I wrote a post once about how Google stole our grandpas. I was talking about the scientific discoveries and achievements of a few of my friends grandfathers (and my own) and how difficult it was to find their stories outside of a library.
Yesterday I went to a funeral that made me think the same thing. I only knew Bob Morris the last 7 years of his life and what I life I missed out on knowing. While I didn’t know him well, I saw him and his beloved wife Audrey every week at services when I was going weekly. I knew him from being on the Board of Directors together and knew that he was the namesake of The Morris Room.
My greatest memory of Bob was in a board meeting. After years of being off the board, he was back as treasurer and he scolded us, “Why am I doing this? Why hasn’t a young person been trained on how to keep the books? I can’t do this forever and someone else has to learn how to take over.”
He was right. He was in his early 80s when he said that. Someone had to learn how to manage the budget of the synagogue.
I knew, vaguely, that Bob and Audrey not only gave of their spirit to the congregation, but also were huge financial supporters. I went to his funeral to pay my respects to the man and family who kept the synagogue alive and gave me a place to learn how to be Jewish.
Through the eulogies, I learned so much about a man who had been a fixture in my shabbat observance, but never more than an acquaintance. Through the eulogies of his three children, three step-children and two rabbis, this is what I learned about Bob Morris.
Bob was incredibly outdoorsy and loved to canoe. He was a leader in the automotive industry. He was a leader in the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Schaalman talked him into smuggling siddurim and Judaica into the USSR. He was and is beloved by his children, step-children and grandchildren. His first leadership position at Emanuel was of the Young Couple’s Social Group in the mid-50s. He always made sure to pick up and drop off his kids from their extra-curricular activities. One of his children became a cantor, which is great evidence of Bob’s love of Judaism and ability to instill it in others.
Rabbi Schaalman said he was grateful that he no longer regularly comes to services, because he couldn’t bear to look into the congregation and see that Bob was no longer there.
It reminds me that the golden age of synagogues is really over. Rabbi Schaalman was in his mid-30s when he came to Emanuel and Bob was in his mid-20s at the time. Rabbi, congregant and friends for 60 years, they worked together to fix the world in Chicago and globally.
Bob’s memory will be a blessing and is a lesson in loyalty and commitment. I hope I remember it for longer than a week.