- 83 years old
- Date of birth: Jan 23, 1931
- Date of passing: Feb 18, 2014
|Let the memory of Stanley be with us forever|
"Stanley was our lifelong friend - Roberta's and mine, -- first in Parkchester and then in Riverdale. In so many ways he was our role model. He modeled being a devoted husband and father. He modeled living as a committed, active Modern Orthodox Jew. His involvement in our shuls - YIP and HIR - had a deep influence on me.
In recent years, Stanley was invaluable to me as YIP was forced to sell its building and to deal with its declining membership and finances. Stanley was always available, providing his legal services and his sage counsel. His mind was so sharp. He had the ability to look at a problem from different perspectives and come up with alternative solutions. Sometimes this would lead him to say, "I don't know if any of what I just said makes any sense, but it sounded good." Classic Stanley humor, directed at himself, deliberately puncturing any hint of self-importance. Our many phone conversations always had a joke or two. With our conversation coming to an end I would thank him for his advice, for his time. Stanley would end the conversation with "Goodbye, friend."
All of this was very much on my mind when Roberta and I went to Calvary on what turned out to be Stanley's last night among us on this earth. The scene was intense. Ruby, children, grandchildren and friends crowded into the room and in the corridor. All eyes on Stanley, watching every precious breath, every rise and fall of his chest. Roberta and I stood quietly watching from just outside the door. When it was time to leave, I turned one last time towards Stanley and quietly said, "Goodbye, friend.""
"Stanley was a fountain of humorous stories and anecdotes. My being
a lawyer attracted me to one in particular. It is in the form of advice.
Where the attorney’s case is weak on the facts, he should pound on the Law. Where weak on the Law, pound on the facts. Alas, where weak on both facts and Law, just keep pounding, pounding on the
Over the decades, we attended many shiurim together. When asking a
question, Stanley had an iconic approach. Upon being given the floor,
he removed his reading glasses placing them in his right hand. His eyelids clamped shut as a moment of silence ensued. The machinery of thought was palpable. Then the eyes opened and the right hand with clutched glasses thrust forward in circular fashion to highlight an excellent question now posed. Quintessential Stanley !"
On my families’ behalf, we would like to thank my father’s wonderful friends whose companionship he so cherished when he was well. You never abandoned him when he was ill.
We would like to thank Raba Horowitz for her inspired leadership and sensitivity that was so respected by my father.
We would like to thank Rabbi Exler who was our father’s teacher and friend. Your classes inspired him. Your compassion for our father during his illness meant so much to our family.
Rabbi Weiss, you have been such an important part of our family since 1973. My father cannot have loved you more than if you were his own brother. You were his teacher, and spiritual guide. You inspired him and challenged him. You enriched his life in so many ways. He believed in you and your message and always felt privileged and honored that you allowed him to participate in his courageous life’s work on behalf of the Jewish people.
My father was born in the Bronx in 1931, two years after his beloved sister Gladys who he loved so dearly all his life. His mother Hanna, worked for the March of Dimes and his father Irving was a furrier and cabdriver. Both of my grandparents loved people and filled my father’s home with an atmosphere of love and kindness. My father was totally devoted to his parents.
As a child of the depression money was always tight in my father’s home, but as he would often say he never knew that he was poor. While living on College Avenue, my grandmother sister Ida and her two children Mordy and Selma moved in with my father’s family and was raised with his cousins as if they were siblings. Asthmatic as a child my father at the age of 10 was sent to Denver Colorado where the doctors believed that the thin air of the Rocky Mountains would help his medical condition. IT was there that his incredible leadership abilities started to become evident. As a ten year old he was unbelievably put in charge of a group of even younger children whose monies and care he was entrusted with. The story goes that in a stop over in Chicago and being an hour early before meeting the connecting train that was to take the group to Denver, my father took his charges of young travelers of a quick tour of downtown Chicago.
