Aviva Zahavi-Asa's Eulogy for her Aba
As I look out at all the people who came out today to remember and honor my father and all the people who have sent their love and prayers over the last two weeks through emails, phone calls and messages, I feel both jealous and proud. The child part of me is jealous at the fact that I had to share my father from a young age with so many other people, including with many of you and with many others along the way. From the time I could remember, my father was helping others and was available to them no matter the time of day or night. The phone would start ringing at our house at six a.m. and would usually stop ringing, if we were lucky, at midnight. And as a child that made me jealous of the fact that my father's attention was often elsewhere and not on me and my siblings. The adult part of me, however, is proud of everything my father achieved and proud of the difference he made in other people's lives and in the world. And these two parts of me are not always easily reconcilable.
My Aba was a public figure, a rabbi, a Jewish community leader, a man with determination and an iron will who could not be easily deterred when he set his mind to something. In many ways, I am who I am today because of him and the values which he stood for. His love for Eretz Yisrael – the land of Israel – and for Am Yisrael – the people of Israel – are values which me and my siblings and our children live out each and every day in our own unique way but which were directly inherited from my father.
From my first trip to Israel with my father in 1974, I knew I wanted to make Israel my home. Seeing Israel through my father's eyes, through his stories and through his experiences made the country come alive in a way that showed me that Israel was my home and the home of the Jewish people.
My father truly lived his values. There were many sacrifices that he and our family made along the way so he could live out these values, but I don't think he experienced these as sacrifices. My father had a calling and his mission was to serve Am Yisrael in any way possible and that he succeeded in doing.
I am awed by the fact that my father lived so much of history. He narrowly escaped the clutches of the Shoah, the holocaust; witnessed the establishment of the State of Israel; and served in the Israel Defense Forces during the early years of the State. He was an immigrant two times over – the first time from Bulgaria to Palestine and then ten years later from Israel to America. I know first-hand how hard immigrating even once is and I can't imagine immigrating twice by the age of 23.
But no challenge was too great for him and this is especially true when it came to his many medical problems over the years. Having Type 1 Diabetes for over 50 years was not easy and he dealt with it like he did all the other challenges he encountered, never allowing difficulty or struggle to stand in his way. If there was an obstacle, he found a way around it and rarely took "no" for an answer. That was the Israeli in him and what allowed him to have the chutzpah to do things that no one would dare do – like succeeding in freeing innocent civilians stuck in Argentinian and Turkish jails and ensuring that the Bulgarian people would be honored for saving their Jews during the holocaust.
My father was somebody who beat life's odds time and time again and this was, to a large extent, due to his tenacity and belief that almost anything was possible if he set his mind to it. Having lost his mother at age seven and his stepmother at age 20, he was acutely aware of how fragile life is and how we should never take it for granted. I think this awareness is what fueled his drivenness and also what allowed him to be very present when tending to the needs of individuals and their families who were coping with serious illness and death and dying.
The one thing that stands out for me the most about my father is that he never really seemed to allow fear to control him. I'm sure there were things that made him afraid, but he never let these things stop him from doing what he felt was the right thing to do. He took life by the horns and lived it fully and intensely.
I have thought a lot about how I want to honor my father's memory and I have decided that building and dedicating a synagogue in Israel in his memory would reflect many of the values that he stood for, including the importance of Jewish community, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. It would also make his commitment to Israel more tangible since there would be an ongoing physical reminder of my father in the land to which he was so connected. Before he passed on to the next world, I shared with him my intention of having a synagogue in Israel built and dedicated in his honor and he lit up, smiled and put his hand on his heart, indicating that this would please him greatly.
My father was not privileged to attend my son Eliav's bar mitzvah a year and a half ago in Efrat, the town in Israel in which we live. My father and Eliav had a very special connection – starting with the fact that Eliav from a young age physically resembled my father and that Eliav was always interested in hearing his saba's stories about the State of Israel's early years. Eliav's bar mitzvah, which was a highlight for our family, was held in a sports gym since the minyan which I attend - called Zemer Hazayit – does not yet have its own building.
