May 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Remembering Rabbi Dulitz, z”l

I never had Rabbi Dulitz as a rebbe, but I had him as a teacher. I started MTA in 1983. By the time I entered my sophomore year, I had heard so many stories about Rabbi Dulitz that I was generally scared of him and I had no idea what he looked like. I just knew that he had lost his eye in a chain fight with a biker gang and that he had memorized all 38 books of the Gemara…and all of Shakespeare. One kid even told me that this rabbi could pass the “pin test.”

“What’s the pin test?”

“You stick a pin into a Gemara and Rabbi Dulitz can tell you what page and word that pin landed on.”

“No way!” I said in disbelief.

“ I’ve seen him hold his hand in the air and point to an imaginary page of Gemara.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Then, he turned the imaginary page and scrolled down the imaginary page to the Rashi on the side of the page and repeated that Rashi from memory.”

Man, I did not want to be in that class. Here I was in the lowest tract classes for both Judaica and secular studies due to my learning disability. There was no way I could handle a class taught by a man like this.

Three months later, my English teacher, Mr. Bernstein was out and Rabbi Dulitz was the sub.

“What to do? What to do?”

I took my seat in the third row, right near Jonathan Rackman, Jason Nussbaum and Jonathan Glaubach.

I decided the best defense was a good offense. Wait for a question I could answer and then I would avoid being called on and turned to salt like Lot’s wife if I gave the wrong answer.

So, after a week of Rabbi Dulitz teaching us English, no one had been turned to a pillar of salt, but I still hadn’t heard a question I could answer. The man was teaching us about Shakespeare…without any notes in front of him. Then it happened: Rabbi Dulitz asked us something our teacher Mr. Bernstein had actually covered.

I seized the moment; I raised my hand and waited to be called on.

I was looking at the Rabbi, but he was looking at the student next to me.

“Yes, you, you!”

I had been looking him in the eye, but the wrong eye. He was looking at me with his good eye. I was looking at his glass eye.

I answered the question and got the commiserate, “Good, good.” I felt relieved. The fear abated and respect grew in its place. I really enjoyed Rabbi Dulitz’s teaching style and I was genuinely sad when our regular English teacher returned.

The following year, I was in the Yeshiva University Library doing research for my 11th grade English teacher Mrs. Levitt’s class and I struck up a conversation with the other guy sitting at the table.

“I’m David Roher.”

“Elchanan Dulitz”

“Any relation to Rabbi Dulitz?”

“Yeah, he’s my dad.”

Yes, he had a glass eye. No, he didn’t lose it in a chain fight. He lost it to a disease. No, he wasn’t in a motorcycle gang. Yes, he once did own a motorcycle.

Then I got to tell him about how others saw his dad. Rabbi Dulitz was liked by some, feared by others…but no one ever told me that they didn’t like him. In fact, in my four years in MTA, no one ever said a bad word about Rabbi Dulitz. In my own 25-year career in education, I have to tell you, that is almost unheard of.

It is a testament to a man who held his students to the same high standards as he held himself.


David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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