After graduating Salanter Yeshiva my father attended DeWitt Clinton High School which at that time had the largest high school population in the world. At Clinton, with the campaign slogan of “Linger with Langer” a phrase coined by my grandfather, my father successfully won election as the school’s student body president. In a book entitled “The castle on the Parkway” by Gerard J. Pelisson, the author writes, “Perhaps no greater example of DeWitt Clinton’s willingness to be part of the civil rights movement came in the action of the General Organization in September 1947. In a bold move for its day, the G.O., under president Stanley Langer, declared that high school students could no longer remain silent when it came to prejudice and discrimination. The G.O. voted to petition the New York State legislature to enact laws the would do away with racial, religious, and regional discrimination in New York colleges and universities that were tax exempt. The next step for Langer was to get other schools in the city to sign the petition. Neighboring Bronx High School of Science and William Howard Taft High School signed on immediately. Then came the signatures from many other schools throughout New York City. Years would pass before the state legislature enacted such laws, but when the day arrived, DeWitt Clinton High School was proud to have been one of the instigators.”
My father attended City College and was accepted to Harvard Law School where he honed his incredible debating and public speaking skills. While at Harvard, my father met my mother who was a student at Brandies University, which was the beginning of a love affair that flourished for over 60 years. MY parents got married in 1954, moved to the Parkchester area of the Bronx, where my father became synagogue president of the Young Israel of Parkchester. My father’s parents and my mother’s parents also lived in the Parkchester area. I was born in 1958 followed by my brother Fred, and my sisters Paula and Susie.
One of the most important events of my father’s life occurred when our family moved to Riverdale and joined a small shul located in the boiler room of the Whitehall building, led by a dynamic newly hired twenty eight year old Rabbi Avi Weiss. My father was both enamored and excited by Rabbi Weiss mission of Torah, outreach, and activism, and twice became president of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. It was during his presidency that the Bayit was purchased and that the building we are in today was constructed.
My father was also involved with the Salanter Yeshiva representing the school during the merger of Salanter with Akiva and Riverdale yeshivas, a school which was to become known as SAR academy, and served as the schools first chairmen of the board. But my father’s successes as a lawyer, a profession that he loved, or as a community leader, was secondary to his role as husband and father. My dad was totally devoted to my mother, as was my mother to him. My parents were a great team, our house growing up was filled with love and kindness. Our house was always open to our friends; our Shabbat and seder tables were filled with guest from all backgrounds.
My father had the greatest sense of humor. He loved telling jokes. He once told me that the three words he wanted to hear at his funeral “Look, he’s alive!” He was a master storyteller, always informative, always entertaining. He taught us to think carefully before speaking and to listen carefully to what others have to say. He was a great teacher. He taught my sibling and me to always take what we did seriously, but not to take ourselves too seriously. He taught us that to be a nice guy you had to be kind to someone who can give you nothing in return.
He taught me a love of old movies. He taught us by example to work hard. He taught me a love of American and Jewish history. He taught us the courage of facing a terminal illness with humor, grace, and dignity. But perhaps the most important lesson that my father taught us was to be good spouses and parents.
Last week I asked my father if he could give me just one bracha that god should bless me with the same love and devotion from my grandchildren that his grandchildren show him. To my father’s 23 wonderful grandchildren let me share a very public secret; your grandfather loved each and every one of you as much as you loved him. He was always involved with you knowing your hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations. When he talked to you he would offer you words of advice that didn’t give you the answer, but gave you the ability to find your own answers. Your devotion and care to him when he was ill was a special blessing that will never be forgotten. You were his angels.
My wife Lily, sister-in-law Elie, bother and law john, and brother and law Chaim you were no less children to our father than Freddy, Paula, Susie and me. You loved our father as if he was your own, he loved you as if you were his own children.
Our beloved mother, Mom you are our families rock, our inspiration, our glue. You were our father’s protector and his caregiver. You inspired us with your love and kindness for Dad.
Dad please forgive, me no words can adequately summarize the beauty of your life. You were the smartest, kindest, and most humble man we ever knew. You will be forever in our hearts."
"While I could talk about my Dad for hours, I only have a few minutes to relate to you how special my father was and how he impacted my life.
My father had a special way of teaching us life lessons without lecturing or preaching. He knew just how to talk to us and get his point across where not only did we understand what he was trying to say but where the lesson would be everlasting and become part of who we were. Of course my father taught us most of what we know without ever saying a word but through his actions. He was the perfect role model. Through the way he treated his parents or my mom’s parents with utmost respect and love. Through the way he loved my mom. He showed us how important community is, as my brother already described.