There were several reasons that I thought that a building for this particular minyan would be an appropriate way to honor my father's legacy. The first reason is that this minyan is a Carlebach minyan whose tefillot – prayer services - utilize music and melodies composed by the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. My father knew Shlomo Carlebach personally dating back to the early 1960's , including when my father invited Shlomo to perform his music in Buenos Aires, Argentina where my father was serving as the director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism as well as when he invited Shlomo to bring his music to Temple Beth Tikvah on several occasions.
My father, like the late Shlomo Carlebach, was responsible for bringing many Jews closer to Judaism and both men, in many ways, embodied a Judaism that went beyond labels and superficial categories such as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Secular and Religious. Both my father and Shlomo understood that what unites us as a people is much stronger than what divides us and that our survival as a people and our God given mission of tikkun olam – repairing the world – in order to bring the geula, the redemption, is dependent on building bridges and reaching out to one another despite our differences as Jews. I think that me and my siblings – despite and even because of the different Jewish paths we have each chosen – are a living example of what my father represented.
The second reason that I thought that a building for this minyan would be an appropriate way to honor my father's legacy is because this minyan values the participation, involvement and leadership of girls and women within the religious sphere in ways that are fairly rare within the traditional Jewish community, while still abiding by halacha – Jewish law. As a Reform Rabbi, my father encouraged girls and women to take on leadership roles within the Jewish community and religious sphere and he was proud of the many women who he influenced who now serve Am Yisrael in this way.
I think that while I was growing up, my father secretly dreamt that I as his eldest daughter would follow in his footsteps and maybe one day become a Rabbi. I remember him slipping brochures for Hebrew Union College under my bedroom door during my teenage years to try and encourage me to go to rabbinical school, all to no avail. Well, he didn't succeed with me but he at least got one child who turned out to be a Rabbi, even if my brother turned out to be a Rabbi of a different religious bent than my father had anticipated. It was important to my father that his daughters be actively involved in creating Jewish community and a shul building for the Zemer Hazayit minyan would help realize this value that he held dear.
And the third reason for wanting to honor my father in this way is a more selfish reason. I'd like to have something physical to help remind me of my father on a regular basis and what better way to do this than to build a synagogue in his memory, since the synagogue was really my father's home away from home. I welcome those that are interested to join me in honoring my father's legacy in this way.
On behalf of my entire family, I would like to thank all of you for your outpouring of support and love during this difficult time. I would like to thank my father's doctors and medical staff who daily carry out holy work in tending to the sick. I would also like to thank my mother for making heroic efforts over many years to keep my father alive and healthy. Because of her sacrifices, we all were lucky enough to enjoy my father's presence in this world far beyond what anyone could have expected. And most of all, I would like to thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu, the one above, for the privilege of being Rabbi Haim Asa's daughter.
And as my father would always say "etc., etc., etc."
Rabbi Ariel Asa's Eulogy for his Aba
Among my father’s final words yesterday were four words that sum up much of his outlook on life – “I have no regrets”.
He had no regrets of his marriage to our mother, his eishat chayal, of almost 54 years.
He had no regrets (I hope) of his four children and 14 grandchildren, each of whom he loved and who loved him dearly and each who has gone on to not only be proud Jews but also Jews who each are contributing something unique to the Jewish people.
He had no regrets in the way he helped and taught others – in his congregation, in his prison work, in the local community and in the worldwide community and when he wasn’t busy with all of these – helping others with his “car dealership” – but always helping and always teaching.
A child growing up in his parents’ home never fully appreciates his parent and the wisdom and life lessons that he wants to impart. Only after years have passed might a child come to realize all that his parent wishes to pass on to the next generation.
My hope and prayer is that when I reach my final day, i too will be able to say with a complete heart those same words I heard from my father: “I have no regrets”.
“God has given, god has taken away – blessed is the name of God from now and forever”.
Eliana Marcus's Eulogy for her Aba
When writing this, early this morning, I knew that all the speakers today will come up to share some thoughts about my father’s childhood, adult life, his family, his unbelievable accomplishments, which there are way too many to even know about, his legacy that he leaves behind, and so on, OR as my father would say, ETC, ETC, ETC.
But today, I would like to share some thoughts about my father’s dignity, menshlichkite, being a mensch and Kiddush Hashem, showing the world how a Jew needs to act in order to glorify G-D’s name.
