the essence of ‘HaKadosh Baruch Hu’” as he so often said in shul.
There have been many simchot for Rabbi Salfer and his family (well deserved I must say). He has always made my family simchot special and blessed. As Winands Road Synagogue prepares to close a chapter, I want to share my gratitude for Rabbi Salfer for the very special impact he has made on me, my family and our community. We need more people like him.
The highlight and tipping point for me was our family rendezvous in Israel with Rabbi Salfer for my daughter’s bat mitzvah at Robinson’s Arch in Jerusalem. I look forward to seeing him always, but a special prayer is to walk the Old City in Jerusalem with him at midnight on a tour of real learning. He asked me to share my bar mitzvah speech from 2007, but I misplaced it only to find it last week as I was preparing for this week’s column.
I share this with you during this time, as the Torah tells us it is a time for preparation and anticipation for the joy the spring holiday season brings us. As Purim and Passover draw us into a time of celebration, I will reflect on what Rabbi Salfer has helped me gain in understanding what it is to celebrate Judaisim, Israel and today’s Jewish family.
Yasher Koach, Rabbi Salfer.
Vito Simone is a Pikesville resident and memeber of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah.