Rav Bar Oz* (From Strength to Strength)
A Tribute to a Great Friend
by Rabbi Jeremy Barras
Several months ago in a meeting with Bob Hersh and then-president Daniela Zanzuri, Bob broke the news to us that he had decided it was time to retire. While Daniela took the news in stride, I felt my heart sink to my feet. Daniela asked me if I was alright, and said that I looked like I had just seen a ghost. It was a very difficult moment for me and one that I have been trying to come to terms with ever since.
I knew that Bob would not be here forever. But I was not quite prepared for this news, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. My first thought was how are we going to manage without him? There is an old saying that my grandfather used to be fond of: the graveyard is filled with irreplaceable people. Anyone can be replaced. But not anyone has come to be one of my closest confidants and friends. Not anyone has proved their loyalty to you over and over again for the past five years. And surely not anyone has been with me on this journey from the very first moment that I first set foot on this campus five years ago.
Over my time here I have gone through three different professional coaches. They are all wonderful and have taught me different things about what it means to be the Senior Rabbi of a multifaceted, fast-paced, visionary institution like Beth Am. I have appreciated all the knowledge that I have gleaned from their coaching expertise. But yet I have found that time and time again, when situations get tough, I don’t need to search all over the country for the best coaches to help me come to the right decisions. All I need to do is walk downstairs and knock on Bob’s door. His experience and wisdom have been priceless to all of us at the Temple, and this will not easily be replaced.
If you spend any time at all at the Temple, you know how professionally run it is. This is Bob’s hallmark, and he constantly makes sure that everything we do reaches for the highest standards. But what you may not know, and that he likely does not show to the public, is his compassionate side and huge heart that governs everything that he does. No one is more loyal to our staff or works harder to support all of us than Bob. He has been a tireless advocate for everyone who works here, and constantly trumpets the efforts of the staff and diverts praise away from himself and onto those who work for him. This combination of kindness and professionalism is unusual, and has been one of the main reasons for the growth and success of the Temple.
Finally, as Bob retires and moves to Parkland, I can say for certain that not only is my executive director leaving Beth Am, but so is one of my closest and most trusted friends and partners. Bob and I used to have a set weekly meeting, but after a while we cancelled it because we meet and talk every single day. Our working relationship has been a true partnership, and our friendship has grown and strengthened to be one of my most cherished. I will certainly keep in touch with Bob, but I will miss him tremendously. I believe we will continue to grow and succeed and our future is so very bright, but without Bob it simply will not be the same. In his time here, Bob has fulfilled the words of Proverbs, “Mind well the looks of your flock, pay attention to your herds.” We have all been shepherded with wisdom and skill, and we will surely miss our sage shepherd.
* The Barras family name was created during the Ellis Island Experience. Originally it was Bar Oz, meaning strength in Hebrew.