There are 3 things that really stand out that I’d like to share with you today. The first one was how he treated Shabbos when we were growing up and how Shabbos strengthens the family. In many of my friends homes Shabbos was considered as a negative. It was a day that you couldn’t watch TV, play ball or go to the movies. In our home it was just the opposite. It was never about the restrictions of what we couldn’t do. Shabbos was always a special day. It was a day for family. We would go to our grandparents who lived just a few blocks away and have meals together. He taught us how Shabbos was a blessing that one should cherish. Obviously this positive approach must have worked. Each one of his children and each one of his 5 married grandchildren have Shomer Shabbos homes of their own.
And as for strengthening a family, where do you find a family where not only does everyone love each other but actually like each other. Where else do you find a family where all the cousins can’t wait to see and be with each other, whatever the occasion? We owe this all to my father.
The second lesson that stands out for me was about jealousy. I don’t even quite remember the circumstance. Maybe it was a classmate going on vacation or friend that had a color TV. I really don’t remember what it was, but I do remember the feeling of “I wish that could be me”. He told me that when you’re jealous of someone you can’t pick and choose. You can’t just have the color TV. Or just their vacation. You have to be willing to trade away the whole package. If you got his TV, or his vacation, you also had to take his parents and his sisters and all his problems come along as well. When I thought about it from that perspective I was never jealous again.
The third thing that stands out he taught me many years ago. He told me that when you are presented with a new situation, it is similar to reading a book starting from Chapter 4. You need to go through life never being judgmental of people because you never know what happened to them in the first 3 chapters. You don’t know what led up to this moment. Just analyze the situation and figure out how to improve it without judging the people involved. As a consultant I live by this every single day.
Dad you had such an impact on my life. You have made me a better person. I have been blessed to be your son. I love you and I will miss you and I will never forget what you have taught me. It is ingrained in every fiber of my being. I hope I will never disappoint you."
"All my life, I have know that being one of Stanley Langer’s children was a privilege. The lessons my father has taught me are countless. Any good deed or trait I might possess, I can easily identify as being from him.
At every simcha our family has celebrated, my father would get up and say thank you. Be it to his machetunum, our friends, or the community. Looking back, although in private he was forever encouraging us, our father rarely gave us or my mother public accolades. Every act he did always followed the deepest of thinking, so I imagine there was some kenien haras involved , along with the sensitivity to not cause pain to anyone in the room, who might not share the blessings that he was givin. I also think that he understood that any compliments to us was truly just a reflection on him and such public declarations would surely be seen as hubris. Mostly, though, I think my father was just forever thankful for his life and for us. Even in these last few difficult months, he expressed the concern that though he knew we would never forget him, what if death meant that he couldn’t remember us.
My siblings have already painted a picture of who our father was and what he meant to us, but the foundation for it all was the love he had for our mother. Our parents love affair has spanned for over 60 years. When our mom looked at our dad, even these past weeks, you could easily see that 17 year old beautiful girl from Brandeis in love with that charming Harvard law school student.
Their marriage seemed effortless. In an age where we all seem to live with such angst, our parents exuded this quiet confidence in themselves, their children, and their relationship. Our father was great at compartmentalizing his life. Our mother was his refuge. Home was a place focused on family and outside stresses seemed not to invade that space.
During my high school year my parents would drive me to manhattan. Each morning my mom would be ready at exactly 715 as my father would leisurely make his way out the door a few minutes later. From the the 5th floor the the 4th floor the same annoyed banter would be heard each day, by the 2nd floor they were discussing schedules of the day, and by the lobby they would be smiling.
Our parents always seemed to know how to balance their own individual interests with their shared ones. I grew up thinking that all dads went to gemara class on tues night , while the moms went folk dancing. Yet my father took such great pleasure in the things that gave my mother pleasure. Each week he would give her words of encouragement on her latest painting or enjoy listening as she explained something she learned in Rabbi Exler’s class. Although they traveled all over the world, just going to a show, or dinner and a movie seemed to be our father’s ultimate pleasure, with a visit to the grandchildren being the only thing that would pull him away. My father was not one for grandiose displays of affection, but when he looked at our mom and said “you look cute, baby”, she seemed to still melt.