Being that I am my parent’s only child living in Southern California, One may think that all the responsibilities in taking care of my father and mother would land on me. “RESPONSIBILITIES” of Kibbud Av- Ve- Em, honoring your father and mother, as the Torah commands us to do. Well, “RESPONSIBILITIES” is never how I looked at it. Taking care of my father and supporting my mother, his Ayshes Chayil, his woman of valor, was the biggest honor for me. You may wonder, in what specific ways, was I able to physically take care of my father, if I didn’t live with him, didn’t see him weekly, didn’t shlep him to doctor’s appointments, ETC. I was the luckiest daughter in the world, for being able to take care of him while he was in the hospital back in August and of course these last 12 days. Both times, I moved into his hospital room for 6 days, only to go outside and smell the fresh air for a few hours in order to take the one and only shower that I took in those 6 days. Yes, that was a bit uncomfortable, only showering once during the 6 days, but I put my own discomfort aside, to make sure that I was there every moment for my father and mother, physically and emotionally because they deserved it. I wanted to make sure that my mother could come and go as she needed while my father was in the hospital and she knew I was there by his side and he was in good hands and she could relax a bit.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t just sit…….. I take over!!! There was NO way that if I was in that hospital room, I would sit on the couch and watch the nurses take care of my father and NOT assist them. If they were standing by his side to do something, I was there too, to help them, whether it was to reposition him, to suction him, to hold his hands during some kind of procedure , or to help him get in and out of bed to use the restroom. I only pushed the nurse’s button when I needed help because it would be unsafe, if I didn’t call them to assist me, or it was something to do with the machines that were connected to him. I’m not sharing this information with you to show off in any way. I’m telling you this because this man, who I called “ABA” for 45 years, was a really special person. He deserved every bit of honor and respect that I gave him. Every time a Doctor, nurse, dialysis nurse, respiratory therapist, the food delivery lady, or the housekeepers came into his room, he always would put out his hand for a shake, show a big smile, express his gratitude with his eyes or words. Of course he threw in many jokes and stories of his family and sometimes asked about who THEY were. He always gave respect and gratitude to all the people he came into contact with in the hospital, even as weak as he was at times. By being by his side constantly and giving him the utmost respect, I showed the staff at the hospital that this was a man that deserved respect and honor. He wasn’t getting this respect from me just because he was my Aba, he got this respect from me because of who he was. The most caring, compassionate person, who always thought of ways to help others. He was available for anyone at any time. The staff would always tell me how special he was and what nice conversations he would have with them. They were always impressed by how I took care of him and I would always tell them, “You have NO idea who this man is. That they were seeing just a glimpse of the awesome person that he was.”
Yesterday, Klal Yisrael, the Jewish people, lost a man who made unimaginable marks in this world. He moved mountains that were unmovable and touched thousands of lives around the world. Haim Ben Avraham, of blessed memory, will be missed by all who knew him. He will continue his works in Olam Haba, the next world.
I would like to conclude by thanking my parents’ unbelievable support system. You know who you are and we, their children, thank you for being there for both of them.
I couldn’t have had the most amazing time with my father in the hospital if it wasn’t for my spectacular husband, Jeff. You picked up the pieces when I ran to be with Aba. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to have time with my father in a way that I never did before.
To my special children………Avi, Zev, Yael and Gila…. I know it was hard when I wasn’t home for you, but you all stepped up to the plate and realized that this is where I needed to be because you also had that same respect for Saba. I thank you and be proud of yourselves that you became responsible individuals without Ema there.
Now, to MY support system……..my unbelievable friends. No one in this world could be as fortunate as I am to have girl friends like I have. Doing mitzvot, good deeds, is all you know how to do. I leave and you girls run the show. You don’t even get me involved in the day to day as to how you will help Jeff and the kids. I don’t think that I am so worthy of your awesomeness. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Rabbi Muskin – What can I say…..You are as unique as my father, of blessed memory. Like I told you this week – you and my father are shining examples of what it means to be a Rabbi of a community. When I called you yesterday to ask if you would co-officiate this service, without any hesitation, you said it would be an honor. But it’s actually OUR honor to have you here today along with Rabbi Goldberg. Toda Raba.
