This week marked the 11th year since the passing of my grandfather, Rabbi David Stavsky, of blessed memory. Affectionately known by his family as “Zeide”, he was one of the most significant influences on my life whose larger-than-life presence still serves as a role model to so many who knew him.
Throughout his forty seven years as the rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Columbus, Ohio, Rabbi Stavsky built numerous Jewish institutions and touched the lives of thousands. His greatest passion was sharing his love for the Torah with his beloved community, and there are countless Jewish families around the world whose connection to Judaism was nurtured and expanded thanks to the depth of his teachings and the warmth of his heart.
I had the benefit to grow up just three doors down from my grandparents and walked to Synagogue each Shabbat with my father and grandfather. Along with my parents, my Zeide brought me on my first visit to Israel for my Bar Mitzvah and ignited that spark and growing love for Eretz Yisrael in my life.
After his untimely passing, my wife and I moved to Columbus and I became the rabbi at Beth Jacob, an awesome responsibility and a deeply personal honor. For five years I tried to follow in his giant footsteps and learned even more about his great skills, relationships and accomplishments.
I had the privilege to share some reflections about Rabbi David Stavsky with Ari Abramowitz of “Israel Inspired” on the “Voice of Israel”, Israel’s premier English language radio network which can be heard here:
Some beautiful tributes have been written over the years by his students and colleagues. Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg wrote A Gentle Warrior in Jewish Action and Rabbi Jonathan Seidemann has another touching article in the Jewish Star, ”What You Build Lasts Forever.”
There is also an interview that Rabbi Stavsky gave to the Ohio Historical Society in 1993 that discusses some of his accomplishments in Columbus.
One of my favorite stories about my grandfather took place in Israel when my family came here for my Bar Mitzvah in 1993. Since everywhere Rabbi Stavsky went he knew people and ran into old friends (Zeide had no acquaintances, even minor relationships turned into lasting friendships), we ran into one of Zeide’s friends with “protexia” who offered to take us on a behind the scenes tour of the Western Wall. He took us to the army base/police station over the Kotel and looking over the Temple Mount and Har Habayit for an incredible view.
The army base had a room they used for prayers and for some reason, Zeide decided to open the Holy Ark where the Torah scrolls are kept. Lo and behold, the Sefer Torah had embroidered on it: “Dedicated to the IDF by the Beth Jacob Congregation, Columbus, Ohio”. Apparently, years before, Zeide had donated one of the Synagogue’s Torah scrolls to the IDF and hashgacha led us to that very sefer that day! It was as if Hashem had planned an elaborate surprise party for His good friend, our Zeide.
May his memory be for an eternal blessing.
If any readers has stories or memories of Rabbi Stavsky, please email me at [email protected]