A few nights ago, when dad seemed particularly tired, he motioned that he needed some quiet in the room. When I asked him if he wanted any of us to stay with him, he just pointed to my mom. Until the end, their love was our greatest comfort.
Mom, you have single handedly carried our family through these last few months. Your strength and compassion in caring for dad was remarkable. You created an atmosphere where family and friends always felt welcomed and made sure that our time with dad was positive for him and us. You made it so that whatever we did was right. Once again you and dad modeled for us what love is, as all your efforts revolved around dad’s need , while all his strength was focused on yours. You told me that when you were with dad, you felt complete. For us it seemed like you completed eachother. So much of what made him him, was you. Thank you."
"When Yonatan and I were interns at Hebrew Institute of White Plains, I remember walking in just before Yom Kippur and Suzie was on the phone getting a blessing from her father. That moment was so special, I could feel the warmth, affection and deep connection just by watching how Suzie listened to you on the phone. I had never before seen an adult blessed by their parents, especially not over the phone. The power of that moment has remained with me that a parent's love could be recognized by an outsider miles away.
Yehi Zichro Barukh"
"How can we describe to you how special our Grandpa was to us? Perhaps we can understand our Grandfather through the lens of his favorite card game Gin Rummy. A game he used to play with us, his grandchildren, for countless hours. At the beginning of the game, grandpa would receive 10 cards at random. While these cards initially had no rhyme or reason, his objective was to put them into pairs, or into sequential order. Similarly, it was Grandpas objective to create a family and put together his legacy. As the game continued, he would figure out which cards worked and which cards didn’t, just like in life he would make decisions based on what would ultimately work best for the people he loved. At the end of the game, when all of the cards in his hand were in order, he would call out Gin-rummy. Grandpa always made us, his grandchildren, feel that we were the final piece to his Gin rummy.
Grandpa, for a man who always put others first, it feels strange to have a day dedicated to you. Through your actions you instilled in us core jewish values. We will miss you more than words can express. We will miss your unique sense of humor; your contagious laughter. We will miss your wisdom and your guidance, your endless generosity and comforting presence. If only you could see yourself through our eyes you would see what we have always seen, a selfless hero. A hero who shaped each and every one of us into who we are today. With a grandfather like you, no amount of time could have ever been enough, but we are eternally grateful for the memories that will last forever.
Over the last few days we had the opportunity to celebrate your life. As we gathered around your hospital bed, we reminisced about the past, savored the present, and looked apprehensively toward the future. We laughed, we cried, we shared and we as grandchildren were lucky enough to fully appreciate the man you were, and the person we will continuously strive to become. We love you."
"Our brother Akiva, whose making our Grandpa extremely proud learning in Israel for the year, wrote a letter to our grandfather two days ago that speaks to all of our relationships with him.
When I was younger, "Grandma and Grandpa are coming" always meant fun- a trip to a show, a good game of cards, some math problems involving eating apples, maybe a Kosher Delight visit, presents and if I was lucky enough to have a loose tooth, it could even mean some extra cash. You came to my plays and cheered me on at my games. You took me to parks and built sandcastles with me on the beach. You sat next to me in the sukkah and came with me on family vacations. With the exception of one faint memory, as a stubborn and relatively annoying 5 year old sitting on the side of the curb, begrudgingly waiting for his grandpa to return after telling his grandson "if you're not gonna walk then I'm going", you have always been my biggest fan.
As a child, you were an easy grandpa to love. You were funny, entertaining, encouraging, loving unconditionally, and you made me feel like I was number one.
When I think about it now, I realize that I always loved you but it wasn't until more recently that I realized how much I admire you. When you reach a certain age and start to see grown ups as people rather than adults, flaws start to reveal themselves. An analyzer from birth, noticing the flaws and nuances has always come quickly to me. And yet, the more I got to know and understand you, grandpa, the more I liked and admired. I saw that you are a man of thinking, someone who can see the world in it's nuances and process a situation or question from all angles. I saw that you are a man of social grace and outreach, someone who doesn't just know how to relate to and understand anyone but cares to. I saw that you are a man of logic and faith, someone who can navigate what it means to be Jewish while also being a part of an ever-changing world. And most importantly, I saw that you are a man who knows how to love, someone who would do anything for his family and cares for and understands his wife, kids, and each of his grandchildren as individuals that mean everything to him.