Thank you to all who are here today to show my father your gratitude for what he did for you as his Rabbi and friend.
Liora Asa’s Eulogy for her Aba
On behalf of my dear family, I would like to begin with some thank you's. First we would like to sincerely thank the amazing and dedicated and truly talented team of doctors, nurses, specialists and dialysis experts that we met in our "extensive", and intensive care with the Kaiser hospitals, clinics, and medical centers – or as my father would say, "my time share". The list is truly too long to name individually all the amazing acts of medical professionalism and care you have given my father over the years. We hope that we have succeeded in conveying our gratitude to each and every one of you on an individual basis for the wonderful treatment our father received while in your care.
There is one doctor that has been like a guardian angel watching over my dad with keen accuracy and immense dedication through thick and thin, and he is Dr. Kerry Teplinsky. He was with us 8 years ago, as he was yesterday part of our family circle of love that we formed around my dad's hospital bed as we sang while our father's neshama, his soul, rose to the heavens.
Dr. Teplinsky is not only an outstanding physician, but a true mensch. Words can not tell you how meaningful you are to us, and how much my father loved you.
We would also like to acknowledge Karen Gottlieb, a highly accomplished nurse and dear friend, who over the past 8 years has been part of every hospital stay, available for house calls, provided helpful advice, and always provided these creative medical solutions that made my dad more comfortable.
There are several people who my family would like to make special mention of for their amazing dedication in pulling together this memorial and funeral service in such short turn around time. Thank you, Miriam Van Raalte for being the ring-leader for today's memorial, for making endless arrangements until late in the night and taking care of all the details. Miriam has known our family since we arrived to Fullerton in 1966. It was so appropriate that you, Miriam, led us in singing the Hatikvah yesterday encircling my father as he took his very last breaths.
To Rabbi Stephen Einstein and Rabbi Elazar Muskin, thank you for honoring our Aba with your presence, wisdom and your words of comfort.
To our dear friend Sandy Fein for handling all the funeral coordination, and ensuring a funeral in a timely manner according to Jewish custom.
A special thanks to Greg and Shari Weizman for their Mitzvah of preparing the community meal of consolation back here at TBT that will be served after our return from the cemetery.
To our dear sister, Eliana, a truly amazing example of dedication, perfection, border-line compulsive disorder used to the greater benefit of my father's health, and so much love, oh, so very much love. You, Eliana, as the child who lives in closest proximity, have often born much of the additional responsibility. I think that there should be a special bracha that siblings who live far away bless a sibling who lives nearby. We love you, admire you, and are touched by the size of your heart which often seems immense, just like Aba's.
And of course, we the children want to take a moment to thank the woman who was our father's partner in everything, the anchor-woman that enabled him to do so much of what he did, his best friend, his nurse, his companion, the person he consulted with on so many matters, his love, his woman of valor, and our mother-of valor, our very own mother, Elaine Asa. Mom, we know that this transition is not going to be easy for you, we recognize that you have carried such a heavy burden, that you have done it for so many years, that you have done it with lots of love, that you have been amazingly dedicated. We know that your loss is the loss of a life-time partner. We want you to know that we love you and we are here for you.
This week my father brought us together, the four kids together with my mom and dad. We trickled in throughout the day and by 7:30 p.m. we were all together. We talked to my dad, we laughed, we cried, we hugged, mainly we were together. Between that moment and his passing the following day at 1:00 pm, there were several amazing moments - additional gifts that will remain with us for life.
