May 30, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Memories of Ari Weisbrot, z”l

Editor’s note: The Jewish Link joins the larger community in extending birkat tanchumim to the family and friends of Ari Weisbrot, who passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago. Ari was a successful litigator, a pro-bono attorney, a day school parent, an active community member at Congregation Keter Torah, and a passionate political activist in New Milford. What follows is a condensed version of thoughts from Ari’s children, shared at the levaya. Baruch dayan emet.

David—As you all know, I was named after my Abba’s father, David Robert Weisbrot. My father had such a strong and special bond with his father and I feel like I had just as strong a relationship with mine. Though I was not alive at the time, my family told me that during his speech for his father’s funeral, he looked at my cousins in the audience and asked, “Kids, do you remember when Grandpa took us all to Florida?” So I now look at my siblings and ask, “Kids, do you remember when Abba took us to over 40 states, 10 countries, and three continents?” Now I know where your love for travel comes from. Grandpa seemed like an amazing person, and so were you.

Earlier this year, my Abba took me to Florida. I had just gotten into high school and my dad wanted to celebrate with me. He planned an amazing trip that I will never forget. I have such great memories from all the trips my Abba took us on as my dad always made traveling and family time a top priority. This love for travel and taking time off to be with family is a trait that I will try to prioritize and incorporate into my life. Abba, I love you so much, and I will be yelling at how horrible the jets are from section 104, and I know you’ll be there with me.

Molly—As many of you know, my dad and I were both extremely close and similar. While I can talk endlessly about our trip to Puerto Rico; our “Hamilton” dance parties as we cleaned up together; the dumb joke we would make about this one bread—or honestly, all our dumb jokes, period—I’d like to talk about this past year. As I have spent this past year in Israel, I was so fortunate to speak to my dad once or twice a week. These calls never failed to make me smile, even through the phone. Whether he made a dumb joke or a clever one that would take me awhile to understand, he always knew how to make me laugh.

Abba. Everyone tells me we’re so alike. Something I always took for granted and now something I can use for strength. I’m gonna continue to make everyone smile, just like you did. That was what you did best. And while I may not be as funny as you, I will try my hardest to continue making jokes and making others laugh the way you made me laugh. Abba, I love you with all of my heart and I hope I have—and will—continue to make you proud.

Hey, Abba, guess what? That’s what!

Hannah—My father was the embodiment of happiness; it just radiated from him in any setting. I knew my dad was especially happy when I heard him singing; he just loved music. Whether he was cooking, working, grilling or just hanging out, there was always a song in the background. There are countless songs that will always remind me of you and I just know when I am singing them, you will be right next to me singing along.

As many of you may know, my dad wrote a blog. Abba, you were such a beautiful writer. I want to quote a line from a blog you wrote about me when I graduated high school. You wrote about my scent and how you couldn’t shake it—it was everywhere you went. You said, and I quote, “Please, stop and take a whiff of your loved one. Store that memory deep within the recesses of your brain. Because you will be searching time and time again for that smell. And before you know it, it will be gone.”

You were so right. Your smell is everywhere, in the best way possible. I will constantly be seeking out that smell.

You also wrote: “Hannah is my princess. It isn’t just a pet name, it defines our relationship. I treasured her successes more than my own. I cried at her heartbreak.” Abba, I couldn’t have written it better if I tried. I could not have asked for a better father. You were my best friend and I was, and will always, be your princess. I will sleep well at night knowing that you and Mommy raised four strong, close and loving children who will carry on your legacy. I love you so much and will miss you every day for the rest of my life.

Benny—Abba, I must admit that this speech was almost impossible to write for two reasons. The first reason: I have to condense a lifetime of love, pride and advice into just a minute or two. The second reason: You wrote all of my speeches. This is the first speech I will be writing on my own.

Abba, as many people know, we were constantly compared. I never walked down a street in Teaneck without hearing, “You must be Ari Weisbrot’s son.” Our comparisons go beyond physical appearance, though. I went to Moriah; you went to Moriah. I went to Frisch; you went to Frisch. I go to Fordham Law School; you went to Fordham Law School. I have always aspired to walk in your footsteps. Now, I will start by making my own speech, nice and quick like you’d like it.

Abba, you had so many qualities that I hope to emulate. You were a family man; you expended all of your energy helping better our lives. You were so caring—to your family, your friends, your coworkers and your clients. Abba, you taught me so many lessons that I plan to follow. But one lesson that I would like to speak about today is your advice on giving legal help to the community.

Many people sitting in this room have been helped by my father. I won’t ask for anyone to raise their hands, but if you’re sitting here in the audience, the likelihood is my father helped you. When I was young, and my interest in law was just beginning, I looked at my dad and said, “Abba, why do you spend so much of your time doing free work?” He had never once talked about whom he was helping, or with what he was helping, but often we would talk about the law.

He looked down at me—this was when he was still taller than me; to this day, his proudest accomplishment is that I grew taller than him—and he said, “Benny, the most important part of law, the only important part of law, is helping people in your community. Every person needs legal help, and as a lawyer we get to help everyone.”

Abba, if I can be half of the lawyer that you were, I will be the greatest lawyer of my time. I will continue in your footsteps. I will continue to give back to the community in every way possible. I’ll end with this: During the height of the COVID pandemic, my dad drove around to people’s houses and delivered food, medicine and anything else people needed. Your giving nature will live on through us. Abba, you will always be my best friend and I will keep all of your amazing, funny, witty and intelligent traditionals alive.

Sabrina—Ari, You treated me as your own from the moment Benny and I started dating. I felt so welcomed and so a part of your amazing family. We will continue your family traditions with our own. We love you and miss you.

Hannah—And on behalf of my mom, I would like to just say a few sentences. Ari was my best friend. I wouldn’t trade more years for less of what we had. There was so much quality in the years we spent together and I will need you to continue to help guide me and take care of all of us. I know you will be watching over us. I love you so much.

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