June 12, 2024
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June 12, 2024
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Rabbi Dr. David M. Feldman, z”l, on His Sixth Yahrzeit

On the bo bayom, exact date, of the sixth yahrzeit of Rabbi Dr. David M. Feldman, z”l, his family, in conjunction with the Teaneck Jewish Center where he served devotedly for over 30 years, paid tribute to him as a mentsch and a scholar. The tribute was entitled “Looking Forward: A Ray of Optimism in Volatile Times” and each presenter spoke to the positive outlook of Rabbi Feldman in his professional and personal life.

Before moving to Teaneck in 1982, Rabbi Feldman served for many years as the rabbi of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center in Brooklyn. By then he had already made a prominent name for himself in the field of bioethics, having authored several books relating to birth control in Jewish law. He was widely consulted by hospitals on end-of-life issues and was a Founding Fellow of the Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics and Life Sciences, in addition to serving on numerous medical committees and boards dealing with medical ethics. Rabbi Feldman was ordained at Yeshiva University and earned his PhD at the Jewish Theological Seminary where he served as a visiting associate professor.

Introducing the program, Rabbi Daniel Fridman, rabbi of the Teaneck Jewish Center, focused upon Rabbi Feldman’s constant happy and optimistic outlook on life. Accompanied always physically as well as emotionally by his beloved wife, Aviva, tibadel l’chaim, he always conveyed a sense of positivity and hopefulness to family and congregants alike.

Rabbi Daniel Feldman, mara d’atra of Congregation Ohr Saadya in Teaneck and oldest child of Rabbi Feldman, referred to his father’s special ability at “peace-making” throughout his career. Citing the pasuk “talmidei chachamim marbim shalom baolam,” scholars widely spread peace in the world, the younger Rabbi Feldman shared his father’s belief that shalom can exist through many viewpoints and opinions.This is why we honor Beit Hillel by adhering to their opinions, as they were tolerant always of the opinions of others, including the opposing ones of Beit Shammai. He spoke of how his father was so cognizant of the effect one’s tone of voice had on others, that it was so important that it have a peaceful ring and exude love and not conflict. Referring to the week’s Parshat Toldot, he referred to Yitzchak Avinu’s ability to placate the people of Gerar rather than chastise them for sealing his father’s wells. Yitzchak set the model for us that when rebuking others we are proving our point, but always while modeling sweetness and love.

Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, the second son of Rabbi David Feldman, serves on the Tanach faculty at Yeshivat Frisch. In introducing his siyum on Masechet Eruvin, he pointed out the appropriateness of marking his beloved father’s yahrzeit on the final day of Daf Yomi’s study of Eruvin. In the spirit of the eruv bringing the Sabbath-observing community together as one, his father used the opportunity of the Shabbat day to reach out to his community and unite them in his shul and in his always hospitable home in tandem with his gracious wife, Aviva. The last lines in Masechet Eruvin speak of the slip knots utilized in the construction of an eruv, which reminded Rabbi Feldman of his father’s habit of never untying the knots of his ties so as not to waste even a single moment of precious time in getting ready to go out and serve the klal. He had a keen sense of the value of time.

His daughter Rebecca Becker and her husband Dr. Tal Becker addressed the Zoom from their home in Israel. She stressed her father’s embrace of any references to light, and how he saw the Shabbat candles as a symbol of harmony and peace. She expressed how delighted her father was to hear that their youngest child was named Liora, my light. Had her father been alive to hear of the advances in peace recently made between Israel and its neighbors, he would have been exultant.

Dr. Tal Becker is helping spread the “light” that Rabbi David Feldman pursued throughout his life’s work. He serves as the legal advisor of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has been a senior member of the Israeli peace negotiation team in successive rounds of peace negotiations. Most recently, he was the head of the Israeli legal team that was instrumental in negotiating and drafting the peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In paying tribute to his father-in-law, Becker compared Rabbi Feldman’s embodying sincere optimism to the breakthroughs we are seeing in the relationship of Israel to its Arab neighbors. He believes that the current negotiations are producing change because now there is a true belief in the possibility of peace.

“Optimism begins with a belief in the opportunity for change. We are seeing these beliefs being implemented. The waiver of the visa for travelers from Israel to the UAE and Bahrain is one strong indication of this belief. The preamble to the recent agreement, which states that we are all ‘children of Abraham’ with authentic roots in the Middle East, is another testimony to this belief in change. The challenge we face ahead is to recognize that by force of our attitude we can see opportunities for growth. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

Rabbi Fridman closed the program by thanking the Feldman family for sharing the opportunity to memorialize an ilan gadol, a great tree, who provided an anchor and sustenance to our community for so many years and who has provided us with such capable branches to continue his mission.

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