Spiritual fathers

Rabbi Henry Sosland came to the New City Jewish Center in 1958 straight out of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 2005, after 47 years serving the community, Rabbi Sosland retired to emeritus status. Visiting him this past week with my father, I was reminded of his gentle manner, his amazing recall for names, and the subtle ways in which he empowered, encouraged, inspired and taught me. People tend to mention his name softly, with deep veneration, respect and fondness. I am blessed to call him my rabbi and teacher, and I hope my chosen path has brought him a measure of pride and nachas.

When I entered rabbinical school in 1992, one of my main personal and professional goals was to find the kind of community upon ordination in which I would want to settle down, raise a family, build a career, and retire after 40 years of service. What I could not anticipate then was the great contentment, satisfaction and perspective that would come with sharing with families the cycles of life, from births to death, with so many celebrations in between; the great anticipation of standing under a chuppah for a bride I named when she was a baby; the sadness that would accompany the many losses I have felt so personally yet often carried so privately; the deep familiarity and connection I would enjoy with individuals and families; the pride I would derive from a community that strives to learn, grow, raise the bar for itself and others, and constantly take on new initiatives and challenges while preserving the tradition at our core; the joy upon hearing that one of my students had chosen for himself a career in the rabbinate (thanks, Ben!).

Last night, our OJC community approved the terms of a new contract that will extend my tenure here to 2030. I am so grateful to this community for its professional and personal trust and support, for the mutual respect and love we share. God willing, we’ll reach that year as a community in good health; I’ll be 65, I’ll have served the synagogue 35 years, with my goal of 40 years in the same pulpit in sight.

Our Talmud teaches that one who has taught Torah to another is credited with having given them life. That renders the teacher a spiritual parent. So as Father’s Day approaches, I thank all my teachers–my “spiritual parents”–but especially Rabbi Sosland, for sharing his Torah, for inspiring me to follow in his path. And I pray that I will have the privilege to be considered spiritual parent to many students of Torah in my lifetime.

Rabbi Craig Scheff

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11 responses to “Spiritual fathers”

  1. Eddie Sternbach says :

    A beautiful tribute

  2. Linda Masia says :

    Hello Rabbi Craig, I always enjoy reading your posts but especially this one. You have captured Rabbi Sosland so beautifully, the qualities which make him so special, and the esteem in which he is held in the community. May you go from strength to strength and continue doing your good work. Sincerely, Linda Masia

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Deanne Boris says :

    Heartfelt tribute to Rabbi Sosland (whom we knew). And a wonderful wish to your future and the future of OJC

  4. Mark Brownstein says :

    You also have the gift of an amazing recall of names. Your heartfelt connection with all who you know, your sincere desire to be a part of this OJC community for years to come and your love of Torah and your family makes me so very proud to know you and be in your presence. From strength to strength.

  5. Rhonda Plawner says :

    I am crying joyful tears reading your touching words, and especially proud to be a part of this extraordinary community. May you go from strength to strength. Todah Rabbah

  6. Gary Schreibman says :

    Dear Rabbi Craig,

    Judy and I wish you the best of everything for your family and OJC families. Mazaltov!


    On Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 8:46 AM, Two Rabbis, One Voice, Three Opinions wrote:

    > Rabbi Craig Scheff posted: “Rabbi Henry Sosland came to the New City > Jewish Center in 1958 straight out of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In > 2005, after 47 years serving the community, Rabbi Sosland retired to > emeritus status. Visiting him this past week with my father, I was remi” >

  7. Lydia Jay Katz says :

    I cannot tell you the joy and security I feel knowing you will be here surely for the rest of my life. You have brought me so far along on my Journey in Judaism and I am one of those with whom you have shared sorrow and joy. You have made my sorrow more easy to bare and my joy even stronger and more appreciated. From the bottom of my heart I thank you and bless you.

  8. Amy Stern says :

    When I was a young social worker for the precursor program to our community’s hospice program, I contacted Rabbi Sosland about visiting a 13 year old boy with a brain tumor whose parents were not (nor were going to be) members of New City Jewish Center. He visited him regularly for a couple of years. He provided Bobby with comfort and friendship expecting nothing in return. As a result of their long term relationship he was able to lead a meaningful and comforting funeral service. I will never forget what he did for Bobby and his family.
    Amy Stern, CEO, United Hospice of Rockland.

  9. Steve Hirsch says :

    That was beautiful my friend. Thank you.

  10. Naomi Cohen bullrt says :

    The kindest most wonderful human being will be missed he shared good times and bad times with my family we are all so sad to hear that we have lost him. Our prayers go to Judy and her children. Naomi Cohen buller

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