7/01/2010

A Tribute to Marc Weinberg

UPDATES:
MP3s of hespedim, Learning in Marc's memory
Obituaries: Haaretz, JC

This is the story of how Marc Weinberg ob”m changed my life. It is not his life story; it is not a eulogy or obituary. It is a personal reflection on my relationship with a man who I did not know for very long, but who made a profound difference in my life. Others will tell of other parts of Marc's life (it's starting); I knew him just under 4 years, and he was engaged in his final battle for more than 2.5 of those.

I knew Marc as a neighbor, chavruta, and friend. They rented the home just downstairs from us after we all made aliyah in the summer of 2006, and the families became and remain close. He soon learned to tolerate and appreciate my non-New York Americanness, and I learned to tolerate his strolls through the common area, complaining about the heat, wearing nothing but shorts and purple crocs. Somehow, he did even that with class.

The Weinbergs moved into their own home a year later, in the summer of 2007. He changed my life soon after that, on Simchat Torah (I believe, though it may have been a Shabbat around that time). I had just started teaching at a seminary, and it was my first job in Israel with any kind of stability and satisfaction; I had been miserable for that first year and finally saw a bit of light. As we strolled down his street, he asked me, quite pointedly and mildly pedantically, after hearing about my seminary job: “Rabbi Fischer, is this what you see yourself doing in 10 years?” He rendered me speechless as I realized for the first time that the answer was “no.”

A few weeks later, Marc, Natalie, and the kids came to visit me at Hadassah-En Karem when I was hospitalized with Guillian-Barre Syndrome. By that point, I had done a good amount of thinking about my future and had tentative plans to change my career from education to writing and translating. We talked about it on that occasion and several others; Marc was a meticulous planner whose outlook emphasized pragmatic financial concerns while ensuring that such matters do not come at the expense of what was truly meaningful in life – for him, family and friends, learning and teaching. I'm not sure he realized how much his advice and encouragement meant. His clearheaded analysis forced me to realize that I would have to alter my aspirations in order to be successful in Israel, but he also expressed his faith that I could pull it off, and he expressed satisfaction whenever he heard that "business was going well."

Just a few weeks after he visited me in the hospital, I returned the favor. By that point he had been diagnosed with cancer. I stopped by his hospital room on my way to teach in Jerusalem, and we enjoyed caramel sufganiyot during the predawn hours of that first morning of Chanukah.

The following year, while he was trying to recover and I had begun working from home, we learned together weekly. Even in the best of times we probably would have done more schmoozing than learning, as we both had broad interests that frequently overlapped. Given his condition and frequent hospital visits, we did not end up learning much at all, though we talked about starting up again as soon as he felt up to it. That was not to be. He passed away last night at the age of 35.
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה
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