Take This to Heart: A Rabbi’s Wise Words


Editor's Note: Rabbi Harold B. Waintrup, rabbi emeritus of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am in Abington, died Sept. 23. This was adapted from a eulogy by Rabbi Robert S. Leib.

At this year's Yom Kippur Yizkor memorial service, I lamented the fact that our beloved rabbi emeritus could not be physically present with us at such a hallowed time of the year. Indeed, it was his one and only absence from the High Holy Day Beth Am bimah in the 59 years that he faithfully ministered to this synagogue. Quite frankly, I don't know of any other rabbinic employment record at only one synagogue, which could possibly match that of Rabbi Harold Waintrup's.

It would be no exaggeration to state that his was, in all probability, an unrivaled, unprecedented tenure in the annals of the Greater Philadelphia rabbinic community. "Spider" Waintrup was known far and wide — well beyond the confines of Abington where he was, of course, a veritable household name. And make no mistake about it: I'm including a considerable number of Christian households as well!

Synagogues and churches, hospitals and libraries, pharmacies and supermarkets, restaurants and shops: It seems that he left his mark, his indelible footprint, wherever he traveled.

From synagogue bimahs to church altars; from civil-rights marches to Rotary luncheons; from interfaith Thanksgiving services to Martin Luther King Jr. high school programs; from Yom Ha'atzmaut parades to Israel Bonds awards; from Soviet Jewry campaigns to Israel solidarity rallies; from schoolrooms to summer camps to winter retreats — an endless list of personal and professional engagements to leave one breathless.

And yet this giant of the human spirit; this colossus of learning and erudition; this gifted man of exquisite heart and soul; this unusual individual wrought by the hands of God, yet without one mean bone in his body; this extraordinary person who exemplified boundless empathy, compassion and understanding for those less fortunate than himself; this tireless defender of the orphan and the widow, the downtrodden and the homeless, the destitute and the impoverished; this heaven-sent, tender-loving angel of mercy who personified sheer goodness, and grace and kindness, throughout his 921/2 years, has been taken from us. Dear God, we are left bereft and heartbroken, and all alone.

Alone, without his dependable, unshakable presence in our lives; alone, without his unique and irrepressible sense of humor; alone, without his self-deprecating jokes; alone, without his unconditional love for each and every man, woman and child.

Our venerable patriarch has died, and we are all in mourning. But, having said that, I can also see our rabbi coming to our defense, and reassuring us with his very own words of comfort:

"Seize the day, my dear ones! Fulfill your lives with deeds of loving kindness! Educate your children well in the art of Jewish living! Remember to have faith, despite life's illnesses and its calamities! Remember to celebrate life! Work for a better world! Work with compassion! Honor your lives by building a better life for the welfare of all and the woe of none!"

Rabbi Waintrup is survived by his wife, Elise Zeme Waintrup; a daughter, Miriam; a son, Daniel; and six grandchildren. Another daughter, Debra, died in 2005. For full eulogies, see: oyrtbetham.org.



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