Just turning 19 now, I feel like there is so much more from you I want to learn, so many more thoughts and conversations I wish I could share and process with you. But to focus on the times not shared would be undermining all the times we did. I have learned so much from you on what is important in life and how to live. In a lot of ways, I think you and I are very alike, and when I envision what and who I want to be in my lifetime, I look to you as a role model.
Thank you for being my friend and caring about me. Thank you for being so fun and always being there. Thank you for being you and thank you for loving me.
I love you.
Grandpa, we have always felt an enormous amount of pride being your grandchildren. As we look to the future, an empty canvas waiting to be filled with love, laughter, bat mitzvahs, weddings and family, we can’t even begin to describe how terribly sad we are that you won’t be there to experience it with us. While nothing will ever replace your guidance, love, patience and quiet understanding, we do feel that the lessons you have instilled within us will stay with us always. We will try our best to be less quick to judge, to listen and find the uniqueness in every individual, to remember that leadership and respect come by stepping back and putting your ideals ahead of your ego, and that family always comes first. Sitting in the TV room in your apartment, talking about our memories of you, we smiled thinking of your red nose, watermelon stomach, sitting in your chair in the living room, your epic dance moves, loving pet names for Grandma, great one liners and how you never let us win in hearts. You have created a family unlike any other, and losing you, our rock, is one of the most painful things we have experienced, yet we have never felt closer to you, Grandma, our aunts, uncles and cousins as we do now. We hope you have found comfort and just know that we are thinking of you always. We love you so much."
""Last night, we were sitting together, pouring out our thoughts and feelings. When trying to put my thoughts onto paper I couldn’t get past my first sentence “Grandpa, I miss you”. Luckily, Alex, the writer in the family, was able to capture all of our thoughts in a more eloquent way than I could have managed. And my sister will read it to you.""
""I had the pleasure of spending two consecutive summers in Israel, staying with Aunt Paula, Grandma Ruby, and Grandpa Stanley. We had many wonderful outings, discussions, stories, and shared many many great days together. Most of the time, I was the only grandkid there, but you would never be able to tell that Danny and I were not yet married, that I was not actually a grandkid to Grandpa Stanley. He treated me as if I WAS his, as if we were already family. To him, I was just “Sweetheart”. He treated me to hot chocolate on motzei Shabbos or even clothing during our random outings. He told me stories around the Shabbos table, we talked Judaism, and we talked life. The second year I was in Israel, I got homesick in the first week. I wasn’t staying with Paula that summer, and I was having difficulty adjusting. The first and only thing I wanted to do was to call and find out if I could meet up with Grandpa and Grandma for dinner. Because when you are homesick, you seek comfort, you seek home. That’s what Grandpa Stanley represented to me, even before he was “officially” my Grandpa. And now, what I think of when I think of Grandpa Stanley is how highly he valued family. He’s the foundation of what we all call “home”. ""
"It’s interesting what memories come to the forefront when trying to get perspective on the life of one so close to your heart. I could share with you countless stories, showing the kindness and compassion Grandpa Stanley always projected as well as numerous examples of his leadership and strength in both this community and in our family. I could share the countless conversations we had when he explained to me how the world worked, from stocks and mortgages as a 10 year old, to interview tactics and skills as a twenty something. However the memory that I will most cherish of MY grandpa is that of me as a child sitting around a Shabbos table here in Riverdale. The meal is coming to an end, dessert is wrapping up, the whole family is sitting around the table talking. My grandpa and I are only half listening. Our focus instead is on building a tower out of cups, and flinging corks on spoons. We see how tall we can stack the empty soda bottles and how high the cups will fly off the end of the spoon. We add whatever we can find to our monstrosity, ignoring the anguished cries of Grandma saying, “STANLEY!”, until at last our creation falls. To me that was always the best part, because at that single moment our attention is no longer on our tower, but on the knowing glance we give other, the glance that only we share, the one that says, lets do it again."
