By Paula Fleischer
Rabbi William Kramer officiated at a Jewish temple in Burbank, California, for many years. When we lived in the area, my family attended this temple, and we were always touched by his humanity. His sermons often left us with tears rolling down our cheeks as we recognized our own human frailties, and our opportunities to be better human beings. In fact, my mother’s eyes often filled with tears even before the Rabbi spoke in anticipation of his great lessons.
About 1985, the temple congregation was meeting in a large hall for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) services. Rosh Hashanah usually falls at the beginning or middle of September. It is a holiday celebrating the New Year, and many people wear their new “fall season” clothing for the first time. It is usually too hot to wear that kind of clothing in southern California in September, but traditions die hard.
This particular year the hall was overflowing, with over 2,000 people present. The Rabbi’s sermon is typically given at the end of the two or three hour religious service. So here we were: 2,000 hot, tired, cranky people trying to give proper attention to our beloved Rabbi and the words he would recommend we consider as we enter the New Year.
Just as Rabbi Kramer approached the podium, a baby started crying. He waited. We all waited. As the crying continued, I thought, and assumed everyone around me was thinking, “Hey lady, get your baby out of here!” The Rabbi waited.
After what seemed like a very long time, the Rabbi slowly spoke these words: “Isn’t this a miracle? How wonderful it is to have this new person among us. How lucky we are as a congregation and a people, that this baby’s parents have chosen to raise their child in our religion. Mazel Tov to the parents and to everyone here who will enjoy this Jewish child as he or she grows with us.”
We all listened to this baby’s crying with a complete change of heart. I, as usual, had tears running down my cheeks in wonderment at this incredible man, Rabbi William Kramer. He had the ability — in a few words — to transport the hearts and minds of a roomful of cranky people to a higher, more tolerant, place.
I sometimes find myself ready to fire off another “Hey lady”-type of comment. And that is when I *try* to think, “What would Rabbi Kramer do?” If I remember to slow down and consider his point of view, I can change my tactic. Others later compliment me for my handling of a sticky situation. I know that I owe it all to Rabbi William Kramer.
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