May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rabbi Label Dulitz, ob”m

I had the great fortune to have Rabbi Label Dulitz as both a rebbe and an English teacher. As a quiet student who was neither a troublemaker nor a superstar, I found that teachers generally didn’t pay me much attention. If a teacher called the house, my parents were very nervous and assumed it had to be about one of my siblings. But Rabbi Dulitz was calling about me. I had gotten an 85 on a test. Most teachers would be fine with that, but Rabbi Dulitz was insistent that every student reached his maximum potential. And he was going to do whatever it took to make sure I reached mine. Even if it meant calling my father every week. And insisting that he put more pressure on me because he knew I could do better. My father was not a patient man and didn’t really like these phone calls. But he wasn’t going to get off the phone until he stated emphatically, “Yes, you are right, Rabbi Dulitz! You are absolutely right!” And he was. My grades picked up and I ended up acing the class.

Thanks to his shiur I can now tell you what years in the Jewish calendar cycle are leap years, what day of the week every holiday is based on when Pesach falls out and how to cause maximum pain to someone when shaking their hand. I learned to appreciate both Gemara and Shakespeare.

With a voice that, as he would often say, “awakens the dead” he kept us all at rapt attention.

I remember when he quoted the sentence “the best-laid plans o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley,” which he said was the final line of a Robert Burns poem. Having read it in my previous English class I corrected him and said the poem continued “and leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy.” He told me to come to his office after class so he could prove to me that I was wrong. Turned out we were both wrong, and the poem continued for another stanza after that. Still, getting Rabbi Dulitz to admit he was wrong about anything was one of the highlights of my high school career.

I ran into him a few years after class and he told me “Bak! When I look at you, I think about what a sick place this world is.” I tell people who didn’t know him that story and they are horrified. “You don’t understand,” I would tell them. “That’s his way of saying, ‘I love you’ to his students.” We love you too Rabbi Dulitz! You are gone but never forgotten.

Yoni Bak
Teaneck
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