"I was nine years old when we moved to Riverdale - when my Dad met and felt a deep affinity for a young, twenty-something, basketball playing, dynamic rabbi who held similar images and ideas of religion and community. The Hebrew Institute became our extended family, and our parents’ decision to join a fledgling shul in the boiler room of the Whitehall forever changed our lives. Sundays were spent at protest rallies and in Sukkah mobiles. Our house became a second home to many of the kids from religiously nonobservant homes. Some have told me that the time they spent in our home impacted their decisions to become observant adults. HIR became family culture. My father’s seders drew the entire youth department. For me and my siblings, Afikoman negotiations for a raise in one’s allowance became protest rallies with chants of "One, two three, four, open up the iron door; five, six, seven, eight, my father is a cheapskate." Our parents instilled a balance of love, pride and respect for G-d and orthodoxy with an open acceptance of those who lived other lifestyles. Dad leaves behind 23 shomer shabbos, Zionistic grandchildren.
> Family was the most important thing to Dad. His love was unconditional and unlimited. To many of you, we may look like a cohesive mob, but Dad knew each of our strengths and challenges as individuals. And yet he fully accepted and had total faith in each one of us. His relationship with each grandchild was unique and treasured by him and by them. Dad's definition of family and capacity of love was expansive. Daughters and sons in law, grand daughter and grandsons in law were simply family and equally loved and accepted. Their families became ours. The night before Richie and Lily's nephew Aviad went to serve in Lebanon, he came to talk privately with Dad and to receive his bracha.
> My parents vacationed with each of us and my family was blessed to spend eight summers in Israel with my folks. Dad particularly loved going on tanach tiyulim - biblical tours of the land. Later in life, Dad had no visual depth perception, which made climbing stairs particularly difficult. I have warm memories of my boys immediately going to Grandpa’s side in the Old City and helping him to climb the stairs at Tel Dan. They never thought of it as a burden - it was just a time to share with their grandfather - and each of the grandchildren was blessed with a unique relationship with their Grandpa – he knew who they were, accepted and enjoyed them on their own terms, and offered so much of himself to them, with his insights and good humor and just by being the person he was. His goodness, generosity and decency are deeply infused in our family – and will always be with us"
"Surrounded by family, tears, stories of memories and good times, laughter, love, and bringing his family together – this is how my grandpa lived his life and ended his life.
To spend each Shabbos with him and my grandma until the age of ten, and nearly every Shabbos since I have been married has been one of the greatest joys and brachas in my life. I cannot imagine celebrating a holiday or a simcha without you, I cant even imagine celebrating a tiny success without you. I am so grateful for the quantity of time we spent together, but because of who he was – it could be just a look across a room, a nod, a joke, or a kiss that left you feeling unconditionally loved and warm. His jokes, brachot, conversations, and guidance will forever be in our minds. The nature of how he addresses the actions will forever be ingrained in Our hearts. He has shown my brothers, my husband, and myself his unconditional belief in us through which he gave us belief in ourselves.
Within each of us is 1/18th just maybe of his wisdom, his goodness, his ability to speak with just the point of a finger or the lift of an eyebrow, his ability to be a husband that cherished his stunning wife and their beautiful life together, his ability to parent and grandparent each of us and give us strength and encouragement to flourish in our own areas, and his ability to make everyone he spoke with feel special.
On behalf of my brothers my husband and myself we want to thank you grandpa for everything you have taught us. How to lead while listening to others, how to give and never expect anything in return, how to listen and not impose yourself on others. You were not a man that taught through just words – we learned by watching your actions.
You never wanted to impose yourself on us even if it meant staring out the window for a three hour car ride so that a baby girl would not cry.
My grandpa was a man of many things but most of all he loved his family and his Ruby. She was truly his gem. Through the pain we all feel of not having him with us now, I feel honored to have been his granddaughter and to be able to be apart of his legacy."
