Remembering Morris Hollender
Read this remembrance from Mark.
Read this remembrance from Rabbi Tracy Nathan.
Read this remembrance from James Baron
From Susan Kane:
“So you are not her sister”. A remembrance of Morris Hollender.
One thing that impressed me about Morris was his unfailing grace, his compassion, and his obvious respect for all people. Despite his traditional background, I never heard him object to women on the Bima. He congratulated me on a strong tefilah or well-done reading and consoled me on the occasional day that I came ill-prepared. “I have the same problem sometimes — we all make mistakes” he said, despite the fact that this was rarely true in his case.
In December 2012, on the Shabbat after the Sandy Hook school shooting, I was very distraught. Adar had turned four years old the week before and we were already planning for kindergarten. The idea that I might send her off to school one day and not bring her home terrified me and I was wild with thoughts of hatred and revenge. I felt terribly threatened, unable to protect my child, afraid of my neighbors, angry at my fellow citizens. As we arrived at Mourner’s Kaddish, I tried to say something about the shooting, but I was mostly incoherent. All I could do was cry out: “Please! G-d! We need to get our act together in this country! We can’t keep allowing this. We need HELP.”
After the service, I went into the lobby and started crying uncontrollably, which understandably distressed all of the older members of our congregation.
Morris came and sat by me and asked me what was wrong and I tried to explain, unsure whether he had heard the news or what it would mean to him. “It’s just terrible” he said. “Okay, you want to have a gun, have a gun. But this kind of gun? For what do you need this kind of gun?”
Right, I thought. As Jews, we know the value of a weapon in times of need. But we have no love for violence. A weapon is a tool — not a status symbol or a political cause, and certainly not a toy. A gun has no sanctity. Like a hammer or a chair or a potato masher, it can be useful, but that’s it. We are not part of this ridiculous American debate. It is foreign to our values. Although it was ironic that I was being consoled for something that did not happen to me by a Holocaust survivor, I needed Morris to remind me of these things.
For many months, my partner Michelle was only occasionally seen in shul, as she often had to study on Shabbat for her training program and she also enjoys sleeping in on rare occasion. Finally, though, she had come enough times that Morris realized there was some connection to me and to Adar.
Michelle was in the library and Morris happened by.
“May I ask,” he began courteously, “how you are related to the baby?”
Michelle said, simply, “I am her other mother. Susan is my partner.”
“Ah,” said Morris. “I see. So you are *not* her sister.”
Morris looked down and there was an awkward pause.
Michelle felt somewhat terrible. We never lie, she and I, not if we are asked directly, and certainly not about our relationship to our child. But we also have no need to go out of our way to make 80-something Eastern European Jewish men uncomfortable.
“I see,” said Morris finally. Then, he looked up and said simply, “You are welcomed here.”
And that was that.
Morris, we miss you and you will always live in our hearts. May we be privileged to carry your songs, your stories, and your values forward to the future.