I would like to share a few of these moments that happened in this less-than 24 hour period. On Tuesday night, my father was having a hard time speaking. He told us that we were all precious to him. Then he wanted to tell us something important. We leaned in close for the answer to the meaning of life. We made him a chart with the letters of the alphabet so that he could point to letters and spell out his message. We saw the letter "C" and then "I", no not "I", it was H, and the E, Che… and the "c", and someone yelled out like in charades, Check, "yes, yes", check, and then he took a pen from our hands and decided it would be more efficient to just write the word, the second word was "the", and then comes the meaning of life, Check the Tires. Yes, even in his last days, my father’s love of cars was alive and present. He wanted to be sure that we checked the tires on Mom's car. But this was so much of my dad's ability to surprise us, to bring the unexpected, to mix real life into big moments. Another rare moment was when he found the energy yesterday morning, just a few hours before dying, to give each of his four children a blessing, with a booming Amen at the end. And another was when he shared that he had no regrets, and repeated twice, "I did it my way". How many people have the privilege of saying those two sentences on their deathbed? And how many children have the honor of hearing those two sentences being shared on a parent's deathbed. He also comforted us and said, " Don't worry, I feel like I am going home". This is a load of gifts one father can give his family on his deathbed. Up until his very last moments he brought his family together, together we showed him our love of father, and our love for one another.
I would like to read some special words that my beloved Michael, who in his dedication as a father is in Israel with our three children, but who was deeply connected to my father and would love to be here in this room. By reading Michael's words, I am bringing him and 3 of Haim's grandchildren into this sacred space.
I had the unique perspective to know Haim Asa for over 40 years. Starting as a young child, he was the Rabbi at our congregation. Later, we were family. Then, he was a grandparent to our three children. Finally, after my own father’s passing, he became a new figure I could relate to as my second father.
In each of these roles, Haim brought his love, compassion, and dedication as somebody that knew what to truly value over all things in life. A deep spiritual belief in the tenets and values of Judaism. Constant dedication to community. And, endless love for his family.
As we all know, Haim was a man who lived several lives. He was a proud Bulgarian to his final days, who never forgot what the Bulgarian King did when faced with the choice of handing over the Jewish community to the Nazis. Haim was also an Israeli. He witnessed and helped fight for the rebirth of a secure home for all Jews from around the world.
Finally, Haim was a builder. He helped lead the establishment of two congregations, one in Buenos Aires, and the other here at TBT.
But Haim did not only build these communities. He saw it as his mission to cultivate them into a singular vision. As a young child, I can clearly remember meeting Haim for the first time in the Temple offices. His accent was so thick that I barely understood one word he said to me, and just nodded my head in the affirmative when he asked me something. Honestly, I think it wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I began to understand most of his sentences.
For so many families, TBT became their second home, and Haim was the head of the household. He was accessible to all of us day or night. The phone rang and Haim was ready to stand with you through the good and tough times. He was the leader of services from the pulpit but he was also the manager of the parking lot when parents were picking up their kids from religious school on Saturdays.
Haim touched the lives of people throughout the world. As part of his duty for Tikun Olam, it was always possible for him to find the time and energy to make the extra visit or telephone call to share a comforting thought. To help teach a little lesson about the goodness and importance of maintaining the values of Judaism. To lend a car when somebody needed one of his driveway-specials.
It was not until his later years that I saw Haim finally rest a little, and appreciate all that he had been blessed with. The temple was turned over to a new generation of leaders.
And, on those occasions when we were all together for a Shabbat lunch, he could look around at his four children, their spouses, and 14 grandchildren to see what he had done to help build the next generation of our modern Jewish community.
Liel Zahavi-Asa’s Eulogy for her Saba
Today you inspire me more than ever. When I think of the hundreds of people across the world mourning your loss, I think about how honored I am to be so close to a man who has touched so many people's lives. I am inspired by your commitment to community and your refusal to be a bystander. You have taught me that when one of us suffers everyone suffers. You are the greatest example of a Jewish leader and I am so lucky to have been able to gain from your knowledge and wisdom. You helped me realize that our work here is never over. Your name and your legacy will continue to bring light to hundreds around the world for generations to come. Thank you for always believing in me and for your continuous encouragement and support. I hope I can become even half the Jewish leader that you were. Love you always. Liel
Yosef Asa's Eulogy for his Saba
My grandfather was a very special person. He was always excited to hear my voice when I called him. We would spend about 20 minutes talking about what was happening and how we were doing. He loved me and cared about me and my life.
Whenever I was struggling with something, he was there to talk to. He always listened to what I had to say and helped me numerous times. Also, when I didn’t want to do something, he motivated and encouraged me.
He had a love and concern for other people, especially his family. He had an open house and did kindness for others. He was always happy no matter what happened to him. We are all going to miss him a lot.