"I'm sharing the eulogy I delivered at dad's funeral on behalf of his children-in-law. yehe zichro baruch
Words of eulogy for our beloved father in law Stanley Langer
Towards the beginning of January, I delivered a shiur at the YCT Tanach study seminar, dedicated in the merit of refuah for Meir Zalka hakohen ben nechama. The topic I had chosen for the class was the relationship between Moshe and Yitro. I found myself devoting countless hours to the talk, looking for the support for what my kishkes, my gut, told me was the essence of their relationship. This was not the average depiction of a relationship in the Torah; it reflected something different, a special type of bond. The bond that brought this former kohen of midyan to rejoice in the accomplishments and successes of Moshe and his people. The bond that welcomed Yitro to talk straight, with affectionate concern, to Moshe about the way he was running his operation. There was something deep, really deep, in this relationship. Among a few key messages I sought to convey at that time, I shared these words of Abravanel, who saw what I saw in the verses about their first encounter. Comments Abravanel:
והנכון שכאשר דבר משה עם יתרו ומצא בו טוב טעם ודעת רצה להתחבר עמו מפני חכמתו והוא אמרו ויואל משה לשבת את האיש
“When Moshe spoke with Yitro, and found him to be of such incisive reasoning and wisdom, Moshe sought to be connected to him. That’s what the verse means when it says “and Moshe was decided to dwell with the man (i.e. Yitro)”-”
It was very clear to me that what I was seeing, indeed, experiencing within the narrative of Moses and his father-in-law Yitro, was what I was privileged to experience with my father-in-law, Stanley Langer, ob”m. As I share these brief words with you this morning on behalf of myself and his other children-in-law: Ellie, Lilly, and Jonathan, I know that, in its various permutations, this is what they too have experienced. He was a kohen, to be sure, and a leader in so many ways. That was never lost on us. Yet these brief reflections relate to him as - our father-in-law.
Almost 25 years ago, Suzie wandered into the kitchen in the midst of a conversation that Ellie, Lilly, Jonathan and I were having. She overheard our talking about “Stanley” and “Ruby” and was horrified. This is what “you call them among yourselves!?” she accused. I had the best excuse- they were first Stanley and Ruby to me as my congregants before they became my inlaws. What Suzie, briefly took as a sign of distance couldn’t be further from the actual truth. It was, in fact, just a reference point for us; there was no doubt that Ruby and Stanley were, for each of us, truly our second parents. And we are forever grateful for the gift that dad, along with mom, gave us, as they never treating us as inlaws, always as their own.
Ellie shared a recollection yesterday as we spoke, of herself as a young bride to Freddy, entering this family. She remembered not having a clue how she would establish a relationship with dad, this big imposing man, larger than life, who at first seemed scary to her as a 20 yr old. She wondered whether there would be closeness, not picturing how that would play out. What she found was that there was nothing but gentleness. Whatever he had to say was gentle, and his embrace was always a warm, loving embrace.
Dad rarely made demands of his children or us; there was no guilt for perhaps not calling or coming, never an expectation that we be someone. Whatever any of us (or his children, or our children) did was really great. He loved to be with our families, and our children- every soccer, hockey, and basketball game, every chag hassidur and other event he could possibly attend, he did. Vacations together each summer. Weekends with us in Providence when we craved family, Sundays in Westchester or W. Orange. He’d come in after a morning perhaps antiquing with mom, spend the afternoon with the family and then might say “ruby, let’s catch a flick” and they’d head out to the movies. We wanted more.
Dad was generous with his children, and with us as well, in the most important ways- with his self and his supportive words. Lilly commented how, without exception, after an evening bbq or other meal at her home he would offer his loving compliments. We only received good from him- Always a “thank you,” it was wonderful,” “it was great”. When mom and dad arrived the grandchildren flocked to them. Dad was not the grandparent who walked in and showered presents on the kids in order to engage - even as mom made sure to think of them and often pick up something special for them when she was out and about. With dad, the way he spoke to them, the interest he showed in how they were doing- in them, each, uniquely created the ties, the love.
One could see the love and respect they had for him in the way as many as could possibly be here were at his side just a few weeks back. Tommi had organized an 83 birthday party for him with a beach theme, as he had mentioned that he wished he could have taken a cruise with mom. It was mirrored just 2 days ago as grandchildren gathered around his bed in Calvary. We even made a minyan with him that afternoon. And such an important thing was conveyed- throughout his entire illness, even the very last moments, he insisted on donning a kippah. What a statement of his Jewish mind and heart, and what a lesson to his children and grandchildren.
Dad was the smartest man I know. He knew the law. He knew any topic he sought to understand. He thought with his head, yet usually began with “my gut tells me.” He was so incisive, able to get right to the heart of any issue. Often as we’d be spilling out the details and half assessments of a problem we had, he would say- “wait a minute. Go back a few steps” or “You’re getting ahead of yourself,” or “one step at a time.” And he’d guide our thinking, talk us down the tree, give us the perspective we needed to move forward.
When he needed to play the tough critic, he’d play that too. A two-fold story- 25 years ago, just around this time of year, I turned to him after doing very poorly in an interview for a shul position. He sat with me in the basement of my home in Providence and drilled me for hours. It made all the difference for me. So years later I brought him on to help take on the role of elder-statesman congregant in mock interviews for my students at Chovevei. He asked probing questions, flipping on and off his glasses, eyes closed half the time as he listened. And then he’d help critique and review, generally offering helpful comments and insights. Yet, there were a few times, just a few- when I looked on horrified as he said straight out to my student, no cushion provided- “that was a terrible interview!” Immortalized on a pbs documentary is his mock interview with one student who referred to him in the interview as “Stanley.” In the review he pointed to himself and said- “you called me Stanley. Look at me. Do I look like a Stanley to you? To you I am Mr. Langer.” That had nothing to do with any actual need of his own- it was an on target piece of advice for a young rabbi that would never be forgotten.
The real him was gentle and caring. The one who would follow up with a phone call to a daughter in-law to see how she was feeling. The one who encouraged his worried med-school wait-listed son-in-law, by telling him to flip through the directory of doctors and realize that if those schnooks could do it, that he most certainly could (And that doctor son-in-law has been so wonderful to him in his care needs these past months). The one who called on erev yom kippur to give a long phone-call brachah, not just to his children but to us too. The one who loved our own parents, and of whom our own parents would often tell us- “you are so blessed to have married into a family like this, and to have such a man as your father-in-law.” The one who loved and respected us, and whom we loved and respected so deeply. Our Yitro.
Yitro reemerges in parshat b’haalotcha as the people prepare to head to Israel, and Yitro prepares to leave. Moshe pleads with him-
(לא) וַיֹּאמֶר אַל־נָא תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָנוּ כִּי עַל־כֵּן יָדַעְתָּ חֲנֹתֵנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר וְהָיִיתָ לָּנוּ לְעֵינָיִם:
“please, do not desert us… you, who have known our stations in the wilderness. You have been our eyes.”
We are bereft of our Yitro, wanting to say the same to him. “Don’t leave us! You have been our eyes, our confidant, our advisor, and our supporter, reveling in our accomplishments and loving us all the way.”
You have left us, nonetheless, as it must be. We will forever be enriched by having been part of your world."
Thee are some words that I want to tell you. You were the best grandpa that someone could have ever asked for. The last few weeks have been very hard for all of us. It made think about all of the great times we had together. When you came to all of my school plays ( which ment a lot to me). You always say to me how are you doing baby. You loved grapefruit, and we would always eat grapefruit together in the kitchen. Only a few weeks ago we were playing harts with Shira and Jason in the dining room. You had the best smile in the world. Even though I am sad that you wont be there for my bat mitzvah, or my wedding, or when I start a family I am still blest that you were there for a lot of other great things. You were the best grandpa in the whole world."
"With 23 grandchildren, and being somewhere in the middle of the lineup, it would be really easy to get lost in the shuffle- to just be another grandkid. But grandpa made a point to truly know each and everyone of us. I can't even count the amount of plays, games, and graduations he has attended- never leaving a single one of us out. I remember in middle school I was in a school play- I think my part was man #4 with exactly three words spoken with my back to the audience. But grandpa was still there to support me and show how much he loved me. And he did the same for each and every one of us.
Grandpa set the foundation for our family. As people have been pointing out to me, our family isn't normal. Apparently, its not normal for 23 cousins to be as close as siblings. But we are. Grandpa was the pillar of our family unit –someone we could always look to. He didn’t need to preach—that wasn’t Grandpa’s way. Instead, he showed us how to talk to one another, care for one another. He showed us that if you take your time and think before you speak, people will respect what you have to say.
This is the way my grandfather taught: Not by telling me what to do or speaking his opinion, but through questioning would guide me to arrive at my own conclusion. He was in every sense a role model. He is our pillar."
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